Posted July 31st, 2014
Lined in front of tux-clad high school seniors, we smile in our floor-length dresses as a gaggle of parents harass us with flashes. Amid this chaotic parental paparazzi, a newcomer enters the premise. She (we’ll call Molly) is donned in silky black. As Molly strides over to our group it’s evident she’s wearing a Burberry jumpsuit to Winter Formal. Furla clutch in hand, paired with Saint Laurent stilettos and elegant make-up, she pulls off the look and was rewarded for her risk by our amazed faces.
When executed correctly, nonconformity can elicit positive responses, associating the risk-taker with confidence. So why not apply expected psychological responses to nonconforming behavior to campaign strategies? In the article “The Red Sneaker Effect: Inferring Status and Competence from Signals of Nonconformity,” Bellezza, Gino, and Keinan conduct various case studies to examine responses to nonconforming behavior. From their results, it is apparent that nonconformity in brand marketing is worth trying in order to increase brand acceptance (ironically enough since one associates conformity with acceptance).
Nonconformity does not always reward—which explains why many choose to follow social convention. Nonconforming behavior can aggravate. (the backlash to the hipster movement is a relevant social example. This term is often met with sharp denial.) But, when the social convention seems unnecessarily restrictive, flimsy, or even oppressive, then nonconformity is more likely to be rewarded. Under the right conditions, nonconformity can raise your brand to a new level of cool. Bellezza, Gino, and Keinan’s research indicates that the manner in which nonconformity will be received is determined by a number of factors. Dependent on the person’s familiarity with the environment (or market) and need for uniqueness or belonging, the risk-taker can be assigned a higher status and level of competence.
The adherence to societal pressures stems from the desire to gain acceptance into a group. Therefore, nonconformity, when executed correctly, can signal a higher degree of confidence, competence, and power. For example, take the practice of many CEOs’ attendance of high-profile meetings and interviews in distressed denim and converse sneakers as described in Binkley’s WSJ article “CEO Casual.” Picture Zuckerburg and his famous sweatshirt and red kicks are more likely to surface than a suit and polished dress shoes. This rising tendency for executives to opt for a more casual look has powerful implications about nonconformity and power. They give off the message that unlike a lower profile professional, they can afford to dismiss the expected image of a CEO. The risk (when seen as intentional) of deviating from the norm signals confidence and the impression that their status is so high they can afford this risk.
Autonomy and confidence are admired. Therefore, rather than use the tired formulaic methods used by others, strive for innovative strategies to elevate the status of your product. Take that risk.
Easier said than done though, right? That’s where we come in. At CataBoom, we eagerly encourage the creative incorporation of our PrizeSDK in marketing campaigns of varying forms and industries. We strive to help our client with the unconventional especial in markets that are crowded vary little from company to company. Uniformity cries for the unconventional. That’s what we do.
Posted June 24th, 2014
Departing from the norm is essential in the hyper-competitive gaming industry; something we at CataBoom believe it is imperative to be effective in this new age of marketing. The developers of Call of Duty understood this when planning an integrated marketing strategy to promote Black Ops II. There’s no denying the success of the game. In fact, according to Variety, Black Ops reached a billion dollars in 16 days, setting a record for the franchise and the gaming industry. Creative marketing allowed them to reach a wider audience while challenging the conventional method of advertisement for console gaming.
With a solid understanding of the existing channels’ potential, they blended live action commercials, online videos, and even a mobile app to artfully play on the emotional and visual expectations of the consumer. All the platforms worked in tandem, creating a clear message, rather than spouting repetitive material which could drive away potential players.
Live-action commercials contrived with a touch of humor amidst the grim scene of warfare invited the viewer to play as the message “there’s a soldier in all of us” cemented their campaign. Choosing to utilize this platform made sense. The commercials fit Call of Duty’s aesthetic while instilling the viewer with an understanding of what to expect and how to experience the game.
Activision clearly understood their target audience—people who enjoy blowing things up—when they worked with the makers of the Action Movie FX app to develop a Black Ops version. In fact, my COD enthusiast brother spent one too many afternoons filming unsuspecting family members (including our dog) and subjecting us to airstrikes. But, while the strategy behind their product reflected the basics of marketing while pioneering a more expansive route in advertising, we cannot resist pondering how a creative incorporation of the CataBoom platform into their campaign would have heightened their success. As our clients know, we would drive desired consumer behavior (ie. register on our website, watch this trailer) with real money incentives. However, we see opportunities for more skill-based and original integration. By manufacturing a simple thematically-consistent mini-game, players could have a chance to win real money prizes and/or credit that could be used for Black Ops II (encouraging users to buy the game to use that credit) on a skills-based challenge. For example, users could have a chance to get ten headshots which would then reveal the prizes won that day.
While we can imagine our role in escalating Black Ops’ success, we commend their inventive marketing campaign. Representing a unique niche in the marketing world, we understand that channels of interaction result in the expectation to depart from the norm.
Posted March 6th, 2014
Things change so fast these days: the world (see the Ukraine), people’s moral/political views (see online gaming legalization), even my daughter (she is almost 9 and knows all kinds of hip words and phrases that I don’t know – she recently informed me the word “hip” is no longer “hip”).
Technology and the perception of its users are also changing faster than ever.
My first company I cofounded back in the 1994 was an internet development firm. Back then, 99.9% of the US didn’t even know what the word internet was. When meeting with a CEO of a major company, I would have to first start out explaining what the internet was and why they really need to have a site. I am pretty sure most CEOs know what it is now and how important it is to a company.
And think about the concept of e-commerce, the simple idea of buying something online. Just 10 years or so ago, the apprehension of consumers to buy online was still high as the solutions didn’t exact build confidence. People still wanted to touch and feel the product and know it would arrive on time. Now with technology making the experience so easy and all the logistics of free shipping and returns a standard, consumer online purchases are hitting record highs and Cyber Monday can make or break a company’s year.
And think about this: I recently consulted with a major retail brand and 15% of their e-commerce sales now are coming from iPhones. People are buying items on the mobile screen that is significantly smaller than a monitor. We have come a long way from consumers having to touch and feel the item.
CataBoom is also seeing major changes in technology and the mindset of a consumer in a very short time.
When we first launched CataBoom’s The PrizeSDK back in June, most companies were concerned about adding the element of prizing due to how it would be received in the online, social or mobile experience. By adding the concept of a large instant win grand prize along with guaranteed prizes, it made them more apprehensive. Most were afraid that the large cash grand prizes are too good to be true, but since our parent company SCA Promotions has paid out over $186 million in cash and prizes, I assure you it is not.
But just like other technology solutions, the mindset has changed as reality catches up. Almost daily you can see news article focus on how large real money and prizes are being integrated into marketing campaigns in all facets of the digital space. Our implementations are showing consumers conversion rates well beyond our expectations. And the prizes are getting bigger as companies are seeing better results. We are getting requests for prizes well above $1 million where we started back in June. I could tell you how high but some clients might not want me to reveal it.
So as with my first internet company, having to explain the concept of how prizing to rewards and motivates consumer behavior is becoming less frequently and explaining why they need it is less necessary. So it should be another fast changing experience for CataBoom. Hopefully I can slow down long enough to learn from my daughter what has replaced the word “hip”.
February 24th, 2014
I get the pleasure to talk with all kinds of industries when meeting with people about CataBoom: gaming, app development, loyalty, advertising…the list goes on and on as so many industries can use our solution.
Without fail, a few questions always comes up. Is it legal? Is it gambling? The first thing I point to is the fact that a chance to win based on odds has been around forever. Our parent company has been doing it for 27 years. The second point I make is that big companies like McDonald’s, Pepsi, P&G and more run these programs all the time. McDonald’s does not guarantee that someone will get Boardwalk and Park Place in their Monopoly game? It is a chance to win. And do they pay out the $1 million prize? Of course not. They get prize coverage and it is based on the odds of it happening.
But many people are concerned that it’s gambling. It’s a fair concern if you are new to sweepstakes law. So enviably we get our lawyer to talk to their lawyer (they love billable time) and all concerns are dissolved. But recently we asked our attorney to write up a memo that we could share with clients that gives the main points. So take a look.
But first the disclaimer: The information contained in this memo is designed for CataBoom guidance and use only and should not be provided to third parties as legal advice. CataBoom is not a law firm and does not provide legal services. It is also focused on mobile applications, or “apps”, wherein users may participate in a game of chance to win something of value, although the same concepts apply in other digital services.
Now the fun stuff:
The primary concern is whether such a promotion would constitute an illegal lottery under the law, and the elements of an illegal lottery are pretty standard across all fifty states and the federal government. Basically, you would have an illegal lottery if a person provides consideration in order to participate in a game of chance to win something of value (i.e., a prize). In order to avoid being deemed an illegal lottery, a promotion sponsor must eliminate one or more of the three elements. Clearly, a prize will be offered, otherwise the promotion in question would not motivate participation. Also, the very nature of the in-app promotions CataBoom plans to provide qualify them as chance-based, wherein the awarding of the prize is determined by some randomized process, as opposed to skill-based. Therefore, the “prize” and “chance” elements are present, which means that the element of “consideration” must be removed for the promotion to pass legal muster. This is by far the most common element eliminated – hence the ubiquitous “no purchase necessary” requirement with most promotions.
“Consideration” itself, however, has no hard and fast definition. It is almost universally understood that payment of money constitutes consideration, but most if not all jurisdictions have come to regard “consideration” as anything of value. This definition has been applied broadly to include, but is not limited to, a consumer’s time, effort, the requirement to visit a location, listening to a presentation or providing personal information. Therefore, while not requiring payment of any kind for any reason is a clear and basic best practice, avoiding the “consideration” requirement in its non-monetary forms is less obvious. A good rule of thumb for any promotion sponsor to follow, and I have seen this to be true for as long as I have worked in this industry, is to make the consumer’s entry process as quick, easy and as minimally intrusive as possible.
If, however, a sponsor prefers that a consumer provides consideration for the chance to win the offered prize (i.e., pay-to-play), then the sponsor must also offer a free alternate method of entry (“AMOE”), wherein the consumer can enter the promotion via another method that does not involve providing consideration. As an example, if a website is offering a promotion that requires purchasing a membership on the website, the sponsor might also allow individuals to enter for free by sending an email to a designated email address.
The problem is that just having an AMOE is not sufficient to avoid operating an illegal lottery. The law requires that the AMOE have “equal dignity” with a method of entry requiring consideration. As with “consideration” there is no clear cut definition of “equal dignity,” but the basic idea is as follows: Contestant A enters the contest through the purchase method, and Contestant B enters via the AMOE. Both Contestant A and Contestant B must have the same chance of winning the exact same offered prize(s), where Contestant A gains no advantage by virtue of entering via the purchase method. Therefore, even if no purchase is actually necessary (i.e., there is an AMOE), a purchase may not improve a contestant’s chances of winning or the AMOE does not have equal dignity. Therefore, the easiest way to avoid the illegal lottery problem is not to require a purchase or consideration of any kind, but if sponsor prefers otherwise, then there must be an AMOE that satisfies the requirements of equal dignity.
Assuming the promotion avoids the pitfalls of illegal lottery, there are other concerns that the sponsor would need to address. Consumer promotions are governed by the laws of the fifty states as well as the federal government, and these different jurisdictions often prohibit certain promotional activities above and beyond the basics of illegal lottery. Federal law governing promotions should not present any problems, as those statutes typically concern gambling issues that would not be present if the promotion avoided illegal lottery claims. However, the fifty states can be somewhat trickier. Three concerns immediately come to mind with in-app promotions as you described them to me. First, in an effort to crack down on cyber cafes operating as gambling fronts, some state legislatures passed very broad laws that prohibited operating a game of chance on an electronic device. Two things of note: (1) these laws did not have an exception for games of chance where consideration was not required, and (2) “electronic device” was not narrowly defined, so it would technically include everything from slot machines to laptops to mobile phones. The intent of the states was not to prohibit legitimate consumer electronic promotions so the likelihood of enforcement is questionable, but unfortunately the language of the statutes was broad enough to include them if the state chose to do so.
Second, some states prohibit electronic games that resemble casino-style games, even if consideration is not required. Here it is not an issue of an electronic game of chance per se, but rather the “look and feel” of the game. A sponsor can, however, easily avoid running afoul of the law in these states by not operating games that look like poker, craps, roulette, bingo, keno, slot machines, etc.
Third, the sponsor needs to be aware of the bonding and registration requirements for promotions that operate in states like Florida, New York and Rhode Island. Each state has different requirements and different guidelines, but CataBoom has historically provided assistance to promotion sponsors with bonding and registration, as it is more of an administrative, rather than legal, service with which we are very familiar.
By and large, if a promotion follows the basics of promotions law (avoiding an illegal lottery, having a proper AMOE if consideration is a factor, etc.), then the promotion should operate smoothly without drawing the attention of any regulators.
So the last sentence says it best: Follow the basics of promotion law. CataBoom’s team can help you do so and create a great incentive to drive your desired behaviors.
Posted February 17th, 2014
So I just spent last week in London for the 2014 ICE Totally Gaming Conference. All the people around the world in land based and online gaming come together to meet, eat, drink and party…And in that order!
I landed on Monday morning and left on Friday. Two of those days (Wednesday and Thursday), the subway (“The Underground”) workers were on strike. It was devastating to the city; pretty much getting around the city was a nightmare.
That being said, the conference was packed, the parties at night were well attended and there was nothing but smiles on people faces. Of course everyone had a story of the trials and tribulations of getting to the conference which was not even close to being conveniently close to the city. My story involved a taxi to a non-striking subway and a long walk home.
What I learned was that even with all the transportation obstacles , there was so much excitement about the future of the gaming industry that nothing (not even standing in 2 hour taxi lines) was going stop people from getting to the various events and meetings.
My new friend Frank Pracukowski from Foxwoods Resort Casino made an even more interesting observation: The US presence at ICE this year was bigger than ever and the 2014 conference was the best ICE event so far. I think the new found legality in online RMG (real money gaming) and the actual money being made in online social casinos are undeniably the big reasons why.
CataBoom had some amazing meeting from companies all over the globe. Our part of the ecosystem in this space is clearer than ever: we are a marketing tool that drives behavior such as user acquisition and retention. Of course, we do it for lots of other industries but our train arrived last week in London for 2014 ICE Totally Gaming.
And the good news is that even The Underground workers of London cannot stop a moving train!
Posted September 20th, 2013
So I was on vacation last week with my family in Florida but part of me wanted to be on the west coast. The same week of my vacation was during the 2013 Casual Connect Show in San Fran. Our vacation was planned well in advance of finding out about the show…there was no way my wife was going to let me out of it and I probably needed to sit on the beach for a few days anyway.
That said, Tony Ebert, our president, spent 3 days in back-to-back meetings at the Casual Connect Show with game developers, publishers, ad networks and even transaction processors. Tony was running from meeting to meeting and trying to fit in some of the trade show in between. He did great spreading the CataBoom message. What’s interesting is everyone kept trying to figure out where we fit in the industry. In many of the meetings, they would have a preconceived concept of what kind of company we were and by the end, they would have a completely different view. One company said they almost cancelled the meeting because they thought we were an ad network and by the end of the meeting, they were so glad they didn’t cancel because we were nothing even close. And they were anxious to figure out how to incorporate the CataBoom solution.
But the reality is we are creating a new category in the digital space. Let’s call it “The Enhancement Group” for now. We enhance the performance of what most of the companies are trying to do. I like to think of ourselves a lot like the old BASF slogan: “We don’t make a lot of the products, we make a lot of the products better.”
So for game developer/publishers: “We don’t make the game, we increase downloads and time spent playing.”
For the ad network: “We don’t build the ad network, we make the ads more effective.”
For the transaction processors: “We don’t run the transaction, we influence more.”
So we may not fall into a category that the industry is trying to put us in but we are pretty sure they are all glad we are here.
I say that with lots of confidence and sand left in my shoes!
Posted September 20th, 2013
I wanted to write something special for the first blog of our new company, CataBoom, but realized that we are really nothing new. In fact, we are about 27 years old.
Why is that? Well, our parent company is SCA Promotions. Bob Hamman founded the company in 1986 (the year I graduated high school). Bob has a brilliant mind and is a natural oddsmaker. When he is not calculating odds on some of the world’s best promotions, he is playing at the bridge table. He has won 12 world championships and personally plays with the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and even Mark Zuckerberg’s dad. That’s pretty nice company and faith in his ability.
SCA has gone on to do some amazing promotions over the years for retailers, national brands and even sports players. It’s all about the odds. Promotion sponsors pay a fixed fee, just pennies on the dollar, and SCA covers the grand prize. Yes, they handle the hole-in-ones and half-court basketball shots all day long but there are some great out-of-the-box stories too. . One of my favorites involves a monkey picking winning numbers on live television in the Pepsi Billions contest. The story is a bit long for a first blog post but if you see me at a show, I am happy to tell you the story. Crazy stuff!
Now, fast forward to 2013….SCA Promotions, through its new entity CataBoom, has created a technology platform for the digital world (mobile, social and online). As a product of CataBoom, The Prize SDK is an easy-to-implement SDK based on the same promotional solutions SCA has used all these years. I’m sure you can see why it’s hard to decide if we are something old…or something new.
Let’s just agree on one thing though….it’s exciting!