Why 5 Big Brand Marketing Campaigns are Betting Big on Social Gaming

The answer: Because their agency partner convinced them to buy a shiny new social game.

In a recent article by Mashable author Brian Anthony Hernandez titled Why 5 Big Brand Marketing Campaigns are Betting Big on Social Gaming, Brian attempts to tout the big wins coming from social gaming. To be completely transparent, I am a social gaming skeptic, but was eager to understand how brands were successfully leveraging this buzzing tactic. Upon reading this article I am more skeptical than ever.

The reason is in the results, or lack thereof. Here are the “results” that marketers and their agency partners point to:

  • “92% of We City players have incorporated Century 21-branded structures into their virtual cities”
  • Martercard game got “30,000 Likes and gets more than 80% of visits from returning visitors. On average, gamers spend 45 minutes on the game page each visit.”
  • “After the launch, users’ time on the Psych website increased from an average of 14 minutes to 22 minutes…”

The only thing this proves is that people like to play games and if you put a game on your site people will play it. Unless the objective was to have someone play games on your site, I don’t see the brand benefit.

All marketers should reserve 10% of their budget each quarter to test and trial new ideas and tactics like social gaming. However, until there are tangible ROMOs from these trials, let’s agree that its just for fun.

The Important Evolution of Engagement From Marketing Fluff to Metric to KPI

There has been a lot of discussion around the topic of engagement; what is it, why does it matter and how do I measure it, and is it marketing fluff or the new standard for measurement. From my research I see a valuable concept being poorly interpreted and executed by some marketers, vendors and agencies.

What is it? To start with a definition, most analysts and bloggers agree on two basic components. The interactions can be either individual or company led, and they are ongoing across every point of contact. These are all the brand interactions with the product, other individuals, customer service, marketing messages, applications, etc. over time, which requires a comprehensive cross-channel measurement algorithm to evaluate.

Engagement is not the “time spent” with your online video or the “number of posts” on your social media site; these metrics are only part of the equation. I agree with the critics who dismiss these “engagement” metrics, but the problem is not with the concept it’s with the current execution of measuring what’s available as opposed to what matters. Which leads us to our second point.

Why does it matter? Technology has exponentially increased the points of contact individuals have with your brand and social technologies have exponentially increased the reach and influence individuals have on each other. We also have the added benefit of being able to track and measure most of these new technology enabled interactions, and improve customer insight by measuring individual’s behavior.

Marketing leverages both quantitative/hard metrics like sales that are generally based on behavior, and qualitative/soft metrics like satisfaction that are generally based on surveys to determine success. Engagement is a new qualitative/soft metric, but is unique in that it is behavior based not survey based, which may deliver a more accurate indication of marketing and business success. If you have any question about the inaccuracies of self-reported survey responses, check out Martin Lindstrom’s new book Buyology, which uses brain scan technology to separate the truths from the lies about why we buy. In addition, the more “social” marketing becomes, the higher degree soft metrics will be needed to generate hard results. Which leads us to our third point.

How do I measure it? A metric is anything that can be consistently measured, like CTRs and time spent, where a KPI is an indicator, agreed upon with your partners that will determine whether you are attaining business success. As a result, engagement measurement cannot be a one-size fits-all because the number and type of interactions varies for every company and the relative weighting or value associated with each interaction in an algorithm will also differ.

Start by identifying all the points of contact individuals can have with your brand before, during and after the buying process. Next identify what measurement mechanisms exist across these points of contact to expose potential data gaps. Third, prioritize the points of contact lacking any measurement mechanisms and create a simple 2X2 matrix based on their value vs. their cost to acquire. Finally, work with your partners to define an algorithm that weights the values of each interaction, measure to define a benchmark, and evaluate your model as an indicator of business success. By discovering specific patterns of behavior across interactions, marketers can measure for their occurrence and proactively drive those indicator actions to occur.

Engagement is not a replacement of but another valuable tool that focuses on the individual’s new and growing number of interactions with a brand to help marketers assess and better influence their buying process. While the road to measurement may be long and hard, the time for action is now.