Internet confession time: I'm pretty nerdy. This may not come as a surprise to those of you for who have been following this blog for a while, but for new readers, let me bring you up to speed.
I just recently moved, and I had to pack up about 1,500 comic books*. One of the best gifts my girlfriend has given me is an Xbox 360, which I don't use to play sports games or shooters, but usually old Genesis games like Altered Beast and Shining Force. And maybe most tellingly, when my girlfriend first met me, she asked why there were so many toys in my room. In my defense, they were awesome "toys," like old Transformers and classy Marvel Legends figures, but I suppose her point still stands.
So I'm a nerd. How does that matter to you, dear readers? Well, this weekend, I stumbled upon what I think is a really great promotion, but it's pretty dorky. So, consider this a heads-up of sorts: if this kind of nerdery makes you uncomfortable, I recommend doing some push-ups or going through your old cheerleading routine first to buttress yourself against the geek-onslaught that is about to head your way. Ready? Here we go!
There is a big-deal video game coming out next week called Dragon Age: Origins. The publisher and developer, EA, has been doing a bunch of different things to advertise the launch, but what caught my attention is the free Web-based game they're using as a promotion.
The Web-based mini-game, Dragon Age Journeys, is basically a watered-down version of the game-proper, albeit a really fun and well-designed one. It's not a demo, rather, it's a whole new, independent game that plays similarly to the larger version, minus many of the bells, whistles and more complex game features.
This would be a pretty standard promotion, giving something fun away that reinforces and builds desire for the upcoming salable product, but there's more hooks here than just that.
Within the mini-game, there are several chances to unlock items that can be downloaded and used in the larger, yet-to-be-released version. So now, the promotion goes from something standard to being a bit stronger. Not only is there more incentive to play through the entire mini-game, which is essentially a big ad for their product, but they've built a decent way to measure ROI on the mini-game. Anyone who downloads the unlocked items from the Web-game obviously ended up buying the end product, so it becomes a bit easier to make assumptions about how effective the promotion was.
What clinched this promotion for me though, besides all the swords and planning out spell talent trees I mean, was how they tied one of the unlockable items to filling out a series of three surveys, spaced out over the course of the mini-game. You play the game for a little, then answer a short survey about what you think of it so far, and also answer a few general customer-data questions, like what your favorite games are, your age and birth date, etc.
To sum things up, EA created a polished, fun promotion that is not only a great ad for their upcoming product, but also cleverly wove ROI-metrics in that reinforce the main promotion of playing through the game. AND, they managed to tack gathering customer data onto it besides.
Given all of the above, it would be hard to argue that Dragon Age Journeys isn't a well-designed promotion, but what can we take away from its methodology? Obviously promotional product distributors won't be re-enacting it literally, since it was a fully digital promotion, but in the abstract, I feel there are a lot of lessons here. Since this post is already a million words too long though, I think I'll go for the nutshell summation instead.
The underlying cleverness of the Dragon Age promotion is that not only does every part serve its own purpose, but they all also double-back and reinforce the others. The mini-game promotes the end-product, but also delivers the ROI-trackers and surveys in a fun and engaging way. The downloadable items promote the end-product as well, but also track ROI and encourage people to play through the mini-game, which is actually the main promotion. As for the surveys, besides promoting purchase of the game with another free download, they collect data to make future products stronger, including the promotional mini-game that the surveys are tied to in the first place.
Even if you don't weave together a big complex promotion like this one, and take just a portion of the above ideas instead, I'm sure you can see there are still a few quick ways you can make a promotion stronger. Take a child's piggy bank used to promote children's saving programs at a mid-sized bank for example. Instead of just handing out the banks when the kids open accounts, why not make it so once they fill up the bank and bring it back, they get an extra 25 cents or something? Now you've created extra incentive for them to come back, and a way to track ROI besides.
Until next week,
CHARLES PLYTER FACT OF THE WEEK: Charlie is in the office "Yankee" camp for the upcoming World Series. Philly fans, direct all hate mail, inquiries about why steroid use is okay, or questions about what it's like to root for the most boring bunch of over-paid cheaters out there, to email@example.com.
*Fun fact: my comic collection used to be much larger, but I lost a ton of books I had lent my high school girlfriend after we broke up. Good books too, like a complete early run of Deadpool and the first Ultimates arc. Ah, the follies of youth.