A GUIDE TO MODERN DAY MARKETING WARFARE
USING INTERACTIVE VIRAL MARKETING
Better informed is better armed
Three elements of a great battle plan
Guerrilla tactics versus open warfare
4T2 specialises in creating high impact viral marketing
campaigns and websites. We help you build an emotional
bond with your target audiences by creating great online
entertainment that’s tailored to your brand’s messages.
Our campaigns have been used to create instant online
communities, promote specific calls to action or simply
increase brand awareness. We work for many well-
known brands including Betfair, Comet, Dyson, GMTV,
MTV International and Vauxhall.
How can we help you?
The time for passive marketing has gone
To avoid defeat on the battlefield of business you must aggressively pursue
new customers and attract flag bearers to your brand.
This intelligence briefing explains how to use viral marketing weaponry to
obliterate your rivals and gain brand dominance. Armed with this advice you
can create a battle plan that will:
Your brand is at war. Hit fast and hit hard.
Good luck General
Michael J Hawkyard
Rapidly increase website traffic and lead generation, converting fresh
recruits to your cause
Differentiate you from your competitors with marketing material that is
entertaining and compelling
Enable you to personalise communications and create online
communities to build loyalty amongst your troops
Deliver effective local, national or global campaigns
IVM - how the latest marketing weapon benefits you
IVM (Interactive Viral Marketing) is a highly effective weapon. It harnesses
the power of online games to the needs of your business. The result is
compelling web or mobile entertainment that puts your brand and products at
the forefront of civilian minds.
The goal of effective IVM is for people to form an emotional attachment to
your brand through personalisation, interactivity and downright fun. Their
experience of your brand is then so positive that they will willingly involve
friends and colleagues in your campaign.
Because people receive invitations to participate from trusted friends or
colleagues, your campaign benefits from the power of personal
recommendation. Your cost of acquiring customers will fall and you can be
confident of gaining a loyal and committed following.
Do not be fooled into thinking of IVM as simply games for a website. It’s a
rapidly deployable, self-perpetuating strategy that strikes right at the heart of
your competitors by converting their troops to your cause.
Used correctly, IVM is a devastating weapon in your marketing arsenal.
IS BETTER ARMED
THREE ELEMENTS OF A
GREAT BATTLE PLAN
There are three stages to creating a successful IVM battle plan:
1. Identify your message
First, identify your campaign message. For example, The Comet Group had
the following goals for a recent Christmas campaign:
Inform civilians about the deadline for ordering goods from the Comet
website to ensure delivery before Christmas Day
Ensure you keep your message precise and easy to understand. It should tie
in directly with your call to action (3).
2. Select your primary and secondary targets
Who are you hoping will participate in your campaign? Different audiences
will be drawn to different material and you must plan your attack to suit.
3. Call new recruits to action
Once you have successfully captured the attention of your target audience,
what do you want them to do next? Visit your website, watch a product
demonstration, purchase your goods? When designing your campaign never
forget your overall objective and focus your audience on completing it.
Successfully calling 1,000,000 potential recruits to battle is all very good, but
unless you actually get them to complete some form of task, you will never
win the war.
Humour & originality, especially topical or risqué
Loyalty to a team, sport or country
Useful applications and helpful information
What makes your audience tick?
You’ve formulated your plan. Now it’s time to refine your attack. Your
secondary objective is to motivate civilians to spread your message for you.
You therefore need to understand why people forward messages to their
friends. Over years of campaign planning, we’ve identified a number of
elements that encourage this. Consider how these elements might be
appropriate for your campaign:
High profile reward
Horatio Nelson once said that “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of
coloured ribbon”. A reward or prize, however modest, will always increase
short-term interest in your campaign and help promote your call to action.
For example, if your primary object is data collection then offering a prize
encourages potential recruits to enter their contact details correctly.
A competition with prizes also requires a closing date. Once this has passed,
civilians lose their incentive to participate. If the campaign never offers a
prize people will keep interacting because their original motivation was never
Another way to reward participants is to give them additional game levels or
enhanced game skills in return for completing the kind of tasks you want to
encourage in your call to action. You already know they value this content so
leverage it to your advantage.
Successfully combining prizes with calls to action
The most successful method of integrating prizes with your call to action is to
run your campaign as a competition with a scoreboard. Once a recruit has
played your game and seen what prize is on offer, hit them hard with a pincer
manoeuvre. Offer game upgrades in return for completing your call to action.
You’re allowing them to optimise their chance of winning your competition.
Example calls to action
In 2005, the Comet Group’s Christmas campaign contained a competition
offering a prize for the highest scorers and game with three levels. Anyone
who purchased a present from their website was sent a cheat code that
allowed them to unlock a fourth level and therefore score more points.
We have also worked on campaigns that feature cheat codes on their product
packaging, in their TV adverts and in magazines. In all cases these directly
related to their chosen call to action - pick up our product, pay attention to our
advert or purchase our magazine.
How to breach civilian defences
Many civilians are sitting behind defensive barricades such as their
company’s internet firewall. I.T. policy is useful in stopping viruses and other
malicious attacks. However, it can also block the installation of technologies
such as Shockwave that some web agencies use to deliver online games.
Even when people can download the software, many can’t be bothered to do
so. This means far fewer people will ever enjoy your fantastic campaign.
To avoid this problem, we recommend creating games in Macromedia Flash.
Flash games take less time to download and can be played on 97% of
computers in the UK without any software being installed. Of course, using
Flash represents more of a challenge to your chosen multimedia agency, as
they have to create something very compelling and original using software
that virtually all of their competitors own.
A good IVM campaign may be linked to by around 3,000 game-promoting
websites across the globe. The more websites that link to your campaign, the
more popular it becomes, but nurturing these allies requires careful planning.
Linking sites fall into four different categories - each with their own agenda.
You must decide whether and how to approach them.
1. Community / personal sites
A great example of a community site is MilkandCookies.com, aimed at
students. Members submit links to entertaining online material they have
come across. Other members are then invited to rate it. The most popular
items are listed on the homepage and receive a lot more traffic. Members
earn points based on the popularity of the material they submit.
Other types of community sites include those with an interest in Flash
programming, where members go to learn new skills and view others’ work.
Whilst these sites may not attract such large amounts of traffic, they are great
for collecting feedback from an experienced audience.
An item on the Milk and Cookies homepage is listed for two weeks on
average. The content receiving the most traffic on the 19 October 2004
was a game and had been viewed 24,311 times by members
One campaign created by 4T2 for CCTV distributor Norbain SD was
played 258,000 times in one month by users from community based
sites. This compares to only 24,000 game plays in the same period
generated from their own marketing material
Moderators will remove blatantly branded corporate material from these
sites unless it is very original, contentious or humorous
Some of these websites are not what they seem - they may actually be
run by large PR companies or games agencies, who will use your
submitted material either for their own purposes or simply refuse to add it.
There may be adult content on these websites and you have no control of
the screenshots they may use and comments made about the campaign
To appeal to specific foreign sites, we suggest either having a translation
of the instructions available or making them very graphical and therefore
simple to understand
2. Commercial viral charts
Commercial Viral charts exist to build traffic and income for their owners. For
instance Lycos may charge up to £3,000 per week for advertising
commercially branded games in their viral chart. Unbranded games are listed
for free because they help to build a popular section of the site, which in turn
benefits Lycos by drawing huge visitor numbers.
Exchange & Mart’s X-Chase campaign reached number two in the Lycos
viral charts in the summer of 2003 and resulted in 28,000 visitors for their
campaign (it was only beaten by a video of Kylie Minogue modelling her
new underwear range). Exchange & Mart paid Lycos £500 to be
advertised on their site for one week but stayed in the chart for over a
The Lycos Viral Chart is printed in New Media Age each week, providing
additional, free media coverage
Many community sites source content from these viral charts, so you also
will receive a large amount of traffic from other sources
There are a limited number of advertising spaces so book chart slots
early at prime times such as Christmas to avoid disappointment
Try to time your chart advertising to coincide with any regular email
marketing these sites send out, since they will normally feature their viral
chart in their newsletters to subscribers
3. Non-commercial viral charts
Other sites generate revenue by embedding your campaign into their own
website and placing banner adverts around it. These sites can be difficult to
get placed on if you are a direct competitor of their current advertisers.
The Comet Group received a 1,200% increase in campaign traffic when
they had their game featured on AddictingGames.com
These websites are extremely hard to get listed on. A successful
hyperlink from these sites will only have been due to the quality and
originality of your campaign
A web address listed on chart sites will receive constant traffic. Try to use
the same address for your next campaign so you instantly gain a large
group of players
4. Pay-to-play websites
Once your campaign has come to a close, you may be able to gain additional
income by converting the game to a pay-to-play format. Pay-to-play sites cost
a nominal amount for users to compete against each other in small or large
tournaments. The winner typically receives 75% of the total pot, with the
game distributor and the original game owners receiving the remainder.
It is highly unlikely that you will get fully branded games on these websites
due to their affiliate schemes. However, you should be able to come to a
mutually acceptable branding and linking solution for this problem.
An unbranded version of X-Chase from Exchange & Mart has now been
played over 1,000,000 times on Game Account and was featured on the
homepage of Maxim Magazine. If Exchange & Mart now decided to
release X-Chase 2, their target audience would be significantly larger
than for their previous active campaign
You will need to have a very secure scoring system built into a Flash
developed game in order to work with these companies
Now you face your most difficult decision. To create a successful campaign
you must ensure wide coverage of targets, without diluting your message.
You have two options - guerrilla tactics or open warfare.
As we’ve explained, many websites will not promote commercially branded
material for free. Even with a limited promotional budget guerrilla warfare can
be used to win free publicity. Here are four examples:
End game reveals all
Dyson released an unbranded, original puzzle game at telescopegame.co.uk
and seeded interest by linking to it in game forums. Because the Telescope
game had no Dyson branding, it was listed for free by sites that would
normally charge. It was only when participants completed the game they
witnessed the commercial message and were given links to further levels on
the main Dyson website. Because the game was very popular, the majority of
viral sites did not remove their hyperlinks to it when the sponsor’s identity
became common knowledge.
A variation on the ‘end game’ tactic is to launch your game on an unbranded
site. Once you have a lot of sites linking to you for free and are enjoying high
levels of traffic, you can reveal your true colours by adding your logo to the
site and then reap the rewards.
GUERRILLA TACTICS VERSUS
Curiosity will attract
There is an emerging trend for complex mystery/puzzle games where the
promotion of the game, the identity of its creator and even the nature of the
game itself, are deliberately hidden behind obscure clues. These campaigns
are designed to appeal to audiences who relish the challenge of problem
solving and online intrigue. With books such as the Da Vinci Code becoming
international bestsellers, these campaigns are beginning to attract much
wider audiences, cleverly tapping into our fascination with conspiracy
A current example is www.PerplexCity.com - the game itself was only ever
subtly advertised in a handful of magazines and forums. Its popularity has
grown by word-of-mouth from there.
Be very funny!
Even with subtle corporate branding, free promotion may still be possible if
your campaign is particularly humorous, topical or controversial. However,
campaigns of this nature may be too contentious to be closely associated
with marketing material viewed by your mainstream audience.
It is common to place them on a separate mini-site not directly connected to
your other online marketing. Remember that visitors to viral marketing sites
are anticipating material of this nature.
Guerrilla tactics are great for gaining free promotion for your game. However,
if you have the budget or existing online traffic to promote a game yourself,
then you can more tightly control its branding and delivery. The knack is to
actively ‘seed’ your game using as many methods as possible so the viral
effect begins to take hold. Here are some techniques to consider for this kind
of open warfare:
Use of existing propaganda
To build traffic to your main website it makes sense to locate some or all of
the game elements there. The whole point of a viral campaign is to get people
talking about your brand to their friends. Give your existing recruits an
excuse to do this on your behalf.
Other useful electronic tactics include adding a link to the campaign to your
company’s outbound email footers and referring to it in general email
marketing and newsletters. The web agency developing your viral campaign
may also have its own email databases of viral marketing participants to seed
the campaign with.
Another good email list to join and distribute campaign information from is
Don’t forget to add the address of your game to offline marketing material
such as posters, press adverts, point of sale material and product packaging.
This can be a very cost-effective way of seeding a campaign by
‘piggy-backing’ on existing marketing efforts.
Utilise your existing allies
How many of your affiliates would like your game on their website to help
promote your product? Could you encourage this behaviour by cross
branding the campaign?
Viral campaigns are often original and amusing, therefore making great press
releases. You should work with your PR team to gain maximum exposure for
Most viral games can very easily be turned into full screen games for use at
exhibitions. As they feature movement, audio and data capture technology
they are very good at drawing crowds to your stand. You could even make
your online call to action promote your exhibition by having a live final at the
event or cheat codes on your stand.
Budget for additional promotion
If you want to guarantee being placed on viral charts such as Lycos, then add
their commercial promotion costs to your budget to begin with.
Search engine optimisation
If you name your campaign wisely and host it on your main website, you can
significantly increase your general search engine results because of the large
amount of sites that will link to yours.
How do you know you’ve won?
Before launching your attack, set specific target results that will enable you to
measure your success. Page views, unique visitors, game plays, high score
submissions and challenges to friends are all easily defined metrics that
demonstrate exactly how your campaign is performing. If you are using your
campaign to drive other visitor behaviour, such as purchasing specially
promoted products or signing up to email newsletters, then you should also
track these results to provide a measurable return on investment.
The golden rule of IVM
A large manufacturer of soft drinks recently created an online game that was
promoted on their can and required people to purchase one of their products
to access it. This might have driven product sales but it had a significant
weakness. No one could play the game without purchasing the product.
Therefore viral sites could not feature the game and you could not easily
send it on to your friends. This decision also prevented anyone who lived
outside the UK from participating because they could not purchase a can
containing the unlock code.
The campaign broke the golden rule of IVM warfare:
Fun first, message second
An alternative strategy would have been to promote a game online but only
make its early stages freely available. This allows people who have yet to
purchase the product to get involved with the campaign and makes it much
easier to virally promote. Once they are keen players, they can be tempted to
purchase the product with offers of access to advanced game features in
return for entering a code found on the can. This way many more people can
be involved in a brand experience and yet direct sales of a product can still
“The aim of military training is not just to prepare men for battle, but to make
them long for it” ~ Louis Simpson
We hope you feel that your time has been well spent reading this confidential
Winston Churchill is quoted as saying “History will be kind to me for I intend
to write it.”
When creating truly successful viral marketing campaigns you will frequently
be writing your own rules and breaking common perceptions. You will be
judged on your actions and so will your brand. Be brave, be bold but stay
focused on your goals and victory will be yours.
And remember – fun first, message second.
If www.4T2.co.uk can be of any assistance in the creation of your campaign,
please email sales@4T2.co.uk or phone +44 (0)1202 767 300 from a secure
If you have any thoughts on this brochure, or additional advice that you are
willing to share to the general public, visit Michael Hawkyard’s blog at
www.artofdraw.com and leave a message.
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