In 1997 Michael Douglas starred in The Game, a psychological thriller directed by David Fincher. Douglas’ character was gifted a “game” for his birthday. This game was played out through real-life experiences, and as the plot thickened, the lines between his real life and the game became more and more obscured. And in this obscurity lay conspiracy, cover-ups, and intrigue.
Fast-forward a decade and you’ll see this technique being used more and more in marketing and brand engagement. It’s not the life-and-death situation from The Game, but it is a new way to engage customers through media and real-life experiences. The Alternate Reality Game (ARG) has proven to be an effective marketing tool that drives big numbers of participants with relatively low media spend because of the social/viral nature of the experience. Months before the release of The Dark Knight, Warner Brothers released an ARG as an opportunity for fans to get an early taste of the film while participating. This URL, www.whysoserious.com, began to appear without much fanfare. The groundswell began to build and by opening night, the ARG had over 12 million participants.
Just last week Levi’s launched its own ARG as part of their new ‘Go Forth’ campaign. It’s a simple game where clues are given online through Twitter and the Levi’s ARG website, and the participants put the clues together to reveal real-world locations where answers and prizes are to be found. The story of the Levi’s brand and history is woven through the ARG storyline in a way that feels less like marketing and more like entertainment. Spending 15 minutes a day engaged with a brand is never a bad thing. Look to see more experiences like the ARG as consumers look to be entertained and participants within the marketing ecology of brands.