attemptingfailing social media, look what C-Town did!
A year ago, Neighborhoodr’s Williamsburg blog made us aware of our grocery store’s tumblr presense, a blog titled, “C-Town is tumbling?! Really?? YUP!!!”
At first we were laughing at C-Town, but once they started incorporating internet jokes into their promotions, actually participating in our #Zuckershop forced meme, we were laughing with them (and shopping there more often, too).
BUT THIS TAKES THE CAKE.
The manager, knowing that I am from Pittsburgh, tweeted at me to let me know that they had filled a request for Iron City Beer, and that I should come in and grab some. Even though he’s rooting for the Jets today, he thought I deserved my hometown’s beer of choice for the AFC Championship. And for that, I think they deserve some kind of awesome internet award.
Respect, C-Town. Respect.
Brief: The Beast, ARGing, from way back when.
In 2001, Microsoft launched what eventually became known as The Beast, an alternate reality game designed to spark interest in Steven Spielberg’s movie, A.I. and Microsoft’s associated video game content. Hidden in three promotional spots for the movie was ciphered information about a woman, Jeanine Salla, credited as a Sentient Machine Therapist. From this small rabbithole, players of the game were introduced to an epic, real-time (yet set in the year 2142) murder mystery story spanning hundreds of webpages, voicemail boxes, and emails. Over the course of the game, large online communities grew to collaboratively solve the game’s puzzles and mysteries through crowdsourcing technical talent and knowledge. The largest of these communities, a Yahoo! Group named Cloudmakers, created over 40,000 forum messages about the game in the short, three month official duration of the game. The Cloudmakers numbered in the thousands, included equal numbers of men and women, were evenly distributed through age brackets, and were globally distributed.
I am interested in how brands engage individuals through the ludic, through play, fun and collaborative work. The Beast was cheap, it took the efforts of a handful of people and the registration of a bunch of websites to deeply engage thousands of people and generate earned media attention across the world. More importantly, however, the quality of engagement was immense. As a game, The Beast provided a fantastic universe that players explored through their everyday, mundane lives. Players scrutinized movie trailers frame by frame. Every webpage they encountered was literally taken apart, the code analyzed, clues real or imagined explored. And, it was all advertising.
Imagine walking down the street, buying a soda, and wondering if the funny designs on the can might be squeezed through Photoshop in such a way that they provided a clue to a game you were playing with ten thousand other people online while you waste time at the office. This is not product placement; this is not nifty interaction design; this is not a branded experience. This is the experience of a brand, an ethos, the gestalt of advertising cum everyday life cum escapism. This is not the buying a product. This is the buying of a service. This is not viral. This is emergent.
And, this was all done in 2001.