Tag Archives: Advertising

Applied gamification – a supermarket in Austria

I have blogged quite a bit about the topic of gamification and its application to drive user behavior. The use of leveling, scoreboards and ranks has been successfully applied, mostly with intrinsic motivators attached, such as status and public profile display. What I came across recently is however a great example of a gamification in a day to day application with amazing effects. An Austrian based supermarket “Billa” applies gamification scoring to induce an increase in spending.

The amazingness of this example is its easiness, customers spend 100 EUR and get a 10% discount, 200 EUR lead to 15% discount and 400 EUR to 20% discount. Tracking couldn’t be easier, to participate one is asked to use a store savings card and thus plays nicely into the see through customer concept, which makes any ROI calculation a relatively easy task.

Makes me wonder why this hasn’t been applied on a wider scale, particularly in this setting as it seems to heavily affect repurchase behavior and short term loyalty.

applied gamification - receipt


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If the sky isn’t the limit anymore… what is?

Redbull’s Stratos campaign has set a new dimension of campaign and social engagement with consumers around the world. It also sparked discussion about the terms paid, owned, earned and shared media, however seldom has somebody questioned if the reach for the stars and current campaign scopes are still in line with resource theories of the firm. I argue they are not, excess capital holdings allow certain organizations to device campaign stunts, driven by eager agencies to score the next big thing, without establishing a full campaign to business objective link.

Watch somebody jump from space vs. going to space yourself (Axe Apollo):

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Questions that should be raised by marketers and budget holders:

> Is the race for the most extreme campaign to gain a healthy and sustainable race?

> Is it just too easy to spend money on paid media to get audience attention through extreme campaigns vs. meaningful content stimulation throughout the customer journey?

> Are campaigns like Stratos and Axe Apollo really justifiable beyond the hype of press and bloggers? Shouldn’t we as marketers not look beyond total reach and claim target audience reach in meaningful numbers? What is it that we achieve with campaigns? Can we create meaningful links towards the bottom line? I argue big media allows us to do so but at the same time introduces campaign limits.

> As most marketing organisations are setup as cost-centres, don’t we have an obligation towards stakeholders and the firm to justify our spending even more so these days?

> Are we just making use of aggregated fluffy terms like earned or shared media to hide behind walls of agency influence and ego stipulation to have the biggest campaign? Does size really matter in that sense?

Paid, earned, owned and shared isn’t what is seems like – we need to dig deeper:

If we spend $20m on a campaign and estimate to reach x number of people on the premise of paid media, y number of people on the premise of owned and z number of people on the premise of earned and zz number of people on the premise of shared; do we really measure what is meaningful to the brand, to the bottom line and to our budget responsibility? Shouldn’t we segregate reach into current customer reach and potential customer reach, furthermore increase in sustainable purchase effects and short term campaign spikes? Furthermore, I argue that smart data allows us to construct a media model which assigns values to each theoretical nod, we can start to differentiate between dead-end reach, multiplication reach and bottom line effective reach.

Dead-end reach: non current and non-potential customers, low network degrees

Multiplication reach: non-current or non-potential customer with a value generation network degree, e.g. one or more nods are either customers or potential customers

Bottom line effect reach: the total of current and potential customers reached through the conglomeration of paid, owned and shared. This number should be in a healthy relation to both substitute media spendings (e.g. $ effort) and also the total number of people reached. If we assume our target reach is equal to a sample population, the sample to total population ratio becomes a statistical ratio and the marketer’s task is to find the sweet spot instead of trying to cover the entire population to also reach the target group by intersection effects.

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People spend 9 billion hours on Windows Solitaire… what about your employees?

Some fun theory to start with:

Below’s clip dates back to 2009 proving that with adding fun to dull daily tasks, people’s behaviour can be influenced by introducing play aspects. Whilst this study is inconclusive in nature due to timing and selection bias, the shown increase of people using stairs by 66% vs the escalator suggests still valuable points to take away.

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Critique on the “study” / stunt:

The introduction of the game element fun lead people to change short term behaviour on both an experimental and non-trivial level. The question however remains if the human condition to recognise patterns will lower the fun element in the long term and thus dis-validate the spike in stairs vs. escalator selection. In other words, when will it become boring to take the stairs vs. going back to the elevator? The discount of other external influences, such as presence of cameras, crowd effects and word of mouth add further to the question of validity of said experiment.

Stuff to think about:

Without going further into issues of this experiment, it should trigger thoughts on how a behavioural change can be prolonged (e.g. Skinner’s theorem on operant conditioning) and how, when and or if fun elements as game elements hit a ceiling. In above’s experiment, it is bluntly obvious as any element to prolong sustainable change and induce behavioural change is missing. Once you have walked the stairs 2,3,4 or 5 times, the fun part of doing so and the associated engagement level starts to decrease.

Current application of game elements on real world problems:

A lot can be learned far from the scientific side of behavioural psychology. The application of game elements to non-game environments to induce behavioural change effects has already found wide application in both business models and marketing techniques. On the business model side, Linkedin with its profile progression bar and contribution graphs in groups as premiered the application of game elements, namely progression and levelling. Newer applications include FitBit, Nike+ and many other behavioural change inducing products. Very creative application of game elements can be found in Jay Z’s decoded experience on bing which levered upon virality, social sharing and explorer type behaviour.

The list of applied gamification to market problems is almost endless, yet many industries, such as B2B in general lag fairly behind to acknowledge the advantages of utilising game elements in both internal and external setting. Whoever is better to cite than Kevin Werbach, Wharton School of Business, who taught one of the first courses ever on gamification.

Kevin Werbach on Gamification:

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Current issues in research:

I could probably go on about various game mechanics, their application to reduce intrusive messaging to players and and and but this serves little to no point for one very serious reason. Besides studies on game behaviour online and some Gartner studies predicting a fail of large junks of gamification applications due to design elements, the scientific foundation and relevant research to build a solid foundation on a larger scale is missing. I wonder why research hasn’t caught up with a growing industry and managers acknowledging the application of game elements to real world problems. Question to be answered and researched:

> When will we hit a gamification ceiling and how can this be overcome (e.g. the Zynga fall of FarmVille reveals cycles in game elements)?

> Marketers like advergaming and gamification for external applications, mainly to induce marketing messages on an less intrusive level to consumers. Yet when and how does message aversion develop to the increase in gamified elements in the real world. The same applies to advergames and in-game advertising?

> How can we apply design elements to create sustainable fun elements for prolonged engagement or is the concept of iteration to be internalised?

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Who really won the Super Bowl ad frenzy

With millions spent on Super Bowl advertisements, agencies usually go crazy pre and post Super Bowl about who had the best creative, the funniest story, the most Youtube Clicks.

With the 4 million Dollar per ad on the big day, one could have done quite a bit online… see Digiday’s analysis.

1. Twitter Promoted Trending Topic (every day for a month): $4 million / $120,000 = 33 days

2. 8-day YouTube Ad Buy: $4 million / $500,000 = 8 days

3. 6+ Million impressions on Tumblr’s Radar: $4 million / $120,000 = 33 days

4. 50 million Forbes.com first-page interstitial ads: $4 million / $80 CPM = 50 million impressions 

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3 steps to evolve your marketing from content to contextual

Over the last 2 years, the term content marketing has not only been coined but received wide acceptance within marketing circles. Content marketing became the new mantra to engage with customers on a wide array on both digital and traditional levels. Current studies show (link to a Marketing Prof’s article on B2C content marketing trends), that content marketing still receives great attention and for the most part, rightly so. As most studies confirm, over 85% of both B2C and B2B marketers keep or even increase their content marketing efforts in 2013 based on previous years budget spending.

The content marketing matrix, shines some light on the level of content marketing management possibilities but also highlights, that a very generic customer profiling is assumed.

content marketing matrix

Why is content marketing however becoming complacent with an overflow of content from all sides to a single consumer?

> Consumers follow less traditional funnel concepts but rely on multiple sources and a more diffuse buying decision making behaviour (see ZMOT by Google for some inspiration)

> Technology enables consumers to not just for ROPO (research offline / purchase online) but currently for RMPO (research mobile / purchase online) and RMPM (research mobile / purchase mobile)

> Influence of content to consumers decreases with the increasing emphasise placed on social sharing and social recommendation (e.g. great content marketing but 2 out 5 star rating)

How can a marketer deal with these changes in consumer purchasing behaviour and the increase of technology as enabler for new purchase decision making? 

1) Utilise digital data: with digital media in place, enabling big data to become smart data is easier than ever. It is however important to differentiate between wanting to know everything and being able to distill what is really important. Don’t get overwhelmed by the flow of data but control it!

2) Enable customer journey thinking: smart data allows you to follow single customers (don’t think stalking) but to determine their need at any given time. A housewife in Massachusetts using an Android based Smartphone might follow a different decision making journey than a college freshmen in San Francisco using a laptop in a coffee chain. Customers don’t want to be spammed with content but receive the right content at the right time. Banner blindness is not a sign of too much content but non-contextual content – just because I searched for a fridge doesn’t mean I want to see fridge banners for the coming two weeks.Don’t spam with content – be smart and enable customer’s to use it!

3) Less is more: Customer’s banner blindness, which served as an example for the increasing marketing message aversion, is just one example of content being misplaced, money and resources wasted. Follow the customer journey and anticipate in real time the needs and receptiveness of customers to your content. Use digital data to model the journey and most importantly track progress – add value to the customer journey but not noise. Use your budget wisely and at important decision making stages when the customer most heavily relies on external content to progress in his or her buying cycle.

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A thought on the revival of the Trojan Horse of advertising: advergaming…

Nostalgia has caught up with modern marketing:

Over the last years, with the steep increase in casual gaming, heavily enforced through mobile and tablet technology diffusion, companies have started to increase marketing spending on contextual marketing. One of the most valuable contextual marketing instruments, which however still struggles to find its way into many industries is advergaming.

At marketing conventions and conferences, many marketers seem to treat advergaming as a new concept, but fail to acknowledge the early work from marketers at McDonalds or at Coca-Cola in 1980 and 1983 respectively to create the first company sponsored game and the first advergame ever.


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Over the years, with increasing computing power, Commodore has further been a platform or early advergames, such as Painterboy in 1986 which lead players to paint a house for a Finnish paint company called Tikkurila.

Modern home and mobile computing enabled new immersive customer experiences:

Years later, Volkswagen, RedBull, General Mills or Frito-Lay (a PepsiCo. division) have come out with advergames based on visually stunning graphics or a very intense customer experience. Success rates speak for selected forms of advertising; Volkswagen has generated over 5 million visitors to its GTI project with players being on the site for an average of 8 minutes. Frito-Lay’s hotel626, a Dorito revival of 2 flavors has even elevated this number to 13 minutes on average per player. No other form of advertising allows a more intense customer immersion. Granted, production costs for these advergames are likely to exceed a basic CPC campaign but visitor numbers and duration times suggest a much lower cost on a customer level.

How much messaging is however healthy and sustainable in advergames?

To me, this is the key question to be answered and reflected upon. Pumping out an advergame is a relatively easy task with enough budget and thus advertising and coding partners to come up with experience rich or graphically rich games to spend (or “waste”) a few minutes with.

But marketers have to think about how deep their advertising message will be engrained into the game. One option is of course to sponsor a game as premiered by McDonalds in 1980. Hotel626 from Frito-Lay followed this early trend with a very subtle message placement for its more adult target group. Another option is to create a full-blown product and messaging centric game such as Honey Defender by General Mills or the GTI project by Volkswagen.

2 factors seem to stand out to decide upon level advertising message placement to the consumer:

1) Contextually translatable brand or product attributes

2) Advertising aversion of the target group

The first one determines how subtle and contextually meaningful brand attributes can be transformed into the gaming experience. The GTI Project for example did a great job utilizing Volkswagen notion of German engineering, paired with the nostalgic racing character of the Golf GTI to create its miniature racer. Looking at Volkswagen’s most likely target groups, prior Golf or GTI owners and thus brand affiliates, the message aversion of the target group can be likely considered as being low (in relation to the chosen medium). In contrast, how many adults would have played a Dorito game for 13 minutes in which you chase Doritos or create Doritos? Most likely not that many as contextual attribute translation and advertising aversion would have shown an inverse relation. General Mills Honey Defender however is faced with similar translation issues as the Dorito brand, despite it having a slightly easier stand to translate to honey and bees. The main point of contrast is however the target group and thus the target group’s message aversion. General Mills targets mainly kids with its game; who granted are not going to buy the sugary cereal but most likely nag their parents during the next shopping trip to get a new box to unlock in-game specials.

Below a first go to cluster some examples into a likely grid.

messaging in advergaming

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Are campaigns dead?

Jeffrey Jones, Target CMO made a blunt but thought provoking statement, recently published in a brandchannel article, by addressing the shift from campaigns to mobile, content and thus in my eyes customer centric marketing.

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“In the past, marketers would make campaigns, they would put them in the world, and they would wait to see what happened,” Jones said in a video released on the brand’s A Bullseye View website and YouTube channel. “In today’s world, it happens hourly. It happens daily. And this is a brand that has such enriched deep content that our guests want to hear from us on. So if we can create content and share content and allow our guests to speak on our behalf, that’s really beneficial for them to deepen their engagement and it helps us amplify our message as well.”

The importance about this statement in my eyes is not the shift from campaigns to customer centricity in advertising but brands and marketing managers starting (could we say forced to by mobile technology and social media) to diss-intermediate in the message to consumer chain. Building up competencies, knowledge and experience in-house is a very important step to owning content and thus gaining control over customer’s brand experience.

The 60′s to the 90′s were the glory days of advertising agencies, slogans got created behind cigarette filled walls in men dominated meeting rooms. The customer was in most cases the least of everybody’s concern – data discrepancy just being one of the reasons.

Will we see more marketers taking on responsibility, diss-intermediating to getting closer to their customers but outsource operational tasks to third parties? Let’s hope so in 2013, I for my part, am in!

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Your celebrity partner is not the only brand ambassador to worry about!

The press and theory:

According to an article by the AdvertisingAge, Beyonce Knoles has just signed a $ 50 Million brand ambassador deal with Pepsi. Whilst brand ambassadorships are meant to catapult the brand’s reach based on a more credible partnership than just celebrity endorsements, the question of authenticity to consumer remains. Naming will.I.am director of creative innovation at Intel or Lady Gaga creative director of Polaroid is hardly credible to the educated consumer.


The other angle:

Johan Jervoe, VP of creative services at Intel, argues for the celebrity expertise infusion into an organization based on the cultural and process impact these celebrity partnerships may result in. Whilst Intel cannot specify any ROI to backup this claim, it remains questionable how much real operational impact a celebrity can have based on a career in live entertainment or acting. Some consumers surly fall for the Lady Gaga designed printer without questioning Lady Gaga’s stake in the design process besides lending her name to the product and appearing at tradeshows, others surely question the authenticity of these endorsements which widens the brand to consume gap.


The crux of the deal:

On a more subtle base, consumer’s might be drawn in by Lady Gaga, will.I.am and co, yet their brand experience will be defined at every brand touch-point, with an ever increasing likelihood that aspirational celebrity endorsed placements differ from the consumer’s real life product experience.


The harsh reality (a real life story):

As it happens, I am up and jet-lagged after an enduring US – EU trip which made me yet again aware of the difference between story telling and fulfilling the brand’s promise. The most outstanding brand experiences of my recent trip were with airline ground personnel as well as various rental car representatives. Both organizations have worked with celebrities to point a flashy & glossy picture of their service offering. The big difference however was that in both cases, company own and company branded but external staff missed the brand’s value proposition in every aspect, had obviously no pride in working for their respective brand nor cared in any way about the consumer brand interaction, particularly their influence in the game.


The return loop:

No matter if a new mobile operating system inclusive of new hardware gets mass marketed by various celebrities but newly opened flagship employees fall short of being able to sell the product to the consumer and highlight the negatives compared to their big fruity competitor or if airline ground staff does not care about check-in policies, rental car employees disrespect customers and forgoe their own rental policies, these are the touch-points that truly matter, the touch-points defining first hand customer brand interaction, the touch-points that have a driven influence on repurchase / revisit behavior but worst, the touch-points that will lead to negative brand buzz.


Old marketing tantras become the new philosophies, yet again!:

> Stick to the basics! Don’t overpromise but underdeliver. No matter how much marketing budget gets attributed to hiring the next big star for a product world tour, an outstandingly cool tv commercial or “product development” don’t forget to monitor where the action happens: at customer – brand touchpoints

> Don’t forget sales! A great social media campaign, to give the celebrity a break, that falls short of in-store product placements in important retail channels, doesn’t hold up to the promise (e.g. see my Kodak vs. Apple post). The same holds true for a big marketing stunt to promote said new mobile OS but employees lack sales savvy to close the deal with in-store customers.

> Don’t forget the customer! No matter how popular the celebrity, how great your competitor’s campaign based on celebrity affiliation: what your customers thinks, feels and encounters is what matters!

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Channel segmentation is the past – Cross Screen advertising the future

The past:

For the last couple of years, online marketing and online advertising has evolved into a race for better CPM, conversion and high pitched segmentation efforts on both mobile, social and web based advertising platforms such as Google and Yahoo. The problem with most platforms however is, that marketers tend to ignore platform switches of consumers. E.g. a person being targeted and reached via SEM on a web client might moments later be using his mobile, playing on a console or chatting with friends on his tablet. Instead of being channeled into platform specific segmentation and either under or over-targeting parts of the target audience in various channels, it serves a point to rethink segmentation and targeting with the means of modern day technology.


Technology is an enabler for a new set of questions to be asked:

Companies like drawbridge have started to use algorithmic modelling to pair a user’s devices, which allows to target one user on all his devices. More information on drawbridge’s technology can be read in their current whitepaper.


Without disappointment, you cannot appreciate victory:

The major drawback to date of technology side providers like drawbridge is the exclusion of another major hub of screen time: consoles! Consoles do still allow great advertising possibilities by, like other in game advertising formats, capitalising on the deep player immersion during gameplay. Although Sony has earlier this year patented a new form of in-game advertising by interrupting gameplay for on screen advertising, it is questionable if this format will capture the in-game advertising potential and thus leave the door open to alternate technologies to emerge and capture a major foothold.


What marketers should start asking themselves:

Is it more effectively to spread advertising budget cross channel based on channel specific segmentation / targeting data or is it more beneficial to follow a specific user cross screen / channel with dynamic messaging efforts. You decide!

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Paid vs. earned trust in ads…which one do your customers trust?

Advertising Dollars continue to rise to almost $128 billion in Q1 – 2012 (Nielsen report), yet marketers need to ask themselves in which ad-format to invest their advertising budget.

Trust in advertising channels

Trust in advertising channels

Nielsen’s study confirms that trust is an important and ever increasing factor in advertising. Earned trust through social recommendation or consumer reviews scored by far the highest. With advertising blindness growing, Amazon, ebay and facebook sponsored stories are just a few examples of organisations or ad solutions capturing the essence of earned trust effectively.

What does this mean for us marketers?

Stage campaigns and build upon the trust continuum! The buying funnel customers move through today has changed tremendously from the one 20 years ago. Many purchase decisions have been started online both through impulsive product awareness (paid trust) to recommendations and social mingling (earned trust). Adapt your campaigns and advertising spending holistically; it is not anymore a single campaign or ad that get’s placed but a channel strategy to move customers along the trust continuum to the final objective: conversion (sales).

Trust is built upon a continuum from paid to earned, the more likely marketers accept that trust is hardly bought for ad Dollars, the easier it will be to build staged campaigns as suggested above.

Convince the C-suite today! How often have you heard, we need to increase in ad spendings to drive sales. Not anymore – well, not in every case. Work on the value proposition and communicate this internally. Earned and owned trust is also developed through word of mouth (on- and offline). Owned trust (e.g. claims on your website) can easily be ruined by a faulty customer service experience, which in turn results in a decrease in earned trust through negative reviews! Make your C-suite aware of this trend.

Whilst spending for earned and owned trust advertising types continues, it might be a trend which marketers should rethink to increase the ROI on ad budget spendings.

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