Chain Marketers Turn Brand Engagement into One Big Social Game

By Rick Zambrano

Chain Marketers Turn Brand Engagement into One Big Social Game - Kandessa Media

NTN Buzztime of Carlsbad, Calif., this month acquired the hosted Stump! Trivia game from Trailside Entertainment, Inc. Stump! has a large presence in the Northeast and conducts approximately 300 live events per week.  Buzztime boasts 2 millions registered players and 50 million games played annually.

Although Buzztime in September reported a five-percent sales decrease for its second quarter, it continues to gain momentum as a major player in the trivia and interactive game space. With card games, sports-centric and trivia-based games, Buzztime's acquisition of Stump! Trivia seems likely to turn results around as it soon reports its third quarter results, and creates guidance for 2012.

For independent restaurateurs and bigger chains, operators and marketers continue to embed gaming into their practices to add interactive traits and encourage customers to linger longer and engage with a brand in limited bursts of time. The stakes are high. Whether online, on mobile or on devices in restaurants, games continue to be a tool for restaurant marketers.

Erik Thoresen, director for Technomic, a Chicago-based foodservice research and consulting firm, offers up this advice:

  • Let marketing objectives drive the functionality of games.
  • Don't rest on your laurels.  If the game has momentum, start brainstorming ideas for new ones, because games have a limited lifespan.
  • With online and mobile games, make sure to incorporate social elements. Thoresen says, "The simple act of adding a Facebook “Like” button to a standalone game makes the game much more sharable than it was before."

Learn the Lingo: Apps. Challenges. Rewards.

Dunkin' Brands also made an announcement during October: it engaged SCVNGR to run a promotion through October 31. SCVNGR, based in Cambridge, created an app that allows retail and restaurant guests to earn points and complete customized challenges to earn free products and status. The SCVNGR app competes against other point-based location-based apps like Foursquare. During the promotion period, Dunkin' "fans" answer trivia and challenges related to Dunkin' products to earn special badges and rewards.

Thus far, the Dunkin' page on SCVNGR shows nearly 5,000 challenges taken and almost 1,000 points earned. The promotion targets Dunkin's new Tuna Salad and Chicken Salad sandwiches, with customers trying to win a free sandwich per week for a year. A SCVNGR spokesperson says that on average, restaurant profile pages run for 60 days, have 440,000 challenges completed and 48,000 rewards unlocked.

According to Chris Mahl, chief brand alchemist at SCVNGR, "We work with restaurants to script challenges that engage customers in a way that's both fun and relevant to the restaurant experience. SCVNGR rewards are a really powerful aspect of this experience, because they motivate customers to interact with a business while giving them a huge incentive to come back again."

In-restaurant games continue to create excitement and fun for restaurant guests. Whether through traditional games or new app-inspired challenges, restaurants are increasing their use of such games to create a new level of guest engagement.

ZioskThe Ziosk, for example, is a wireless table-side technology device that incorporates various applications to engage customers and inspire them to spend more at casual dining restaurants. It allows direct orders from the table, payment processing, loyalty reward club enrollment, promotional virtual table tents, news delivery via USA Today and interactive games. A customer could opt to watch a movie trailer; parents can play table-side games with younger children or more adult-centric games of their own.

Games On Steroids

In 2011, SCVNGR, Coca-Cola and Buffalo Wild Wings partnered for the NCAA Basketball Tournament in a game called Home Court Advantage. Approximately 186,000 players completed over a million challenges nationwide. Buffalo Wild Wings ran a second promotion this year to promote its "Flavor Fanatics™" campaign, which focused on promoting Buffalo's 18 signature sauces. As with the previous Home Court Advantage program, web-based leader boards showing player standing, in-store cross-promotion materials, social media integration, and in-store rewards were important elements in the game's success.

What is evident with Foursquare apps, SVCNGR and other interactive on-premises games, is that they have the ability to increase guest interaction with restaurants. In limited-service establishments, where there is a shorter window for guest interaction, Foursquare and SVCNGR apps have both been shown to create competitive fun and increase brand awareness in very short bursts of time. Both of these location-based apps provide an opportunity for restaurants to reward guests in-store and almost instantaneously.

"Guests come here to watch their favorite teams compete, to compete themselves in our Buzztime trivia contests or to celebrate a win of their own with their local sports team,” says Jeremy Burke, Buffalo Wild Wings’ brand manager. "Competition is part of who we are and we are using our location-based social game with SCVNGR to give our guests another way to get in on the action."

He says that over 300,000 guests have used SCVNGR to play games at Buffalo.

With this kind of success, Buffalo is running another fall promotion with SCVNGR called Tablegating. The 13-week competition, inspired by the college football season, will allow Buffalo's guests to earn points and compete for the ultimate tailgating prize. "Our goal is to communicate with our guests in the places where they are interacting socially with their friends," says Burke.

"Facebook provides us with a great way to communicate with our guests in a place they visit daily, so we’ve learned it’s important for us to be active there." A lesson Buffalo has learned in its marketing through games is that integrating Facebook and social media platforms is critical. Buffalo is now approaching 5.4 million fans on Facebook.

Buffalo Wild Wings has also used sports celebrity spokespeople. There, Twitter has been the focus. Burke notes, "...during our Home Court Advantage campaign earlier this year, former basketball great Scottie Pippen participated in the SCVNGR game and tweeted about the competition, and Trey Wingo from ESPN recently took-over our @BWWings Twitter feed to talk football with our followers."

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See also our article on social networking games in QSR marketing.

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Photo: courtesy of LaunchSquad for SCVNGR and Ziosk

Copyright: Kandessa Media. All rights reserved.

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