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    Social Games Offer Restaurant Marketers a New Level of Guest Engagement

    By Rick Zambrano

    Social Games Offer Restaurant Marketers a New Level of Guest Engagement-Kandessa

    Recent moves by restaurants looking to engage customers on several technology platforms has brought attention to the way social games draw and appeal to a young audience. Electronic Arts' recent collaboration with coffee and baked goods chain Dunkin' Brands through The Sims Social game, cements the role of social games in restaurant marketing. According to a spokesperson at Dunkin', Electronic Arts (EA)' game will be played in five different languages: English, Spanish, German, French, and Italian, and will now reach users on the Facebook platform.

    EA, based out of Redwood City, Calif., is a major game publisher of computer and video games, according to TechCrunch. EA owns gaming studios Bioware, Mythic, and Maxis. Last fall, the company purchased the publisher of Angry Birds, Chillingo, although it did not actually purchase the game itself, which is owned by game developer Rovio. Few in today's society, particularly those in Gen Y or Gen Z, have not heard of the reportedly addictive Angry Birds game.

    Church's and Dunkin' have both deployed games on Facebook that were able to produce a high level of customer engagement. Church's Chicken Launcher asks players to launch a chicken sandwich to hungry fans for points. Prior to its agreement with EA, Dunkin' released a game called On Your Mark. On Your Mark, players are asked to build the perfect cup of coffee that is rolled across a conveyor belt-like assembly line; it required fans to like click on "like" to play the game.

    Technomic Director Erik Thoresen says that "this sharing mechanism is an important differentiator and underscores the power of social gaming relative to standalone predecessors."

    TSS"The Sims franchise has loyal fans all over the world that have been waiting to play The Sims Social on Facebook," says the source at Dunkin'. Thoresen notes that "Dunkin’s involvement may actually help broaden EA’s Sims audience to a broader spectrum of consumers." He says that the Dunkin' collaboration will help reach consumers that are not normally in EA's target audience.

    Thoresen says that because games are interactive in nature, they are able to engage customers to a "greater extent" than many other forms of content. 

    Social games, also referred to as social networking games, and defined here as electronic games that are able to foster sharing and competition among users in a public platform with social integration, are growing by leads and bounds. Google recently intertwined social games to its Google+social media site. Google is charging game developers its typical developer fee of five percent, according to Forbes, compared to the 30 percent that Facebook charges developers, which includes the benefit of using Facebook's social currency.

    The Google+ launch of social games involves Zynga, a game developer to which Facebook is closely tied. Google purchased socialdeck, a game developer out of Toronto last August. The team at socialdeck has created the Pet Hero MD, Shake & Spell and Color Connect games.

    Thoresen says that the Foursquare app has been was a big game changer. The mobile app allows users to share their location-based experiences with other connected users at a multitude of businesses, fostering loyalty and a competitive nature: Foursquare users gain points for each "check-in" to compete against friends, and also can redeem offers that restaurants build on their Foursquare dashboards. 

    FoursquareUsers can connect their Foursquare accounts to their Twitter and Facebook accounts, which can update when a check in is registered. "By checking in a certain number of times, or in different locations, users can collect virtual badges," says TechCrunch's CrunchBase.

    Foursquare recently closed a $50 million-dollar round in a very secretive agreement, which valued the company at nearly $600 million, according to TechCrunch. Location-based apps are the new wave of platforms for social gaming, along with consoles.

    As it becomes easier to develop and integrate games into a restaurant company's social media presence, more restaurant marketers will be able to easily launch their own games for fans. The engagement with the brand through gaming, will continue to grow on multiple devices and platforms, as it has with the games alone. Look for more collaborations and partnerships of major restaurant chains with game publishers as they continue to spearhead development in this marketing channel.

    Thoresen cites a recent Netflix survey that showed that half of its users access Netflix content through Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles. " Promotional games from restaurants have yet to emerge for consoles, but this is one area restaurants should certainly pay attention to," he says. "Similarly, Internet-enabled television apps provide a similar opportunity."

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    (09-30-11)

    Copyright: Kandessa Media. All rights reserved.

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