27 July 2008

ARGH! Update on Game III

Wow. So, we did our first live drop. What this entails is an elaborate set-up with a series of props, a mix of wardrobe and some volunteer actors.

Players in the game, if you are reading this... go to another page now. Spoiler alert.

We rented a stretch SUV limousine, put decals on the sides and back, created security clearance cards, registration forms, letters (signed by the puppetmaster) and a memo (signed by the rogue agent in the game).

Players had to go through 6 missions to gather all of the pieces needed to find where the dead drop was, including gathering 3 maps, 2 fortran style punch cards and two codes that were mixed up in order. Hey, the players wanted a challenge. Once all these were found, they had to figure out the passphrase to say at the drop zone.

The selection of the GPS location turned out to be a great spot, it was near a transit station and there was no cars in the parking lot. We had photographers hiding out nearby and even had a reporter with us, covering the event.

We were not sure what to expect as far as a turnout, but believed all we needed was one or two to share the experience online afterwards to create buzz. We had a small handful of agents make their way to our drop - including our test agent. As far as your typical events go, this would be considered a dismal failure. But, because the ARG has received so much attention online, from around the world, we are confident that we will be able to leverage some excitement for the client's opening in mid-August.

We have one last mission left and then we will be sending out some really cool rewards to the players. We will likely be leaving the game online for future players to play with some minor adjustments to some of the challenges... we made it relatively timeless for the most part. The legacy of this marketing initiative will be that we've created a challenging game for people that like games that will forever promote the client.

That's all folks - complete wrap up to come in August some time... I might post some drivel for you in the interim.

19 July 2008

ARGH! Update on Game II

I've been found.

Players of the ARG have tracked me through a simple Google search. Pretty dumb move on my part - put a link to the game on my blog - good one, dummy. On the plus side the one person that reads my blog will have gone to the ARG site and given us a unique visit, although I don't think my mom is into ARG's.

Anyways, I'm about as happy about it as the players in the game are. They like the mechanics of the game hidden, and I can appreciate that. But, seeing as how it will take about 3 - 4 weeks to take down the cached files of my blog I don't see much point in doing it.

So, if you are a player in the ARG, sorry. Also, you will not find any clues in the blog, again, sorry. It was not meant to be found, nor a part of the game in any way. If you are interested in the mechanical side or puppet-mastery side of the game, stay tuned as I will be putting a lot of the details up after the Node ARG is complete.

As we develop future ARGs we will ensure that the curtain is securely fastened.

Many players have also figured out who the client is and their whereabouts - cool, doesn't mean the missions and challenges can't be enjoyed by people that are not within close proximity to the location. And, because of the international play on the ARG, we have restructured the rewards so that any player in the game can take part in the prizes.

Keep your stick on the ice, there's still another period to play.

01 July 2008

Only in Canada you say, pity.

It's Canada Day today. Happy birthday Canada.

My mother's side of the family has been in Calgary for 100 years, my father's for over 50. Canada has been good to my family and in a small way, my family has helped contribute to Canada's history, which is kind of cool; The very first live radio broadcast of curling was done by my grandfather (mom's side), my great grandmother was awarded the Governor General award for her work with the famous five, my grandfather (dad's side) lead the movement to legalize home wine making and sponsored numerous immigrants to Canada, providing them with jobs and a place to stay.

Each of these people have left their mark, a legacy if you will.

So, what does legacy have to do with marketing you say? Well, a lot if you count branding as part of your marketing. I know I do.

Your brand can create legacy. What you do with your brand today affects how customers perceive your brand in years to come. Protecting your brand image and what it stands for provides your brand with integrity and trust.

You can protect your brand a few different ways - by being consistent in your offering, by being consistent in your delivery and by being consistent in your approach.

Consistency is a big part of why people trust brands. People trust brands because there are no surprises, it's all familiar territory for them. People buy into the concept of your brand for a number of reasons most of these come down to what your brand stands for: Quality, Performance, Standards, Ethics, Taste and a handful of others including Personalization and Service. Being true to why your customers love your brand is as important as your product itself.

For instance, a customer that buys your product because of the way it tastes - let's say 'Ketchup Chips'- knows that every time they buy a bag of chips it will taste like ketchup and for the most part will not change. This consistency is what they rely on every time they purchase a bag.

What can I say, It's Canada day and Ketchup chips are a Canadian only item.

But, how do you stimulate sales in a category like this without affecting your brand's legacy or by losing profit? Many manufacturers play with product sizing (jumbo pack, mini pack etc.) and they include them with other products (buy a bag of relish or mustard flavour and get a free bag of ketchup) in hopes that trial of the product will stimulate more sales. Some manufacturers can't look outside of the bag when it comes to creating extra sales - they look at how their product is currently being used, not how it could be used. Most marketing is geared up to get people to eat more ketchup chips when they really need to get more people to eat ketchup chips.

The first thing they need to do is ask some questions in order to determine why people like the flavour in the first place.

Ketchup on it's own has some possibilities too, doesn't it? Isn't there already a leader in Ketchup flavour? How about integrating the leading Ketchup maker's flavour - Heinz Ketchup flavoured chips? (this goes the same for dill flavour (Bick's) - bbq flavour (bull's eye) - can you think of more?)

There are a lot of people that use ketchup but don't like or don't eat ketchup chips - so what about these people? Some people put plain potato chips into sandwiches and burgers - could ketchup chips not be promoted for this purpose? As an alternative to actual ketchup? I think it could - now there's a marketing campaign that could write itself. Do you think that would increase trial of the product and perhaps increase long term sales of that category? If successful, you can launch other flavours in the same manor - why put pickles in your sandwich - use Bick's Dill flavoured chips!

But, I digress - I don't know if this potato chip scenario has been played out in real life or not - I'm hoping that it hasn't. I am just trying to give you an example of how to change your product without affecting your brand.

If you are true to what the brand represents to consumers then you will succeed in launching new derivatives of the brand. If you break this trust, you are at risk of losing the brand's appeal to customers.

By changing the flavour of ketchup chips to Heinz ketchup flavour it offers the brand some leveraged credibility from the Heinz brand and therefore becomes appealing to new customers. The existing customers are still getting ketchup flavour, but it's now a premium flavour, not generic. Learning from the New Coke fiasco, keeping your original ketchup flavour available means not alienating customers that like the current flavour.

The bottom line is that you need now your brand, this means understanding your customers perception of the brand. What it means to them must be held in high regard and considered with every change you make.

Change is always good... as long as the customer thinks it's the same or better.