Google’s Aprils fools’ joke – genius gamification project

By Menno Gottmer – Player 2 @BrandNewGame

Last Tuesday companies around the world were once more pranking people on a massive scale. While most of these Aprils fools’ jokes were actually dull, cheesy, or even straight down terrible, one was so ingenious that many still wish it wasn’t actually a joke.

One day before April the first, Google released the following video on YouTube with the title “Google Maps: Pokémon Challenge”.

According to the video’s description: “Dozens of wild Pokémon have taken up residence on streets, amidst forests and atop mountains throughout Google Maps. To catch ’em all, grab your Poké Ball and the newest version of Google Maps for iPhone or Android. Then tap the search bar, “press start,” and begin your quest.”

The video, now seen by more than 12 million viewers, features the announcement of a new job role at Google: “Pokémon Master”. In the video, the Vice President of Google Maps, Brian McClendon, explains a challenge where applicants for this job position have to catch 150 wild Pokémon in various real-world locations using the Google Maps: Pokémon Challenge application. The video features various scenes of applicants trying to catch wild Pokémon in all types of terrain, such as deserts, mountains, forests, and the open sea. McClendon states that “the winner will start at Google at September 1st 2014.”

While this video was convincingly shot, and people at Google (in cooperation with Nintendo) obviously put some real effort into it, it was also obviously a joke. However, to everyone’s surprise, on the next day people using the Google Maps application on IOS or Android could actually see the icons of little Pokémon creatures scattered across the entire world.

What it basically came down to is that only for that day, Google integrated a feature in the Android and IOS Google Maps application, which allowed people to ‘catch’ wild Pokémon by clicking on their icon, and pressing on the button that appeared in the bottom right. The cached Pokémon were subsequently transferred to the ‘Pokédex’, a build-in system that kept track all your newly acquired Pokémon, and also showed how many Pokémon you still has to catch.

People around the world were notifying everyone on the Web about this joke-intended game, and within no time many people were putting aside their mandatory work for a way more fun activity: catching Pokémon! This reaction that was posted on the game related news website Kotaku sums up what many felt during that day:These people were taking the task to catch all 150 Pokémon very seriously. As a result, an entire community emerged that day, consisting of many Pokémon collectors who were helping each other in their shared quest to find all the Pokemon’s locations. Most were located at well-known landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Great Wall of China.

As a gamification enthusiast, I am very eager to find out how many users were using Google Maps during that day, and how these numbers compare to ordinary days. From what I’ve read on social media, blogs, and news websites, many people really enjoyed this gamified version of Google Maps. If Google wants to get more people using the Google Maps application on IOS and Android, similar gamified initiatives seem to be a very effective method. However, the duration of such gamified initiatives remains an interesting point of discussion. From what I’ve read, people were sad that the Pokémon initiative was only for one day. On the other hand, if you are trying to navigate to a particular location and there would be multiple Pokémon icons in your way, that would be somewhat annoying. Anyway, I can’t wait for Google’s next Aprils fools’ joke.

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Neurensics proves positive effects of gamification on our brain

Thanks to Neurensics the positive effect of gamification on our brain has been scientifically proven.

By Menno Gottmer – Player 2 @BrandNewGame

Neurensics is a neuromarketing research and consulting firm based in Holland, that has direct access to high-end neuroimaging techniques. Using these techniques Neurensics can measure the brain activity of potential customers, and subsequently determine the objective motives of these customers. As a result, Neurensics can provide their clients with unique insights into what customers are actually experiencing in their brains when dealing with certain images, products, advertisements, logos and games.

Neurensic’s research has been especially fruitful for KLM, the Royal Dutch Airlines. Early 2012, KLM developed a strategy with the qualitative objective to connect KLM to holiday spirit, and the quantitative objective to acquire people’s email addresses and their preferred holiday destinations. This was a necessary strategy, because KLM was still too often seen as expensive and merely for business, and therefore not top of mind at many holidaymakers. To reach this objective, KLM’s advertising agency developed a thematic campaign with the theme “To what new memory can we bring you?”, for which they created a television commercial.

Besides this campaign, the Crossmedia Division of the Telegraaf Media Group developed an activation campaign. The core of this activation campaign was the “KLM Vakantiespel”, an online revamped version of the well-known Memory card game. Before players could start playing the “KLM Vakantiespel”, they had to upload their portrait photo. The game then processed these photos in various vacation scenario images. As a result, in these images, you as a player could see yourself in a not yet enjoyed holiday in the Middle East, Africa, or any other distant KLM destination. These images were your ‘new memories’, as it were. For each found image match, you received a stamp in your virtual passport with the destination depicted on those matching images. After you finished the game you were asked to choose your preferable holiday destination from all the received stamps. After this, you immediately heard if you won any prices. Every day players could win two tickets to a ‘new memory’. In total, the “KLM Vakantiespel” was played more than 67,000 times, and more than 31,000 players left their email addresses and preferred holiday destinations behind.

Using the neuroimaging techniques of Neurensics, both the thematic campaign and the activation campaign were studied for their effects on the consumer’s brain. The thematic campaign’s television commercial scored positive in the brain on dimensions that are important for buying behaviour. However, Neurensics’ results also showed that the sought connection between KLM and holiday spirit was not made, something the activation campaign’s “KLM Vakantiespel” díd achieve. Neurensics’ objective neurological research showed that the game brought its players in the holiday spirit and also made the KLM brand significantly more relevant to the players. These are interesting results, not only because for the first time the relationship between gamification and brain activity has been demonstrated, but also because previous neurological research already showed that future buying behaviour and self-relevance are strongly interconnected. In short, Neurensics’ research has shown for the first time that keeping people busy with a brand via a game has great value to advertisers.

Unfortunately, many famous brands still turn towards traditional one-way advertising methods, such as television and radio commercials. Although gamification and serious games are becoming increasingly more used for various purposes by various companies, they are still not used that much for brand related purposes. While working at BrandNewGame, I learned that among many of the biggest brands there is still a largely negative connotation towards gaming in general. It would be wise for them to stop burying their heads in the sand, and look at the scientific facts that research firms such as Neurensics provide.


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In-Game Advertising Results

The following article has been written by a fanatic researcher that conducted research about the effects of in-game advertising. I hope you enjoy it!

Even though billions of dollars are spent on in-game advertising each year and everyone in the industry has an opinion on how to use in-game advertising, very little is actually known about the actual effect of in-game advertising. In the study for my thesis I’ve tried to find out more about what in-game advertising can actually do for the advertised brand.

It was already known that in-game billboards can have an effect on memory: if you have played a game, you can sometimes remember or recognize the brand that was advertised in the game. Though this is a good thing if you want to create brand awareness, it is not a particularly spectacular finding, especially considering that not everyone could remember or recognize the advertised brands. Far from it in fact; the results indicated that in-game billboards were usually poorly remembered and recognized, suggesting that in-game advertising is not very effective at all. This seemed to justify the current cynicism that professionals have about in-game advertising, which I encountered both in news articles  and in personal interviews.

However, in-game advertising can do more than just make you remember or recognize brands: simple billboards along the track of a racing game can also influence how you feel about a brand. A handful of studies indicated that if you let people play a game with billboard advertising in it and you ask them how they feel about a couple of brands afterwards, they’ll be more favourable towards the brands that were advertised in the game!

According to the psychological theory of Dual Attitudes people do not just have a single opinion of something, but people can have two opinions of any given object at the same time. And these two opinions (in social sciences we speak of attitudes) are not always the same: people have both a conscious or explicit attitude and a subconscious or implicit attitude. One of the best examples to illustrate this with is modern racism: hardly anyone will actually admit that they’re racist, because they know it is wrong. So when you ask them if the complexion of your skin should matter for how you’re judged on a job interview, they’ll tell you that it shouldn’t matter; racism is wrong. In practise however people often subconsciously act in a racist way – perhaps because black people are often associated with crime and educational disadvantages. This is why a black person may have less chance to be hired for a job than an equally qualified white person.

Knowing that in-game billboard advertising could actually change someone’s conscious, explicit attitude towards a brand, I wondered whether this was also true for their subconscious, implicit attitude. So I set up an experiment where I asked people to play a racing game for 5-10 minutes and complete some tests afterwards. They did not know what I was studying and they did not know that half of them saw in-game billboards with brand A, while the other half of them saw brand B on the very same billboards. I could then measure their implicit attitude with an IAT (Implicit Association Test).

In the IAT participants had to complete a series of tasks in which they had to categorize positive and negative terms and brand pictures. For example, participants could be shown the word ‘beautiful’ and if the category ‘good’ was shown in the left corner of the screen, they would have to click the left key. For parts of this test, participants had to categorize both good or bad terms and brands to the left and right corner. For example, participants could have the category ‘good’ and ‘brand A’ on the left side and ‘bad’ and ‘brand B’ on the right side of the screen. In this case, the participants would have to assign good terms and pictures that have to do with brand A to the same category (left). If you are a fan of brand A, you’ll have an easy time assigning good evaluative terms and pictures with brand A on it to the same category and you’ll be able to do so very quickly. If you are not a fan of brand A, you’ll have a harder time placing them in the same category and you’ll be making more mistakes and react more slowly. By pairing both brands with both good and evaluative terms in different parts of the test, this test can figure out which brand is the favourite.

According to the IAT, people prefer the brand that they’ve just been exposed to in the game significantly more than the other brand. In previous psychological studies, researchers have already found out that the implicit attitude can play a big role in influencing actual behaviour. Especially at times when people don’t really have the time or aren’t in the mood to think too much about what they’re doing, the implicit attitude will be the main thing to dictate what people actually do. This means that because you’ve played a game with an in-game advertisement for brand A, next time you’re in a hurry and in the supermarket and you want to grab a bottle of soda, you’re more likely to grab a bottle of brand A.

Though, interestingly, this effect only occurred for participants in the condition in which they had to play the game on an easy difficulty where they had to race three rounds, as fast as they could, but without traffic to avoid and opponents to beat. In the condition with the hard difficulty, where they had to avoid a lot of traffic and try to beat their opponents, participants were not influenced by the in-game advertising. It did not matter what brand they were exposed to, the results of the IAT indicated that they had no significant preference towards either brand.

As to why in-game advertising only has an effect on a lower difficulty I’m not sure yet. There are two plausible explanations: it could be that it requires so much attention to play the game on the hard difficulty setting that people no longer have the cognitive resources to be able to process the in-game billboards. And without processing the billboards, your implicit attitude will not be changed. The second possibility is that because participants were enjoying the game on the easy difficulty setting, they could subconsciously associate their positive experience to the in-game brands. And perhaps they did not have as much of a positive association on the high difficulty setting because they enjoyed it less, because they were more frustrated.

Encouraged by the interesting results, I am already working on a part 2 of this study. This time the focus will be more on comparing the effects of the explicit attitude to the implicit attitude and to find out which explanation of the effect of the difficulty level works best.


Joël Bosch

If you want to read more about using games as a marketing tool, download ‘A Brand New Playground’ for free!

Or subscribe to one of the 4 Gamification Workshops in 2014 

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Bart Hufen tijdens 24-uur van Reclame na Bill Clinton

For my Dutch followers a short impression of the essence of my book ‘Laat met je merk spelen’! The most important message is that the gaming industry continues to grow spectacularly, especially the ‘applied gaming’-sector as we call it. Besides that I stress that advertising agencies should hire specialists to develop effective game concepts instead of their own art directors that have not studied game design….
Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker that day by the way… unfortunately I was too busy that day to actually see his talk… ;-(

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Sims 3 Branches out with Diesel!

Another example how Diesel stays cool where other brands are watching and wondering how they should… In the past 15 years in the digital era as a marketing and advertising professional I have been part of both Atari and Diesel and witnessed loads of tie ins with games and brands. After featuring Katey Perry in Sims 3 it’s now time for my ex-employer Diesel (the Italian clothing brand) to get their hands dirty in Sims, or should I say: ‘build their brand further in the digital era’…?

The latest Diesel collection has been made available in Sims 3 after partnering with Atari back in 2001 with Driver 2 (my Atari-days before I was asked to come to work for Diesel), later Devil May Cry 2 (as a special feature if you played through the game) and a virtual shop in PlayStation Home to spice up the looks of your avatar. It’s now Electronic Arts that wants to spice up the life of the Sims.

A really cool and relevant way to build the Diesel brand amongst millions of women worldwide and it enables them to show the brand spin offs like Diesel furniture and wallpaper as well! Way to go Renzo Rosso and his team!

For more information, check the Diesel website: 


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Magnum Icecream running game… FUN OR FAIL ?

What do you think of this digital interactive concept.

Is it a game? Do you like it? Would you want to re-play it? Would you share it with friends?

Let me know!


More about Magnum Ice Cream can be found here:

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Pritt Stick | Knutselwereld – Best Dutch advergame 2010


Yesterday I visited ‘Game in the City’ in Amersfoort (The Netherlands). I held a short presentation in the morning how games can be used as a marketing tool and after my presentation there where three case presentations by Flavour, Real & Soepel and Achtung!
During the day there where various presentations about games, serious games (I hate that term), social games (that one as well) and a lot of companies presentation their cool innovative products.
In the evening there was a dinner organized by Control-Online (sponsored by ABN AMRO) when the Dutch Game Awards were presented.
Little Chicken won the prize for best advergame. I also described this case in my book. It’s really a fantastic gameconcept and well executed.
Below you will find another short impression of the award ceremony.

Posted in advergame, Case | 2 Comments »

Bubble gum game at Game in the city


An incredible original game by students from Breda (The Netherlands) during Game in the City in Amersfoort. My best friend and collegue from Spilgames played the game while I was filming and impersonating Yoda…

Loads of opportunity for ingame advertising and branded content here!

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Doritos Game in the UK

> A Stunning 250.000 people visited the Doritos UK website in 2009. The goal for consumers (within the game) was to find out the new name for a Doritos flavor.

Check out this video to learn more about the ‘investigator-game’ that Upset Media developed for Doritos.

Doritos iD3 CASE STUDY from Doritos iD3 on Vimeo.

The results:

 Nearly 1/4 million visitors to (already ahead of target)
– 25% visitors logging on via Facebook Connect
– Hundreds of tweets and Twitter hotspot 27th July
– Blog mentions – over 200 (ref: Google Blog Search)
– Almost 58,000 Facebook fans
– Average dwell time reaching almost 8 minutes (ref: Google Analytics)
– Over 56,000 views of the trailer from 141 countries (ref: Go Viral)
– Sales figures for Doritos at +23% (Source: Nielsen)

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Youtube take-over: The Expendables & Tipp-Ex


Nice way of promoting a movie in an ‘almost’ interactive video on Youtube. Check the experience through the link below…and don’t forget to share this article! 😉

This is another cool one, by Tipp-Ex:

Watch it by following this link: Tipp-Ex on Youtube

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