The keys to the candy shop: how Candy Crush offers a masterclass in marketing

(Originally published on The Drum)candy

I was standing on a London Underground platform two days ago when an announcement came through the PA system: “Please mind the gap between the train and the platform… even if it means you have to stop playing Candy Crush until you safely board the train.”

That degree of pop-culture ubiquity doesn’t happen often to such a young franchise (since April 2012 on Facebook, November 2012 on smartphones). As with Angry Birds before it, if you are on a train this summer, it feels like every other person holding a smartphone or a tablet is playing King’s Candy Crush Saga. If you are on Facebook, you must be getting “requests” from at least a couple of your friends.

This ubiquity also means big money as widely reported  by the media over recent weeks. King’s figures mention 45 million players playing 600 million times a day. Think Gaming reports $632,867 in revenue per day on the iOS App store alone, and the game is just as high up the charts on Android devices and on Facebook. It’s safe to say that across platforms it’s bringing in millions of pounds every week.

(Note that as a side effect, for any company who deals with related data, Candy Crush PR is a highly effective article bait. At the time of writing “Think Gaming” + “Candy Crush” has over 1500 results on Google.)

But behind the lure of a surprise success story, there’s a master-class in the fundamental digital era paradigm of marketing. Continue reading

Trend singularity: why are businesses going after the same opportunities?

Opportunity CenterTechnological Singularity, according to some futurists, is an event horizon after which the accelerated progress of technology and in particular artificial intelligence becomes too rapid and too extreme to predict. There are various arguments with regards to the exact timing of that event.

I wonder if the structure of the singularity argument could be extended to other areas. For example, I think it’s safe to say we’ve pretty much hit the content singularity. Social media percolation is increasingly so efficient, that stories that once took days and weeks to move from the margins into mainstream media can now take minutes to do so. Once something is deemed interesting or important it gets liked/re-tweeted/etc and at a certain point bound to be broadcasted by one of the big connectors, mavens or salesmen and just take off. It’s on the next news bulletin and in tomorrow’s newspaper.

Unlike with technology, a state of absolute efficiency is not very far from where we are right now. Continue reading

Valve software doing what they must, because they can. For science. (and gaming, and marketing…)

Too busy to write a full post report, but here is a story told in links… To gamers, this will all be taken for granted, but many people in the creative industry are simply oblivious to what’s going on in this arena, and they shouldn’t. We should all pay real attention to this category, because it is the avant-garde of post-modern marketing.

If you have any interest in transmedia storytelling or the future of marketing, what Valve is doing as it promotes the release of Portal 2 (probably tomorrow at this pace) is simply amazing.

Links:
Portal 2: The game
The wiki of the game about the game which is played across social media, other games, podcasts, magazine websites, email, IRC … involving the gathering of clues to aid the gathering of “potatoes” required to overclock the AI antagonist of the game (=Valve releasing the game earlier). But also includes the release of branded content across the other games, new content about the game’s universe and its meta-universe (which is a version of our’s).
Which all results in this accelerated countdown to the release.

Single handily revolutionising the PC gaming industry through their Steam platform (an app store for PC games, installed on pretty much every gamer’s PC on earth) is apparently not enough.
Seriously exciting, ground-breaking and creative stuff.

Update 26/4/2011: And here is a good summary of the Portal 2 ARG by Edge Magazine.

One thing Google Buzz does very well

I’m not going to add to the noise about buzz by writing a lengthy review. Suffice to say I don’t see Buzz as turning into my main social networking hub any time soon. I do have a small viral observation though…

There is one thing it does very well.

I’ve joined many social services in my time, but don’t remember a single one that has tied together my social network so quickly.

The main benefit, so far, is for Google Reader. One of the best thing about Greader is sharing items. However, up to Buzz Greader relied mostly on your contacts to populate people you follow. Because many people, myself included* , don’t use their gmail address as their “official” address, just for Google services. Even if those people were Greader users, they’ve been “invisible” so far.

Lo and behold – less than 24 hours from Buzz’s launch, and %80 of people in my network that I was sorry weren’t sharing items with me now do.

And maybe that clever little thing points to the simple fact many people out there are judging Buzz using the wrong criteria.

*I do use gmail as an imap client for other addresses.

Users respond to the Dove Evolution viral

208304063_21cd46c157_m.jpgThere has been much discussion of Dove’s “Evolution” viral. (on youtube and Dove’s site)

While some of the fundamental marketing questions still need to be answered (do users associate this clip with Dove? Will/Does it influence purchase decisions / loyalty and more…), its phenomenal viral exposure cannot be argued. A powerful demonstration of potential.

The distortion of body images when representing beauty is a very old tradition (If I remember correctly, Michelangelo’s Adam on the Sistine Chapel misses a rib and sits in an anatomically impossible, yet arguably flattering position). However, there is no doubt that in our times the very rigid types of female looks represented by mass media, and further distorted using digital wizardry, has become an oppressive force threatening the emotional, and often physical well being of women everywhere. (Some thoughtful words on the subject and comments worth reading on Dana Boyd’s blog )

The strength and appeal of the subject is apparent in the ripple effect of user created content around the same theme. The Dove clip drove many web users, especially personal bloggers, to try and explore digitally manipulating themselves. You can find videos in the related videos list of the clip on you-tube.

Liat Bar-On, who is among Israel’s most widely read personal bloggers (placing her in the top-10 will be a careful estimate) created an interesting project that takes this exercise a step further.
Bar-On uploaded untouched photographs of herself to Flickr and called upon users to modify her image with flattering, yet quite alien, results. Liat’s blog, written in Hebrew, often deals with feminine identity and body perception themes, but since her Photoshock project is largely visual, you can enjoy it even if you don’t read Hebrew. Many comments on flickr say – “you are better off without the Photoshop treatment”.

I find the user created responses to Dove fascinating, it is as if through retouching themselves, and manipulating their own digital representation, users can reaffirm their feeling in their true body, and experience an apparent sense of liberation through mutating themselves, looking at it and being able to recognise how ridiculous and distorted standards have become.

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Foot-note: Cyberspace’s role in the way users project, explore and develop their identity through personal expression and social interaction is a favourite subject. In an article I published about the subject about two years ago, my main argument was that the basic experience of the self online is a contradictory mix of a sense of liberation (the opportunity to reinvent yourself, being free from historical prejudices you may have collected or are related to your social group etc.) and a feeling of anxiety for pretty much the same reasons (the pressure of getting across right, losing your familiar social assets, the sense of your body etc.). It’s interesting how users tap the different poles of this experience as they explore their individuality.


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