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Game theory

Playtime brands are actively stepping up gaming and interactive initiatives to engage consumers & draw them into a co-creation process to enhance acceptance, reports Anita Sharan. See graphics

business Updated: Mar 29, 2010 01:16 IST
Anita Sharan

And now brands are playing games. Testing the waters over the past few years, they are now committing more seriously to the idea, in terms of money and marketing bandwidth.

Take Godrej’s just announced endeavour. It is mammoth in its very idea. A Second Life kind of virtual world online, GoJiyo combines, as Tanya Dubash, executive director & president (marketing), Godrej Industries, put it, “a virtual world, gaming and social networking. It is more advanced than Second Life which does not include gaming. GoJiyo is an online activation platform to interact with youth and get them to interact (through avatars), with the Godrej brand and products.”

Sandeep Singh Arora, EVP marketing - cola, PepsiCo India, spelled out the perspective: “Consumers today want more than one-way brand conversations. They want to be engaged, to co-create. While television delivers high reach, it does not encourage co-creation and engagement.” The digital platform does.

Alok Kejriwal, co-founder of Games2win, an online gaming solutions company, pointed out: “Traditional advertising is ‘lean-back’, passive. Gaming initiatives by brands is ‘lean-forward’ advertising where players are controlling events and the environment. Combining branding and gaming becomes about interacting with, databasing and profiling target consumers.”

So Pepsi is using its broadcast sponsorship rights of the Indian Premier League 3 to create something unique — a Pepsi brand game that combines entertainment with engagement across television, the internet and mobile phone. ‘The Game’ has Sanjay Dutt as the antagonist game master and Ranbir Kapoor as the Youngistaani protagonist. Actress Jacqueline Fernandes plays the Pepsi WOW girl. Kapoor has to get to the Pepsi in Dutt’s castle and participants have to help him get there.

The Game is played over five films and three levels, each ending with a riddle with three options. Participants can SMS or log on to a website with their answers. The final tie-breaker winner gets Rs 50 lakh. Besides featuring on MAX, the game will also feature on Orkut and Facebook.

Arora explained: “We’ve found that of those people who are exposed to such interactive initiatives, nine per cent are active participants while 90 per cent just watch, deriving entertainment. Both audience sets are important for us.” Starting on Saturday, The Game will end on April 25.

Dubash said that GoJiyo will enable a sense of co-ownership in the Godrej brand. “We have 480 million daily users of Godrej products. However, they don’t see Godrej as a lifestyle ‘range’ of products, something very important for us going forward. With GoJiyo, while we want to appeal to a strongly growing online population, we are also keen on the halo effect it will create with young people who are not online. In a survey, we found that before exposure to, nine per cent of consumers stated a purchase intention on Godrej products as 10 on 10. The number jumped up after the exposure to 20 per cent.”

“Branding in games,” said Kejriwal, “is immersive, not interruptive.”

It’s all about experiencing the brand, which enhances the possibility of purchasing it, said Arun Mehra, chief marketing officer, Zapak, an online gaming development company. Brands across automobile, finance, services, consumer products, among other sectors, are seeing the opportunity. He cited the example of Mahindra & Mahindra’s Scorpio that, through an advergame (a short three-to-five minute game constructed around a brand) developed by Zapak, provided players “the experience of driving the Scorpio across rough terrain, getting the feel of its four-wheel drive feature.” Tata Motors’ Nano provided a virtual experience of a test-drive through an advergame developed by Zapak, getting excellent responses.

While the number of people accessing the internet is still small, the annual growth at 35 per cent is promising. Kejriwal said, “If we charge Rs 5 lakh for an advergame and if one lakh players each spend five minutes on the game, we are giving five lakh minutes of brand engagement time at a rupee spent per engagement minute.”

When his company launched an advergame for L’Oreal in 2001, it attracted 10,000 people. A recent Cadbury advergame created by Games2win attracted 1,50,000 people. “That’s a 15-fold increase,” said Kejriwal.

“While a 2D advergame can cost Rs 3-5 lakh and a 3D Rs 40-50 lakh, the qualitative benefit to the brand in its connect is far greater than the ROI,” Mehra added.

Zapak recently went into BPO and ad agency offices for Reliance Money and conducted gaming tournaments for young executives, moving beyond just advergames.

“The trend towards brands getting into gaming is going up. Increasingly, we will engage with consumers where they are,” Arora said.

“Going forward, we will integrate offline with online initiatives,” Dubash said, adding that Godrej will invite other non-competing brands for co-branding into GoJiyo.