Was Zynga’s 7-11 FarmVille campaign a success?

The recent news about Zynga’s armored truck explosion bringing in 2mm Ustream views inspired me to go back and look at the last notorious Zynga promotion.

If you didn’t know any better you’d look at Famville’s recent usage numbers and say that the Zynga FarmVille campaign at 7-11 has been a massive failure. From 75mm MAUs in May to 63mm MAUs by the end of June.

Normally, if you’re doing a nationwide retail promotion you are doing so to acquire new customers. By that measure the campaign would be an abject failure. But what if we looked at it in a different way?What if it was a retention campaign? And not just any retention campaign, but a campaign to keep its highest paid, most active members engaged?

The way that the campaign was set up in many ways mimicked the game mechanics inherent in social games.

Rather than need to wake up early to login to their computers to harvest crops that would whither without their care, FarmVille players had to drive to their local 7-11 to get the exclusive items they coveted. Of course, these items were limited and people ended up driving all over just to find the items they were looking for.

Is the promise of a limited edition Neopolitan cow and a code printed on a Slurpee Cup or a pre-made sandwich going to entice you to try a game for the first time? Me neither. This campaign was for the hardcore players…. part reward, part task.

It’s also quite possible that Zynga was evaluating alternative engagement and upsell strategies with it’s biggest customers. Zynga’s five-year partnership with Facebook has dampened their interest in moving more traffic to their own properties, and as this playbook shows, the 7-11 promos drove people to a microsite.  Zynga is no doubt looking to see how much traffic they can drive on their own and what types of opportunities they can use for promotion/loyalty that are platform-agnostic as well as game-agnostic.

One thing that Zynga may also looking at was the ability to address the unbanked/underbanked market segment. Driving them to 7-11 stores where they can also sell a branded FarmVille card.

This is a smart strategy, because merely placing a branded card in a store without the right marketing support will result in a failure. In my time at Rixty I’ve come across quite a few game publishers seduced by be idea of a branded card in stores, only to see poor sales as a result. Gaming cards tend to be a destination purchase, not an impulse buy. By getting customers in 7-11 stores with FarmVille on the brain is a unique way to get branded gaming pre-paid cards to be worth the investment. Zynga is probably one of the two online gaming companies (Blizzard being the other) that could pull off  such an audacious brick and mortar promotional campaign.

So was Zynga’s 7-11 FarmVille campaign a success? From everything I’ve heard they were very pleased with it…. so I’m guessing it wasn’t about customer acquisition at all.


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