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Unlike many of my coworkers, I’m far from being considered cutting edge when it comes to technology: I don’t track the latest and greatest developments in cell phone and computer technology (although I do manage to acquire “hip” accessories, i.e. iPhone, MacBook, etc.); I’m hard-pressed to operate a home entertainment center without breaking a sweat; and I social network with gusto one day, and utter disdain the next. Naturally, when my Facebook and Twitter feeds became clogged with FarmVille, Foursquare and Mafia Wars updates, I tossed my virtual hands up in despair. I started using these services to keep up with friends; what I didn’t realize was that “keeping up” meant more than family photos and the occasional work update, it also meant staying apprised of the evolving day-to-day marketplace. But then I read this. Leave it to a designer knockoff discount chain to get me to listen. And apparently, I’m not alone. In its May 31, 2010 issue, Advertising Age reported that a “gaggle of brands, from 7-Eleven to JetBlue, H&M and Tesla Motors are counting on people’s attraction to competition to get them more engaged.” Whether playing for badges, points or simply bragging rights, consumers are turning to alternative realities for more than entertainment. It should come as no surprise that it’s working.
Maybe I’m just blogging out loud, but evolving online communities seem to be trumping real ones in getting our attention. At the very least, they’re raising the bar of consumer expectation and the potential for business outreach.
As the line between real and virtual lives becomes more blurred, it makes sense that smart brands are engaging consumers across all levels. According to a recent Nielsen report: “For US households with Internet access, 75 percent visited a social networking site in May. And more than half of online adults have at least one social networking profile.” It would be downright foolish for marketers to not target this demographic, especially when considering another Nielsen report that found that top social media users are 1. affluent and 2. urban. In plain language, these are the people who have ready access to goods and who have money to spend.
Take, for example, this report from digital marketing news site ClickZ. It asserts that while Foursquare is “hands-down the leader of the location-based/geo-social marketing space when it comes to hype [and I’d be quick to point out it is by far the favorite among my young, professional friends], other services are making their marks among both brands and users.” It then goes on to site successful online campaigns to engage consumers from The Gap, Olay and Pepsi. It’s no coincidence that these brands are both industry leaders and ahead of the virtual game. That is, after all, what this is. It’s the Game of Life. Whether they realize it or not, consumers are in it to play, and smart brands – should knowingly – be in it to win.
What team are you on?