In this age of transparency, it's no secret that college kids aren't big fans of brands that are "fake." Most of the time, that is.
Last fall, Adobe, the maker of popular software titles such as Photoshop, Acrobat, and Flash, worked with interactive advertising agency Traction to create a social media engagement initiative. The core of the campaign was a game that asked fans of the Adobe Students page on Facebook whether they thought a series of images were "Real or Fake?"
And users responded, with more than 11,500 plays in the first two weeks -- 6 percent of which culminated with the user clicking "Buy Now" for the product promoted on the final game page.
The business problem Adobe was addressing was very clear: It wanted to increase awareness of Adobe discounts for college students. We wanted students to know that Adobe offers college students up to 80 percent off the full retail prices of the Creative Suite 4 products with Adobe Student Editions.
Adobe already understood the popularity of Facebook among college students and had established a company page on the network about a year earlier. The page had attracted 11,500 fans, but a static message and lack of interactivity did little to encourage return visitors.
To drive page traffic and overall awareness for the new pricing offer, Adobe and Traction set out in late 2008 to engage the student market with a more interactive user experience.
Real or fake?
Adobe products like Photoshop are great tools for modifying photos, so we created a game in Facebook called "Real or Fake?" Each week, five images were provided, and users were challenged to decide whether they were original photographs or whether they had been doctored. Of course, the entire game was designed and developed using Adobe Creative Suite products -- Photoshop, Illustrator, and Adobe Flash.
Answer screens for the Photoshopped images included links to tutorials, which showed users how the effect was achieved using Adobe's product.
At the end of the game, users were presented with a promotion for Adobe Creative Suite 4 Student Editions and a button to "Buy Now," as well as options to "Play Again" and "Share" the game with their friends. In-game and end-of-game messaging further encouraged return play by letting users know that five new images would be posted each week.
The game was prominently featured on the Adobe Students Facebook page, and a discussion board post on the page encouraged users to share their scores and talk about the game.
In addition, during the first two weeks after launch, Adobe placed a Facebook engagement ad, which targeted students by major and demographic, linked to the game, and allowed users to become fans of the Adobe Students page directly within the ad.
The campaign results surpassed all of Adobe's expectations. "Real or Fake?" -- which launched in November 2008 -- ran for one month. During that time, the game was played more than 14,000 times, including 5,469 in the first week and 6,160 in the second.
During the first week, 40 percent of players returned to play again that same week, 22 percent checked out the tutorials, 6 percent clicked the "Share" button at the end of the game, and 6 percent clicked "Buy Now" at the end of the game.
The Adobe Students Facebook page also received 3,000 new fans and more than 53,000 page views that week, compared with an average of 5,057 views per week prior to the campaign.
Numbers also remained high in the second week, with 21 percent of players accessing the game tutorials, 4 percent sharing the game with friends, and another 6 percent clicking "Buy Now." Week two also brought in an additional 2,500 new fans to the Adobe Students page and almost 50,000 additional page views.
Engage, engage, engage. The Adobe Students page had featured the student pricing message for some time before the game was launched, but the engagement factor just wasn't there. Having engaging content on the page was a way to bring students to the page and clearly communicate this, and to support the launch of the Adobe Student Editions. By deploying the application, Adobe not only generated new awareness for its offer but also introduced a fun, interactive feature to the page. The game itself was particularly effective because it captured user attention with an interaction that clearly demonstrated the value of the product.
We also crafted game-related messaging to appeal to the student population and draw users in, often challenging them with gritty wording -- such as "Can you spot the real from the fake?" on its engagement ad and "Gotcha! This image is fake. Mother nature doesn't do mohawks" on one of the puzzle answer pages.
We wanted to engage students where they are and in a way that they enjoy -- not just push the product out to them. With any company, when you're going out and trying to talk to a segment like students, who see through corporate-speak and deal with a lot of media, the challenge is how to be clever and still be true to the corporate brand. We were able to do both.
Use an integrated push strategy. Another key reason the game was successful was because we allowed one of our social ads to be dedicated to promoting the game. Simply launching an application does not guarantee engagement, no matter how cool the application.
Many companies spend a lot of money building the coolest widget, game, or application. However, if they don't actively do something to drive traffic and awareness of it, then they are not likely to be successful. That was an important learning for us.
With so much competition for user attention on the Facebook network, it's important to take a multi-pronged approach to let users know what you've put out there. For Adobe, this was achieved by using targeted ad placements in combination with key placement on the Adobe Student page, where the company already had around 11,500 fans.
Encourage return visits. Adobe was able to further increase engagement by giving users a reason to come back to the application each week. It ensured users knew that new images would be available each week by posting messages throughout the game. Having the ability to "share" was also critical to the campaign's success.
See for yourself
Adobe's presence on Facebook is always evolving. The "Real or Fake?" campaign is no longer live, but we've posted it on Traction's extranet so you can play the game by clicking here.
Adam Kleinberg is CEO of Traction, and Elisa Haidt is senior marketing manager for Adobe.