In 2010 FarmVille has gone from Facebook, to iPhone, to canned vegetables, to Slurpees, and now to ice cream. Farmville Vanilla Ice Cream is now available in over 7,000 7-11 freezer chests. Buy the ice cream in the real world and your virtual world benefits via Zynga credits that come with the product.
It is a brilliant idea and one that will provide a good point of differentiation among commodity products. More importantly I wonder if this provides an alternative to ads, subscriptions, and microtransactions for website revenue? If your site has sufficient reach among a demographic, will CPG companies and retailers pay you for driving customers to them? Could Zynga’s model be the 21st century equivalent of Green Stamps?
Co-branding like this gives you the visibility benefit of brand advertising, but the accountability of Google AdWords, a win for retailers, customers, and tech providers.
CPG Companies – Offering these virtual goods as a promotion wouldn’t have to pay until a customer bought something. This provides Google Adwords style accountability and pay for performance. It is an update of old cereal box promotions that offered a free record or toy if you collected enough “Proofs of Purchase”
Customers – would get a “free prize” with a high perceived value.
Tech Companies - that powered these promotions would get a high volume of users, lower customer acquisition costs, and a high, predictable ARPU.
Virtual Goods – Buy a box of Cocoa puffs and get the Cocoa tree in Farmville. Would General Mills co-brand Count Chocula with Vampire Wars?
Access to Metered Content - Buy a TV at BestBuy rather than Walmart and get 3 months of Hulu Plus for free. Or spend $100 a week at Whole Foods and get a free electronic cookbook.
Increased Status - Spend $100 at Rockler/Home Depot/McMaster and get a bump up to the Pro Level of Instructables for that month.
For companies that wanted to offer services in this manner the key requirements would be:
- Strong Brand – It needs to stand out on retail packaging/ads to help move product
- Massive Audience – Relative to the product category
- Clear product upgrade path, ideally with low/no marginal cost
- Recurring mechanism to keep people brand loyal and repeat customers
For a company that could pull it off you would get the benefit of consumer scale with the massive volume of enterprise sales.