Tron avatarsSocial games are ridiculously popular with Facebook users, which is making them just as popular with marketers. If you’re
thinking of adding a social game to your marketing mix in 2011, take
some tips from big brand expert Disney in terms of how to get it

Disney has teamed with Booyah, developer of the game Nightclub City, to promote its upcoming film TRON: Legacy.

Nightclub City lets users launch their own virtual nightclub. Players can customize the way their clubs and avatars look, and even feature music from real-world artists. This makes the game a good fit for marketing a product like a movie – which features tons of branded assets. This brings us to the first tip:

1.    Choose the right game for your brand

Seems like common sense, but since there are dozens and dozens of popular games, you need to ensure the environment will work for your particular branding objectives. The TRON: Legacy integration gives players the option of moving their club to “Tron City,” complete with branded elements like neon décor, TRON clothing and tracks from the movie soundtrack.

There’s also the element of the developer behind the game – and finding one that can execute your objectives. Booyah is a great partner for Disney; the two companies have worked together on campaigns for the Step Up 3D movie, as well as Disney’s Epic Mickey.

2.    Give users reasons to interact with the content 

TRON content definitely has a cool factor – for example, Nightclub City players can have the iconic lightcycle in their club – but Disney and Booyah didn’t just brand the virtual goods and hope players would engage with them. There are plenty of incentives for interacting with the content.

For example, players get special items for hosting a TRON: Legacy launch party, or watching trailers for the movie, or the TRON: Evolution video game. There are also “party power-ups” to be gained by tricking out your club in TRON décor.

Nightclub City Tron club

3.    Promote the branded game content outside the game itself

It’s not enough to entice existing players; brands need to gain as much exposure for their in-game content as possible. That means promoting the game through Facebook Ads, and possibly even digital or traditional ads elsewhere.

No details on how or whether Disney is actually cross-promoting the game itself, but Booyah is. “In addition to a splash screen that greets players when they come into Nightclub city, we’re promoting the TRON: Legacy integration activity through our blog, on our Facebook fan page (which reaches 3.5 million of our fans), and through our other game, MyTown,” said Susan Kuo, Booyah’s VP of sales.  

Factor the costs of this around-game promotion into the budget from the onset, because expecting to drive usage just through the game itself won’t be enough.

4.    Figure out unique ways to track the success 

Is Disney expecting the Nightclub City/TRON: Legacy integration to help sell tickets? Not directly, as there’s no link to buy pre-sale tix in the game, so this is much more of a branding promotion. Still, there are lots of ways to track engagement:

-    Number of virtual goods earned by watching the TRON trailer
-    Number of players that “wore” a TRON avatar
-    Number of players that moved their nightclubs to TRON city
-    How long TRON players watched the trailer
-    How many players threw TRON: Legacy launch parties

Kuo wouldn’t share specifics about how Disney was tracking the ROI, but she did explain some of the metrics the company provides for clients. “We can tell them, for instance, how many ‘Likes’ were driven to their Facebook fan page through Nightclub City, how often a trailer was viewed, how many times the branded splash screen was displayed as well as click-through rates, the amount of times their music was played, and how many people clicked on the iTunes ‘buy it’ link.”