Client: Century 21 Real Estate (Parsippany, NJ)
PR agency: Mullen (Boston, MA)
Campaign: Century 21 Buys Virtual Real Estate
Duration: April 12-May 3, 2011
Budget: About $350,000
Century 21 made its first foray into the social gaming world during last spring's home-buying season when it bought virtual real estate in Ngmoco's mobile game We City, which allows players to build and share virtual cities. Mullen, AOR for PR and social media, helped develop and execute the campaign.
"The exponential growth in consumers leveraging smartphone technology is increasing," says John Henry, Century 21 VP of brand management. "We wanted to be on the front end of that."
Matt Gentile, Century 21 director of PR and social media, adds that getting the brand into this well-aligned mobile-gaming platform was a perfect way to reinforce and support the company's overall "Smarter. Bolder. Faster." marketing campaign.
Consumers were engaged on We City in multiple ways. Media relations and social media outreach drove awareness of the game campaign and the broader marketing campaign.
"We were the first real estate brand to integrate into a social or mobile game," Gentile says. "We found that extremely appealing, giving us almost a first-to-market advantage. And it speaks to our innovation."
The team collaborated with Appssavvy, which develops in-game brand apps, and Ngmoco to create three branded structures - a real estate office, a home, and a skyscraper - that We City players could incorporate into their cities from April 12 to May 3.
The game's welcome screen featured Century 21 branding and messaging, and players could earn virtual profits by watching a 30-second "Smarter. Bolder. Faster." ad.
Media targets included top-tier online and print outlets, as well as marketing and real-estate trade publications. Pitches focused on business and social branding angles.
Campaign posts were placed on Century 21's blog, Facebook, and Twitter pages; Mullen's blog; We City's blog; and Appssavvy's blog.
Emails were sent to all 121,000 Century 21 professionals to generate excitement and participation.
More than 410,000 Century 21 structures were placed in the game, averaging 4.32 per user. They'll remain unless removed by the player who placed them.
The welcome screen got more than 5.4 million views. The ad videos received 301,599 views (nearly triple the goal).
Mullen account director Angela Giovanello says We City extended the engagement from two weeks to three (at no cost) due to positive player response.
Henry is "extremely pleased," noting results exceeded expectations in terms of game success and coverage, which includes 27 placements to date in outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and Mashable.
Pre- and post-campaign InsightExpress studies showed perception of the brand as "smart" and "innovative" rose 21.1% and 17.6%, respectively. Of players who placed a Century 21 structure, 58% retained the brand message - a 40% positive change in awareness (average change is 18%). And 93% of players who had the chance to place a Century 21 structure did - a rate 10 times higher than comparable branded structures.
In addition, Giovanello says the campaign sparked marketing industry speaking opportunities for Century 21.
"We'll keep looking at mobile and social gaming platforms," says Gentile. "We're also developing tools such as our Facebook home-buyer and -seller app."
It's no surprise this campaign has landed Century 21 on the marketing talk circuit - it's a perfect example of how to integrate mobile wisely into an overall marketing initiative to drive brand awareness, affinity, and messaging. Though the company and the game are extremely well aligned, this effort likely would not have worked so successfully if the team hadn't done such an effective job of adding value to players by making the structures so appealing and tying the ads to in-game earnings.