Editor's note: Edmund M. Jessup is an academic librarian at the New York Institute of Technology's Manhattan campus. He can be reached at edjessup@gmail.com. This article appeared in the June 24, 2013, edition of Quirk's e-newsletter.

Social network gaming has created a new frontier that allows marketers a virtual landscape to reach their audience. According to a 2012 report by the Casual Games Association, the social network gaming audience in the United States increased 36 percent from 57.5 million in 2010 to 77.9 million in 2012. Because advertising in social network games is relatively new territory, it's easy to understand why companies are reluctant to invest too much energy into it but expending too little might prove damaging at worst, ineffective at best. 

The non-traditional gaming audience that social network games capture is broader than your typical Xbox gamer. Social network games reach an expansive market with an average age of 39 playing about 9.5 hours a week, according to Socialnomics author Erik Qualman.

A case study: Caesars Entertainment

Caesars Entertainment Corporation pioneered the lauded Total Rewards program - a marketing tool that Caesars employs to reward and retain guests to its properties. Total Rewards has become an industry standard in the casino gaming industry, where customers are commonly considered "promiscuous, meaning that they don't play at only one casino," according to a report by the American Productivity and Quality Center. Guests signing up for the Total Rewards program are given a card that can be inserted into a slot machine, game or other activity at Caesars-owned properties, enabling the guest to earn points. These points can be put toward dining, rooms, entertainment and other Caesars amenities.

Caesars Interactive Entertainment, a subsidiary of Caesars Entertainment Corporation, acquired Platika, an Israeli social gaming company, which designed the Caesars Casino gaming app to help the company connect with its guests beyond the walls of its properties. The app offers a play-for-fun online casino with standards such as video slots, roulette and blackjack and is open for anyone to participate. Players can bait their friends to play by sending invitations and free virtual gifts such as extra coins, bonus spins and free card hands. Users can purchase virtual coins to play with as well.

Of course there other casino-based social network gaming apps but what makes the Caesars Casino app so useful is how Caesars integrates its Total Rewards program within it. Anyone can connect with and play Caesars Casino but users enrolled in the Total Rewards program can log in with their Total Rewards card, which is free to acquire at any Caesars property, and receive credits on their Total Rewards account in the form of points - similar to if they were playing in-person at a Caesars property. These points can then be used when visiting any Caesars property.

This approach to social network gaming, used as a marketing tool, is effective on many levels, with the most important being:

  • repeat brand visibility;
  • brand exposure to a new audience; and
  • increased customer loyalty.

Because of the nature of social network games, one of the major purposes for a business to exercise gaming as a marketing method is repeat brand visibility. People who play these games visit them frequently - often several times a day. Additionally, the app can act as an introduction to players who may be unaware of the brand. When gamers unfamiliar with the brand play the Caesars Casino gaming app, the brand will become more synonymous with what Caesars can offer them. From a social networking perspective, gamers who play this app will extend invitations to friends who may or may not be familiar with the brand and the more friends that play, the more bonus points those doing the inviting receive. Finally, there is the added incentive for players to use the app regularly to increase their Total Rewards points. This encourages Total Rewards members to visit Caesars properties for their gaming and entertainment needs, rather than drifting to other casino resorts.

The brilliance of intertwining the already-existing and successful Total Rewards marketing program within the confines of a social network game not only strengthens the existing program but creates a connection to current and would-be customers on a virtual playing field - outside of the physical structure.


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