The latest trend in engaging customers via the web is the gaming culture.
Facebook and mobile apps have given rise to a pretty vast mainstream adult game playing culture. It’s incredibly popular and wildly addictive. It’s Tetris gone social.
The convergence of mainstream social web gaming with game theory has created a modern generation of serious games. A serious game is “a mental contest, played with a computer in accordance with specific rules that uses entertainment to further government or corporate training, education, health, public policy and strategic communication objectives.”
The effect on marketing (particularly for complex business to business products) is that today’s interactive web technologies offer a unique opportunity to build market-facing, serious games that illustrate the benefits of products and services. These technologies go a step beyond viral games, which generate awareness through entertainment, and moves towards generating an understanding of core benefits.
For example, a viral game that markets a city planning software tool might have you whipping the mouse around to quickly repair roads and power grids behind a rampaging but funny Godzilla. A serious game would be more likely to simulate the challenges that a city planner faces in the real world while showing how a software product could help the job get done better — like this IBM serious game for CityOne.
Or a newspaper might user a serious game to engage its readers in the trade-off decisions that are necessary for a responsible government to balance its budget — like this NY Times serious game for fiscal decision making.
Serious games and social games for marketing are making their way into search engine marketing circles, Forrester blogs, and new industry events. Even academic circles are abandoning lectures and webinars in favor of interactive learning..
The bottom line is that people can really learn and understand what a product does and why it can benefit them if they can experience it. These games may prove much more effective than even excellent static marketing with brilliant copy and perfect imagery. This is one reason why the next generation Market eXperience is about so much more than content; it is about interaction with knowledge through applications.
Software is not just helpful to your marketing and product / value delivery, it is central to it.
How many points would you award your prospects and customers for really understanding what your company does?