Growing Branding Campaigns On FarmVille

November 3, 2010

FarmVilleI’ve got an admission to make: I am a nerd. Not necessarily a classic nerd with taped glasses and a fascination with “Star Trek.” But the kind who gets hooked on things like … FarmVille.

Yes, that FarmVille. Sometime during the day, every day, I log on to my Facebook page and slop my pigs, milk my cows and harvest my crops. I’m hooked and I admit it.

Like Phillip Morris did 20 years ago, FarmVille’s creators (Zynga) have done a great job of establishing and feeding my addiction. They continually invent new ways to keep me and 56 million(!) other fans interested and engaged by adding new crops, introducing new animals and creating features that entice us to log on and play frequently.

Now some big corporations are seizing the opportunity to reach out to us through some unique and clever FarmVille promotions.

For example, McDonald’s recently struck a deal with Zynga to build its own temporary farm. For just a couple of days, gamers could visit Mickey D’s farm and fertilize its crops (tomatoes to make the chain’s ketchup). And the reward?  We farmers got to permanently place a giant hot air balloon – complete with the Golden Arches – on our own farms to remind us of our interaction with the brand.

Another promotion in October was even more interesting. Here’s the background: depending on the seeds you plant, there’s a specific time period it takes for your crops to grow before they can be harvested. If you leave them in the field too long after they’ve matured, they wither. Enter Farmers Insurance. Farmers offered fans of the game free “Crop Insurance” – those of us who placed a branded Farmers blimp over our farms were protected from crop withering for up to 10 days. It was a really great way to not just generate brand awareness among millions of voluntarily captive fans, but to actually interact with the brand and rely on it to improve your farm. The company went an extra step by asking fans to enter an online sweepstakes for a chance to win a ride on the actual Farmers Airship. It was a very well-rounded promotion and showed that with a little creativity (read: not just boring product placement), companies have a real opportunity to move the branding needle through interactive games like FarmVille.

Zynga operates a number of other games like PetVille and Treasure Isle – each with their own unique marketing opportunities and fast-growing fan bases (9.8 million and 14.3 million, respectively). It will be interesting to see if more organizations will turn to FarmVille and other games. It could be great for companies and non-profits alike. The possibilities are kind of endless.

Do you play FarmVille? If so, what promos would you like to see next?