This past week, I participated in M&C Saatchi's first hack day, Game5hack, which was 6 teams building fully functional online based games over two days. It was the first time I had ever done something like this, and I'm certainly glad I did, and it won't be the last. What a great experience!
As a strategist, who believes everything an organisation creates should be dedicated to delivering the brand's promise, it was really great to be exposed to the world of play - something that doesn't necessarily have purpose other than to be fun and entertaining! It was wonderful to let brainstorming start from a blank slate and think of fun ways to engage people and immerse them in a world of fun.
This experience has made me realise the importance of fun and game play. In fact, I see great value in brands building more play into their customer experiences. After all people respond instantly to entertaining/engaging experiences, and games are just that. And with technology becoming more mobile and social, we're able to bridge the gap between online and offline experiences, which creates a marvellous environment to introduce game play to certain elements to the brand experience.
Although the wicked 1980's arcade style game, inspired by the classic Wall Street film, we built last week was purely a game, it got me thinking about how you can take a human action/behaviour, like trading stocks, and add playful elements to make the experience more entertaining and engaging. These then work together to motivate the user/customer/person to remain involved with the game, or the brand, in the case of an organisation.
Games seems like a great way to immerse people in a brand, involving them in the content. It goes back to that Benjamin Franklin quote I love so much:
"Tell me and I'll forget,The more we involve our audience in the brand, through relevant and fun experiences, the more they will be able to associate with the brand, increasing advocacy. The influential and highly motivating nature of games, makes them prime candidates to help change behaviour, teach new skills or simply maintain attention for a long period of time, which is ideal for branded experiences. However, brands must be sensitive to force the creation of games, or it seems contrived, and, frankly, people see right through this nowadays. A brand must have a relevant reason to build a game, and it should be rooted in insight based on existing human behaviour, which is relevant to the brand's purpose/role.
Show me and I might remember,
Involve me and I'll understand"
So for instance, McDonalds created Pick n' Play last year, which was a massive interactive billboard in Sweden where people could use their mobile devices to play ping pong on a giant billboard. This lived up to the brand's purpose of making people happy, but it also created a fun/positive way for people to engage with the brand for a long period of time, giving them a great story to share with their friends.
You can even build games into the way people interact with products, extending the brand experience beyond the tangible item. For this we can look at Lego's Life of George set. It's a lego kit that has you download a mobile app where you build various objects, take pictures of them timing how fast you are versus other players. It's another way to increase time spent with the brand, but it also creates a sense of achievement, which acts as another way to fuel brand stories furthering the brand conversation/story.
Lastly, we can look at games that are dedicated to positively influencing behaviour change like Nike+, which allows you set running challenges for yourself or even run against others. This has revolutionised Nike to begin looking at both product and service offerings. Nike+ has made the brand more relevant, defining its role and becoming a facilitator/motivator of fitness. I personally think it would be interesting to see gyms build games into their offering. I mean we see this with some fitness equipment, where they place you on a track and you can race against the person exercising next to you! What a great way to distract you from the pain/boredom of riding/running in one spot for an extended period of time!
All-in-all, I'm excited to think more about gaming and how we can incorporate play in a relevant and meaningful way to stimulate fun and exciting brand engagement. Sometimes, in business, we think everything has to be so serious (I'm one to fall into this trap) and we often forget about our love of games, and that they can make simple things, like spelling words from a collection of random letters (i.e. Scrabble), a lot of fun!
So in the spirit of 2012, which I believe to be all about engaging experiences, lets talk less and play more!