Monday, 22 April 2013

Serious Games and Marketing

As part of a digital marketing class, I was tasked with delivering a report about a very interesting topic: Serious Games. For those who have never heard the term, serious games are games which serve a purpose other than pleasure and entertainment. In the context of digital media, serious games are software, often created to educate, inform, or marketing.

The first instance of such games came about in the 1980's when a game called The Oregon Trail was first released by the Minnesota Educational Computing Corporation. It simulated the the arduous journey of American Pioneers in the 1800's and was meant to educate elementary school aged social studies students. Below is a picture of one of the more famous "game over" screens from The Oregon Trail.
Dysentery is one of the many hazards to watch out for when playing The Oregon Trail
Since The Oregon Trail many other serious games have been produced for the purposes of education, especially for weapons and tactics training in the military. However, marketers quickly saw the potential in serious games as well. The earliest instance of these sorts of games came about in 1983 while the Atari 2600 was popular. These would come to be called "advergames". Here are some examples...

  • Kool Aid Man: An Atari 2600 game by Mattel involving Kool Aid's Mascot, Kool Aid Man where players control Kool Aid Man to quench the thirst of creatures called "thirsties".
  • Tooth Protectors: An Atari 2600 game commissioned by Johnson & Johnson, which had players protect a set of teeth by using Johnson & Johnson products like Floss and Tooth Brushes.


A screenshot from Kool Aid Man

 Since then other notable instances of Serious games in marketing include and Burger King's line of Xbox, which was created by Nabisco in 1997, and aimed to promote Nabisco products like Oreo cookies and Lifesavers candy to children by featuring flash games smeared with different Nabisco Brands. The site took on a life of its own and now has many sponsors. In 2006, Burger King commissioned the development of Xbox games which featured the Burger King Mascot as a playable character. These games were wildly popular, outselling all other games during the 2006 holiday season in North America.

A screenshot from Sneak King, a Burger King game with the objective of sneaking up on unwitting in game characters to offer them a burger.
What does the future hold for Advergames? Until relatively recently, advergames have mainly been used to promote products to children because, historically, popular entertainment software had been created mostly for that demographic. However, the average age of gamers has increased significantly since then. Today, 82% of the gaming population are adults and the average game player is 37 years old. This means we can expect to see more and more advergames being produced to promote more adult products like cars and alcohol.

In addition, with the proliferation of internet connectivity and social networks constantly being accessed by phones and computers, the potential for advergames to reach more people is continuously increasing. As well, the potential to share games with others has never been greater. Given the use of Facebook and Iphones as gaming platforms, we can expect the effectiveness of advergames for brand awareness to continue to rise.


The Age, (N.D.) Gamers Getting Older. Retrieved March 24th, 2013 from, (N.D.) Bradley Trainer Support in Mame. Retrieved March 24th, 2013 from (N.D.) Tooth Protectors. Retrieved March 24th 2013 from

Blitz Game Studios (Dec 26, 2006) Burger King Xbox Games are the Best Selling Collection of the 2006 Holiday Season. Retrieved March 24th 2013 from (N.D.) Candystand. Retrieved March 24th, 2013 from 

Lussenhop, J (January 19th 2013) Oregon Trail: How Three Minnesotans Forged Its Path. Retrieved March 24th, 2013 from

Web Archive, (N.D.) Mecc Timeline Between 1997 & 1999. Retrieved March 24th, 2013 from

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Interesting Applications of Social Media for Real Estate Brokers.

For a long time real estate brokerage had been a sector that has struggled with finding a way to utilize social media as a marketing tool. Though today, it seems as if many technologically inclined realtors are finding plenty of great ways to make use of such platforms as Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest and Foursquare. The picture below shows the most popular social media platforms among realtors. This post will provide a run down of a number of different tools and social media platforms and discuss how they can be utilized in the world of real estate brokerage.

In addition to the usual suspects shown above, realtors are finding some very useful tools to use in tandem with these platforms or by themselves.

Twellow is meant to be a kind of Yellow pages for Twitter (hence the name). It sorts Twitter users by geographic area and areas of interest by analyzing key words and phrases used in their Tweets. This can be useful to realtors in finding prospects because it allows realtors to locate people on twitter in their area who are talking about real estate. Such users make good potential clients. It helps realtor's Twitter efforts to be more targeted and less like shouting from a roof top.

Pinterest, as you are likely aware, is a place to organize and display photos and ideas. This can be particularly useful to realtors who specialize in residential real estate. Realtors can use this site to post photos of new listings, decorating ideas for homes they have on the market, and more. Because a feature of Pinterest is its ability to allow users to "repin" posts, this gives each post the capacity to go viral, and gain views from millions of people which can have a dramatically positive effect on a realtor's business.


Foursquare is a website and application which allows users to broadcast where they are on their social networks. This can be used to a realtors advantage in a number of ways. Realtors can add their listings to the Foursquare map and check in each time they are there, which alerts their social networks to the existence of the listing. They can also encourage visitors of an open house to check in on Foursquare, thereby broadcasting to their social networks for the same effect as well as providing the realtor with useful information about the identities of the visitors for follow up purposes.

Linkedin is useful for commercial and residential realtors alike. This is because it caters heavily towards those who fit into many realtor's target markets. About 64% of Linkedin users make more than $60K per year. This means that the population on Linkedin is heavily skewed towards people who are likely capable of buying or selling property. Here, realtors can join or start a Linkedin group related to their area of expertise, and can use this as a platform to provide advice and engage with people who could become potential clients. Linkedin also has a number of Apps that are useful to realtors is a social media dashboard app which is meant to help manage a users activity across many social media platforms and it was made with realtors in mind. Though it is very new to the social media landscape, it claims that it can help realtors manage their social media campaigns, schedule posts, post new listings, measure the success of their campaigns, as well as identify potential new clients by geographic selection. is still in its beta stages, but it is something to watch for any realtors who would like a leg up in their forays to social media marketing.


Ellison, D (Nov, 22, 2010) Find Real Estate Investors for Twitter Using Twellow. Retrieved Apr 19, 2013 from

Powerup (Jan 2nd 2013) Creating New Business on Linkedin for Realtors. Retrieved March 3rd, 2013 from

Powerup (Dec 12th 2012) How to Incentivize People to Come to Your Open House Using Foursquare. Retrieved March 3rd, 2013 from

Powerup (June 22nd 2012) How to use Pinterest for Real Estate. Retrieved March 3rd, 2013 from

Swallow, E. (Apr 6, 2011) How the Real Estate Industry is Using Social Media. Retrieved March 3rd 2013

Trewe, M (Feb, 01, 2013) Social Media Dashboard for Real Estate Pros Retrieved Apr 19, 2013 from

Online Audit: Burger King

I have written this post is an Online Audit. This means that I will be reviewing the digital marketing activities of an organization, reviewing any online influencers which might be of use to them, and making recommendations for ways that their online presence can be improved.

The subject of today's online audit is Burger King

As you are likely aware, Burger King is an American Fast Food Hamburger chain, created in the 1950's. Today it operates more than 12 000 restaurants across 79 countries with 60% of its locations being based in the United States.

Burger King's online presence extends to a number of major social media platforms in addition to its website. These include a Facebook profile, a Youtube Channel, a Twitter account, and a Google+ page. A quick look at these pages show that there is a lot to be desired from Burger King's social media efforts. First, their website, while having a clean aesthetically pleasing design, lacks obvious considerations such as a personalized map to find store locations close to the user, or any kind of search engine optimization. Its Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and Google+ efforts, while attracting some 10 000 to 81 000 followers depending on the platform, do little to engage their audience. The Facebook profile and Twitter feed are updated with identical posts which mostly consist of pictures of Burger King products to entice their followership to go out and buy their products. The Youtube Channel simply displays Burger King advertisements made for TV.  The Google+ page serves as little more than a somewhat more neglected version of their Facebook page. 

Some online influencers have been identified whose endorsements and mentions could greatly benefit Burger King. Arguably the most effective of these would be the Youtube Channel, Epic Meal Time. It is not uncommon for one of their videos to depict the stars of the channel visiting a fast food restaurant and ordering obscene amounts of food to be used in elaborate and ridiculous food concoctions. They are a major influencer because their channel, with more than 3.5 million subscribers, is wildly popular (Youtube n.d.). Additionally, the creator of Epic Meal Time, speculates that their viewers are largely young males in the 15 to 30 age range, which is BK’s target demographic.

Other online influencers include The Huffington Post and The Huffington Post is a good potential influencer for Burger King because it reports on fast food, in addition to a wide range of other topics, and it boasts a huge readership (54 million unique monthly visitors). is a good potential influencer because it has a section dedicated entirely to hamburgers, making it the most popular blog dedicated to Burger King's core product.


Burger King's website should use IP tracking technology to identify where the user is accessing the site from. If the user is Canadian, the site can now redirect to the Canadian site to avoid confusion. If the user is looking for nearby locations, the map can display these automatically, rather than the user having to correct the sites assumption that the user is in Florida, which is currently the way the location finder is presented.

Burger King's Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter Feeds should be more engaging and less about pushing products. This will attract more people to follow them on these platforms as well as encourage people to continue following them. Burger King should also acknowledge that Facebook and Twitter are unique platforms from one another and try to take advantage of their differences by posting different content to each. This will attract fans of the brand to subscribe to both, rather than just one. Additionally, more content should be posted to Burger King's Youtube channel. Burger King should take advantage of the nature of Youtube videos being distinct from television advertisements. Burger King could make changes as simple as posting old burger kind ads from the 70's to inform their audience of their history. 


Burger King. (n.d.). About BK. Retrieved February 8 2013, from

Youtube. (n.d.) BK. Retrieved February 8 2013

Facebook. (n.d.) BK Retrieved February 8 2013

Twitter. (n.d.) Retrieved February 8 2013

Google+ (n.d.) Retrieved February 8 2013

Kids Media Centre (May 16, 2011) Ian Checks Out Epic Meal Time Retrieved from

Ebizmba (n.d.) Top 15 Most Popular Political Websites | February 2013

Serious Eats  (n.d.) Retrieved February 8 2013


Friday, 5 April 2013

Reddit's AMAs (Ask Me Anything) a useful tool in getting personal with fans is a social news aggregator where users post links, images, and original writing (referred to as "self posts") while the rest of the community votes up or down, each post. Posts with more up-votes rise to the front page while less popular and more down-voted posts fall to obscurity. Among the more remarkable  types of posts on Reddit are its AMAs, which stand for "Ask me anything". AMAs are a kind of self post where a user can announce that they are open to any questions the rest of the community would like to ask. These posts are generally followed by users asking questions, with these questions being voted up or down by other users in the AMA which forms a list of the most popular questions the community would like answered. 

Today's front page of Reddits AMA section (

AMAs have been utilized as a buzz creator and marketing tool by many celebrities and public figures. These sorts of AMAs are becoming more and more common as Reddit increases its user base.  Some notable examples include Louis CK promoting his latest comedy special, "Live at the Beacon Theatre" (, 2011) and of course Barak Obama, on the campaign trail for the 2012 American presidential election (, 2012). 

It is not difficult to see the allure of utilizing Reddits AMAs for certain marketing purposes. In 2012, Reddit gained 37 billion page views and 400 million unique visitors (Weber, 2012). This incredible amount of traffic leaves little wonder as to why many individuals would use Reddit to market themselves or their causes. Like lots of other social media, it also allows an individual to forge a more personal, and human connection with their fans because it is a platform by which anyone can ask a question and the person conducting the AMA is meant to answer directly. 

Reddit's AMAs are especially useful to those who wish to market to Reddit's core demographic, American males aged 18 - 25 (, 2013). This explains why Barak Obama chose to do one as his efforts to get young people to vote in his elections have been well documented. 

Any public figure thinking of doing an AMA, who does not normally frequent the site, should tread carefully. As previously stated, AMA stands for "Ask Me Anything", and Reddit's user base takes this quite literally. Deflecting personal questions and steering conversations toward whatever it is you are promoting will turn the masses of Reddit users against you and make your gesture of personal outreach appear artificial. Among the most notable examples of this was Woody Harrelson's AMA in promotion for his movie, "Rampart". During this AMA, Woody would deflect questions regarding himself and instead tried to only talk about the upcoming film. Naturally this angered his fans, who expected a genuine dialogue between Woody and themselves, embarrassing Woody in the process (Crugnale, 2012).

To sum up, Reddit's AMAs can be a very useful tool for public figures to reach out to their fans and gain some new ones, especially for those who are after male American adults. Though, only do so if you are ready to be an open book and willing to let promotion of current projects be a secondary concern. (Apr 05, 2013) Site info. Retrieved Apr 05 2013 from

Crugnale, J. (Feb, 04, 2012) Woody Harrelson's AMA (Ask Me Anything) Goes Disastrously Wrong on Reddit. Retrieved Apr 05, 2013 from (Dec, 12, 2011) Hi, I'm Louis C.K. and This is a Thing: Iama. Retrieved Apr 05, 2013 from (Aug, 29, 2012) I am Barak Obama, President of the United States -- AMA. Retrieved Apr 05, 2013 from

Weber,H. (Dec, 31, 2012) Reddit's Impressive 2012 Stats. Retrieved Apr 05, 2013 from

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Learning how your organization should best use social media is worth your time.

If your organization has a clearly defined social media strategy, and a set of policies in place to deal with whatever may come in its forays into social media, then you should start feeling great about where you work. Or perhaps, you should feel suspicious that you might be living with a false sense of security. One thing is for sure, such a secure attitude towards social media usage, is rarer than you might think. 

According to a recent study done by research and consulting firm Protiviti, which surveyed 1000 internal audit professionals, 57% said they had some sort of social media policy in place and 53% said they had a social media strategy. Among those with some sort of social media policy, 43% describe it as being in the initial stages of formulation, while 33% describe their policy as "repeatable". 13% were able to describe their policies as defined and 10% could describe it as managed (Canadian Underwritier, 2013).

Only 1% described their social media policies as being optimized (Canadian Underwritier, 2013). It could be the case that the participants of this study were being modest. Nevertheless, 1% is a pretty low number. 

Though, it is not hard to imagine why this might be the case. The social media landscape is rapidly changing as technology progresses and fantastic new ideas are constantly dreamed up and realized by talented programmers. Any organization serious about utilizing social media has to keep its eyes and ears open at all times. Just today, new Twitter features were announced to allow product information, image galleries, and App information to be seamlessly integrated into Tweets through Twitter's Card feature (Price, 2013). Such a change could very well have an impact on how Twitter is used by your organization. Changes like this are happening all the time so it is no wonder, an "optimized" social media strategy is such a difficult thing to maintain. 

The study goes on to detail the attitudes towards social media which organizations hold with regards to the risks it poses. Around 50% reported that their organizations account for social media in risk assessments. They also reported that social media poses the greatest risk with regards to damage to reputation, data security, & regulatory compliance issues (Canadian Underwritier, 2013). 

Their concerns are quite valid. American family restaurant chain, Applebee's, provided a textbook example of the dire consequences of misusing social media earlier this year with what many called, a social media meltdown (Weisbaum, 2013). 

Here's a positive note. If you have some sort of social media strategy or policy in place, no matter where it is in its stages of formulation, then congratulations, you're ahead of 47% of the game. If you are part of that 47%, well... at least you're not alone and there is room to improve. Perhaps in a later post, I'll provide some tips so you don't become the next Applebees. Here's a sample: Don't delete negative comments. It will just make people more angry, and make you look like some kind of oppressive dictator that will not tolerate criticism. 

Canadian Underwriter (Apr 02, 2013) Lack of Social Media Policies seen as Risky for Organizations Retrieved Apr 03, 2013 from

Price, E. (Apr 03, 2013) Twitter Updates Mobile Apps to Support New Twitter Cards. Retrieved (Apr 03, 2013) from

Weisbaum, H (N.D.) Applebee's Social Media Faux Pas a Learning Experience. Retrieved Apr 3rd 2013 from

Monday, 1 April 2013

April Fool's Day: Serious for Marketers, Silly for Everyone Else

Until recently, April Fool's Day has been one of the few holidays that belonged almost entirely to the people without much attention being paid by marketers and businesses. This is because, unlike other holidays, April Fool's Day has not necessitated the purchase of goods or services. There are no such traditions as April Fool's Day flowers, or cake, or presents, or costumes, or candy or binge drinking. April Fool's Day only ever meant that pranks were to meant to be expected and allowed people to interpret that, however they wanted.

Whether you like it or not, those April Fool's Days are over and have been for some time now. The proliferation of Social Media (and to some extent, Photoshop) has made April Fool's Day another battle for consumer attention among brands and their marketing departments. Social Media brought about this change by making it worthwhile for a brand to pull an April Fool's Day prank. All a brand has to do is broadcast something outrageous on their channels, something someone could get fired for saying on any other day, and wait for the online world to react. The intended reaction being gasps and laughs, followed by retweets, comments, and sharing. When all the dust settles, successful perpetrating marketers will have seized an opportunity to create buzz for their brand and will have positioned their brands as fun and clever in the process.

With this in mind, it is not hard to see why everyone is doing it. The following images serve as a short list of examples.

Sony has announced a new line of technology just for pets. Note the hashtag. Getting people to share is the whole point.

Virgin has unveiled its new Glass Bottomed Air Plane

Scope has created a new mouthwash flavour
It is not just the big brands trying to pull one over on us. Plenty of brands and organizations local to a certain province or city have seen the opportunity in April Fool's Day. Adrian Dix and his BC NDP have released an April Fool's Day Video with an election next month, and the Toronto Transit Commission have as well.

It seems like at this point, if you are a marketer, and you aren't trying to fool anyone today, you are not taking your job seriously enough. (N.D.) Scope Bacon Mouthwash Retrieved April 1st 2013 from

The Canadian Press (April 1 2013) BC NDP Celebrates April Fool's Day with spoof of Ads of Adrian Dix, Evil Genius. Retrieved April 1 2013 from

Branson, R (April 1 2013) Virgin Launches Glass Bottom Plane. Retrieved April 1 2013 from

Sony Communications (April 1 2013) Sony Unveils Animalia Line of Tech Products Just for Pets. Retrieved April 1 2013, from

Thomaidis, I (April 1 2013) TTC Jumps on the April Fool's Bandwagon. Retrieved April 1 2013 from

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Some Recent Additions to Location Based Social Media

This past week, one of my fellow digital marketing students schooled us on location based social networks and tools. Foursquare, and Yelp were, unsurprisingly, among those mentioned as being key players in this area. I would like to use this discussion as an opportunity to profile some more recent additions to the realm of location based social media. 

A specific radius of residences available to a user as defined by is a social networking site in which a social network is defined by one's physical residence and surrounding residences. Users of the site join an online version of their physical neighbourhood  The identity of a person on this social networking site is tied to their place of residence and one can only join if they actually live there and real names are used. It is intended to connect neighbours with one another.

As you might imagine, a site like has the potential to bring neighbours together and form meaningful relationships between them. Examples of potential uses of include the organization of events like block parties or barbecues, finding a convenient baby-sitting solution,  finding a lost cat,  and anything else you might find on the bulletin board at the local community centre.
An example of what one might find when logging into is a website which gathers together those who wish to broadcast information and opinions about their immediate area and those who wish to know more about what is going on in their immediate area as well as any other area they choose. It organizes users into their geographic location and lets them broadcast their comments and photos regarding local happenings to followers and those who have selected to see comments regarding that area.

Its intended use is to allow users to keep up with what is going on in a certain area and also to allow users to inform others about what is going on in theirs. Examples of potential uses of Radiuus,com included informing people about restaurant openings and upcoming festivals, discussions of local issues, and alerting people to road closures or natural disasters.

An example of the topics about which opinions are being solicited on is a website which intends to bring public consultation into the digital space. When a company, organization, or a government wants to gain insight into public opinion about new local projects or proposals, they can use a site like Placespeak to connect with its users.  Like the other location based sites, it mandates that users verify their place of residence in order to participate in consultation processes.

Currently the site is still in its infancy and is most active in its home town of Vancouver, BC where it has been used by local organizations such as The City of New Westminster and The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation.

Location Based Social Media is a particularly refreshing aspect of the digital world for its ability to cultivate a greater sense of community and foster relationships that can extend beyond the screen whereas most others encourage greater rates of digital communication. Their marketing applications can be easily imagined. The applications range from location specific targeting to exploration of local consumer opinions. Of course, the efficacy of these sites depends on how many local users are actively creating and viewing content on these sites. I only hope that enough of my neighbours and fellow local residents see as much value in sites like these as I do. (N.D.) retrieved Mar 31, 2013 from (N.D.) Retrieved Mar 31, 2013 from (N.D.) Retrieved Mar 31, 2013 from