Coveting sticky situations

How would you like 10 million different consumers to interact with your brand for 10 minutes or more in a videogame?

How would you like 10 million different consumers to interact with your brand for 10 minutes or more in a videogame?

Obviously, such results are what marketing dreams are made of. But it’s not as simple as just slapping your logo on a game and hoping it’ll go viral. The key is building customized, engaging, credible, interactive user experiences.

Ottawa-based interactive agency Fuel Industries and Fox Home Entertainment Canada’s marketing manager Carmen Schwalm have been able to strike viral gold twice in less than a year with original interactive content. First was last fall’s ‘StewieLive,’ which achieved eight million hits, and now again with a new game to push the DVD release of American Dad’s first season. While ‘StewieLive’ was a Canadian-only initiative, Schwalm’s U.S. counterparts were so impressed with the results they wanted to get in on the next similar venture. Fuel pitched the idea of an online multi-player kung fu game featuring characters from the TV shows American Dad and Family Guy.

The game, which attracted 2.3 million unique players within a month of going live on April 20, was built from scratch by Fuel and pays homage to the iconic arcade game ‘Street Fighter’ to resonate with older gamers (the prime target skews male 18-49).

Fuel worked with ‘Street Fighter’ publisher Capcom, and even incorporated ‘Street Fighter’ character Ryu as an inside joke for fans. ‘This is about a brand experience…and getting street cred with the demo,’ explains Schwalm, referring to the decision to commission a customized game instead of simply branding an existing game.

‘We thought: ‘How can we wrap a game around the brand, instead of just slapping a brand on an existing game?” says Mike Burns, Fuel’s CEO/CCO. ‘[Pitching an existing game] is like walking into a client meeting and opening up a book of Clip Art…. As an agency you wouldn’t sell a canned commercial, why would you do that with a game?’

‘I think the future really is going to be custom content,’ Burns continues. ‘We’re really big on creating experiences that the end user can engage in.’

Fuel was also behind 2005′s uber-successful ‘Watch Me Change’ viral effort commissioned by Miami hot shop Crispin Porter + Bogusky for The Gap that allowed users to dress avatars in Gap clothes and e-mail their creations to friends.

Columbia Pictures is also catching on to the custom content craze, with a unique BlackBerry game, ‘RV Pile-Up,’ to support the late April release of the Robin Williams movie RV. They built the game for BlackBerries because the devices figure prominently in the film.