Belfast Telegraph

Branding is the name of the virtual game

By Ruairi McNally

Imagine looking out through your window and deciding it would be nice to buy the street outside your office.

In the current financial crisis, most right-minded people would say that’s crazy, but soon it might be possible and even then it may only cost £250.

Hasbro, the makers of Monopoly, are planning to allow individuals to do this, but not in the real world in the virtual one! The online world has breathed new life back into the classic family favourite — you can play it on your mobile, iPad, PC, laptop as well as your kitchen table. Last year Monopoly teamed up with Google maps and street view to turn London into a giant real life Monopoly game using London taxis as life-size playing pieces and offering a whole host of prizes to anyone in the UK who played the game.

This is where the opportunity for local businesses to create or incorporate games to engage their audiences lies. Businesses have always offered rewards to their customers for being loyal — in fact most local coffee chains offer a free coffee for every six you have bought with them. Imagine though, if every time you visited your local coffee shop you would be rewarded with points that would help you to unlock extra benefits which would include money off your bill or a cheaper coffee.

Users of geo-location social networks like Gowalla and 4square have long been using the ‘check-in’ (letting the social network, via their mobile GPS, know that they have visited a location) facility to compete to become the mayor of a shop or restaurant. They understand that the effort made towards gaining the social credit or kudos of becoming mayor of a location can mean special rewards and status in real life.

With Facebook Places having just gone live in the last two weeks we are likely to see an increase in brands beginning to use these social tools to expand their reward schemes.

Whether it is the idea of fictionally purchasing the street outside your work or becoming the mayor of your local food court to obtain perks and discounts, one thing is for |sure the fun is just getting started.

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