Pairing Real and Virtual for Fun and Profit

It seems there’s no escaping Farmville – not on Facebook, and not in the grocery section of your local 7 Eleven market.  As cafemom puts it:

From Slurpees to sandwiches, you can now be lured by the appeal of the FarmVille crew. And not only will you be getting some pretty packaging marketing the game, you’ll also get codes for items you need/want to play the game.

For example, if you buy a cold sandwich, you will get a FarmVille Sandwich Cart. If you buy a fresh cup of fruit (at least it’s not all junk food!), a FarmVille Chocolate Persimmon Tree can be yours; and if it’s a FarmVille Neapolitan Cow you seek, then what a great excuse to pick up some ice cream.

“You will be assimilated” – Zynga

The idea is a clever spin on the offerwall concept, which provide an indirect monetization path for users who would not buy virtual goods or virtual currency outright. There’s a couple of things to be gleaned from Zynga’s foray into the convenience store isle.

Here’s our top 5 lessons to take away from the uber-sharp marketing partnership:

1. Spin the traditional model on its head. Most of the time offers involve a gamer deciding to purchase a virtual good and only then browsing purchases of subscriptions or physical goods to tender payment to the game publisher.  That simply means that a player who does not find an offer she likes will think twice about whether that virtual good is in fact worth the trouble.  There is the possibility that gamer might monetize directly, but since the player decided to engage in offers in the first place it seems unlikely she would do so (the data we’ve gathered supports this conclusion). The takeaway is that when building or evaluating a virtual economy management system, make sure it supports code based redemption like Doubloon’s Marketplace product or you’ll be limited to a reactive offer strategy.

2. Keep the List Simple. Here’s the list of offerings a player can redeem at the promotion website. Notice there aren’t many here; just enough to acquire enough good data to determine whether the promotion is goosing Zynga’s virtual goods sales or not. Simplicity also lets them plug the plug quickly and quietly if the promotion is a failure.

High Dive
Big Gulp $1.49

Fun Slide
32oz Slurpee Premium Cup ($2.49)

Neopolitan Cow
Vanilla Ice Cream Pint ($2.29)

Persimmon Tree
Fresh Cut Fruit Cup ($2.99-$4.99)

Water Tower
1 Lt. Bottled Water ($1.49)

Coffee Cart
Large Iced Coffee ($1.49)

Sandwich Cart
Sandwich (2.99-$4.99)

Goji Berry Crop
Unlock after any redemption



3. Pair Goods Strategically. Think synergy here. Buying an ice cream pint and getting the cow is a logical tie in of course, and good gameplay design even. But we’re not talking about just theme synergy here.

Some product tie-ins are way, way better than others

The tie in needs to make sense given the gamer demographic. John Deere farm equipment wouldn’t make sense here since Farmville’s demographic seems to be stay at home moms and their kids. The Farmville Neopolitan Cow is a perfect example. The promotion involves an elastic demand, splurge good like ice cream where an added bonus will nudge undecided buyers to buy.  A little treat from time to time won’t ruin a diet, and that extra goodie might be the motivation needed to make the purchase.  Teenage boys are arguably the target demographic of choice for Mafia Wars. The result? Zynga and 7 Eleven smartly connected Mafia Wars goodies with Slurpee purchases too (the breakfast choice of teenagers).

And while we’re talking about ice cream and sugar water..

4. Leverage Splurge Purchases. Tying the Farmville cow to a staple good like milk reduces the game publisher’s bargaining power, since milk purchases are fairly inelastic. That means the extra nudge isn’t very effective and thus won’t monetize well for the game publisher. Who’s going to buy a second liter or gallon of milk just to get another virtual good? The purchase of a second pint of ice cream is much more likely to happen.

5. Build Urgency Through Limited time Offers. Want that slide above? You have about 20 days to go buy a soft drink at 7 Eleven to get it. A lack of time boundaries eliminates the incentive to run over to pick up the paired real world good immediately. At least it did for me: I purchased one tonight just for the novelty of it.

More reading here, here, and here.

This entry was published on July 7, 2010 at 6:54 PM. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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