Reflections On SXSW 2012

I returned home this week after 5 packed days in Austin at SXSW. It was my first year attending the event and everything I'd heard about in the last couple of years was true.  The event is huge; loaded with celebrities, parties, free breakfast burritos, and long lines.  Attending sessions reminded me of my college days where I had 30 minutes to race across campus to get to my next class except campus in this case was an entire city. Logistics and distractions aside, as an analyst focusing on emerging media, attending this event is downright necessary.

Once you set aside the parties and free swag, the event is really about networking and the content. It’s quite rare that you have so many marketers, innovators, thought leaders, and enthusiasts in the same place at the same time. The conference hallways and bustling streets were abuzz with all matters interactive and that’s what makes the event so special. The folks that attend are passionate, trend seekers, and starving for content and demos. 

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The Super Bowl On The Second Screen

I think that the Super Bowl ads fell short this year.  Teasers for ads and ads that were "leaked" on YouTube became old news by the time they aired and offered no element of surprise.  The creative was, well, not that creative.  But something exciting did happen.  This year was a testing ground for advertising on the second screen.  During the big game,  brands like Best Buy, Pepsi, Toyota, and Bud Light partnered with Shazam, a popular app that can recognize music and television programing, to deliver customized offers and content to viewers that tagged the spot.  This morning, Shazam reported "millions of tags" during the game.  What will be more interesting to find out is what viewers actually did after they tagged the spot?  Did they enter a sweepstakes?  Watch a music video? Like the brand on Facebook? 

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Mobile Websites and the Interactive Marketer

Whether we like it or not, consumers are visting websites from their mobile devices.  Marketers confronted by this reality tend to react in two ways: they panic or disregard the information altogether.  The problem is, when it comes to mobile websites, interactive marketers have a lot of questions.  Over the next 6 weeks, I'll be taking a deep dive into mobile websites and write research that tells marketers what they need to know before investing time, resources and marketing dollars.  Key questions for the report will include:

  • What is a mobile website and what interactive marketing purpose does it serve?
  • How and when do consumers visit sites from their mobile devices?
  • What type of content do you need on the site?
  • How are brands using mobile websites successfully today?
  • How do you optimze a site over time?

I'd also like to hear from you.  What questions do you have?  What do you need to know when it comes to mobile websites?  Email them to me at and look for a follow-up post where I'll include some highlights and key findings when the report publishes. 

Can Highly Regulated Industries Be Gamified?


Gamification continues to be a hot topic for interactive marketers, and I expect this trend to continue well into the new year. For one, it's not industry-specific and it has various applications. Vendors like Bunchball, Badgevilleand BigDoor can enable it through their SaaS platforms. CrowdTwist focuses on developing social loyalty and rewards programs but leverages game mechanics. Lithium gamifies online communities. The space is growing — fast.  One of the most interesting things has been the interest I have seen from highly regulated industries such as financial services, healthcare, and pharmaceutical. They see gamification as their ticket to drive different behaviors and actions like losing weight or decreasing your credit card debt.  

Over the next month, I'll be looking for examples in these industries for an upcoming report and for additional research on the space in early next year. How do you think highly regulated industries can benefit from applying game mechanics on their web and mobile properties to drive action? What examples have you seen that you would like to share?

Gamification Q&A — Let's Play!

Twitter is a great platform for crowd-sourcing ideas and questions around certain topics. That's why I'll be hosting the next #IMChat this Tuesday, September 20th at 11:00 a.m. PT on gamification. We published our first report on the topic this week and so far we've received some great feedback from our peers and clients. To keep the momentum, we've come up with 5 questions to help fuel an interactive dialogue next week. We've also invited some leading vendors in the space to participate in the discussion, and I'll be joined by my team and researcher Jennifer Wise.  The discussion will help to shape upcoming research on the topic and gather some best practices.  

Here are the questions we'll be asking next week:

  • Have you gamified any of your marketing strategies?  If not, do you plan to in the next 3-6 months?
  • Why do you think gamification is the hot buzzword of late? What’s driving it?
  • Do you think that gamification is here to stay? Or are you skeptical about results?
  • For those of you who have tried gamification — did you see an increase in engagement? How much?
  • Do you think that social media is a key element of gamification?

Have any other questions about gamification?  Tweet me @shaw_smith2 and let's chat. 

Apply Game Mechanics To Your Marketing Efforts And Boost Engagement

Use of game dynamics is nothing new.  In fact, gamification elements have been used in marketing strategies for a long time.  In my new report, Gamification Of Marketing Strategies Boosts Consumer Engagement, we take a close look at gamificiation through the lens of the Interactive Marketer and answer why it's one of the buzzwords of late. 

Forrester defines gamification as the insertion of game dynamics and mechanics into non-game activities to drive a desired behavior.  We found that there are four factors contributing an increase of gamification’s impact:

  • Consumers want it.  60% of Gen Yers are looking for new ways to entertain themselves.
  • Social media can enhance it.  Gamification motivators- such as status- are enhanced when shared across one’s social graph.  (Elizabeth just unlocked the Foodie Badge!)
  • Vendors can enable it.  Bunchball, Badgeville and BigDoor Media all offer SaaS platforms with game mechanics.
  • Early users have proven it.  HP, Sephora and Bravo TV to name a few.
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Decoding A Complex Social Gaming Landscape

If you're a marketer looking to tap an audience of 340 million consumers (and growing strong) through social games, you may find the developer and publisher landscape a bit confusing.  Don't worry, I did too.  After my first social gaming report published, Start To Play With Social Gamers, I received a lot of questions from marketers looking to decipher the differences between leading developers and publishers.  After 2 months of in-depth research, I discovered that this provider landscape was quite confusing.  In fact, several leading developers- those with high monthly and daily average users- don't even offer opportunities for brands in-game.  Moreover, some developers throwing their hat in the ring (due to a sky-rocking industry forecast) don't even develop social games.  And there’s more!

In fact, last week an entirely new platform emerged- Google+.   With Zynga and PopCap publishing games on Google+, opportunities for marketers will continue to grow in parallel with the industry's complexity.  In my upcoming report, Interactive Marketers Guide To Social Gaming: Decoding A Complex Landscape Of Developers And Publishers," I’ll guide marketers through these muddled waters.  Stay tuned.    

Gamification: Defining A Shiny New Thing

If you're a marketer, chances are you've been hearing the term "gamification" thrown around quite a bit lately. Over the course of the last month, I've been doing a lot of research about what gamification means for interactive marketers and identifying the opportunities that exist. The result? A report set to publish next month chock-full of examples and definitions. 

So, what is gamification? Forrester's defines gamification as: The insertion of game dynamics and mechanics into non-game activities to drive a desired behavior. 

Interactive marketers use game mechanics to drive brand engagement. This begins with the motivations --what triggers people to want to interact with a game. The motivations drive actions that are incentivized by rewards. The rewards help players to earn achievements that reinforce the initial motivations. And there you have it, introducing The Engagement Loop. 

We're just wrapping up the research now, and soon you'll be able to learn more about vendors, such as Bunchball, that can help you gamify everything from your website to your mobile app; you'll also be able to view examples of brands that are playing to win. 

Why Marketing To Millennials Online Is Tricky

For my last report, I took a deep dive into the complex attitudes and online behaviors of Generation Y (ages 18-31) through the lens of an interactive marketer. Let's just say that marketers face a lot of challenges when it comes to targeting this demographic. Millennials are digital natives, influence family purchasing decisions, and expect your marketing to be personal and contextual. In addition, online millennial marketing requires a skillful approach across multiple channels and devices. While this may sound complicated and/or expensive, it doesn't have to be. In fact, lots of brands are tapping into internal experts and specialty agencies to market more effectively. In  Marketing To Millennials: The Next Generation Of Purchasing Power, you'll find some key data that helps marketers to better understand online consumer behavior, attitudes, and adoption.  You'll also see some concrete examples of brands targeting Millennials well and those that are investing in them early to build brand awareness. You can read the report here.

Starting To Play With Social Gamers

With all the interest in a reported Zynga IPO, my new report on how interactive marketers can engage social gamers is particularly timely. Social gaming is an area I'll be covering more closely this year, and I thought the best way to start my coverage would be to take a look at the demographics of players and identify the opportunities for interactive marketers. There are more than 250 million monthly active players and many different ways marketers can reach this audience. However, we were surprised to find that 84% of US interactive marketers have no plans to use games in their 2011 marketing strategies.  This creates a sizable untapped opportunity. 

In the report, you will find:

  • Data on social gamers and learn more about who they are.
  • Opportunities for marketers, including branded virtual goods and sponsored rich media.
  • Several examples of marketing tactics.
  • Tips to get started in social games.

If you are a social gaming vendor, I'd like to speak to you! Please tweet me @Shaw_Smith2