Advanced Web Design and Marketing Techniques: Capturing the Power of Playfulness

For years advertisers have been searching for the secret formula that would help them spread brand awareness, without having to invest millions of dollars in fees to get their ads the air time needed to reach large audiences. All kinds of different marketing techniques were developed over the years, utilizing sex, shock, comedy or downright catchiness, not only for the direct advertizing effect such marketing has on the viewer, but also as a way to get people to talk about the brand at times when the advert wasn’t even present.

With the rise of the internet, a whole new form of advertizing was born, viral marketing, so named because of the way certain types of content get spread around the web like a virus, moving from person to person, promoted via social sites by those who see it for no other reason than because they found it entertaining.

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Creating content that will end up going viral is not easy, as it takes a great deal of creativity and quite a bit of luck to develop something that will capture the imagination of the masses. That said, the one common trait found in almost all finds of viral campaigns (whether organically created like the Star Wars Kid, or planned like the girl who quit her job on dry erase boards) is that they have an element of playfulness about them.

An Introduction to Playful Web Design

The ULTIMATE Jump Shot!

What do I mean about an ‘element of playfulness’? Well essentially I’m talking about the way both of the above examples get their audiences to engage with them. They start by introducing an element of fun, as people don’t need to be forced into wanting to have fun, that naturally focuses their attention on whats going on. After that a certain level of engagement is needed to help spread the message virally.

The Stars Wars Kid was one of the first YouTube videos to ever go viral, it did so purely as a result of so many people finding it funny (such clips where new at the time, it’s highly unlikely something so simple would go viral today), so in that instance the only engagement required was that viewers found the piece particularly amusing which caused them to spread it.

The Girl Who Quit Her Job was a planned marketing exercise, designed to bring attention to the site that first posted the story. To ensure it’s success the creators made sure to actively engage its audience, which they did by showing a series of images, which the user had to scroll through in order to see the whole thing (though it was indicated from the start that the end result would be amusing). This is a great example of creating playful element, in that it actively calls for the viewers attention, making them a participant at sort, then once the experience is over for them, as long as they enjoyed it they are that much more inclined to tell other people to try it out for themselves.

What this shows is that by capturing the power of playfulness for your campaigns, you can maximize the potential for that campaign to go viral.

Engage with Your Target Audiences Through Play

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Now not everyone is going to be able to create hit videos, or come up with the inspiration for a comedic sequence of pictures, but what anyone can do is engage with their target audiences through the use of games. By games I don’t mean 100 hour long plus video games that take millions of dollars and months worth of time to develop, no, I’m talking about simple quizzes that can be set up to provide just a few moments escape from reality during an otherwise boring and uneventful day.

People love taking quizzes, even though most don’t even realize it themselves. I’m not talking about maths or science quizzes either, I’m talking about ‘What Are Your Chances Of Surviving A Zombie Apolocalypse’ or ‘When Will I Die’ style quizzes.

Now obviously these types of games are not a direct form of advertizing for your brand or product themselves, but what they do is allow you to provide information during or after the quiz that links back to your site. A successfully viral ‘What Are Your Chances Of Surviving A Zombie Apocalypse’ quiz campaign could do wonders for a national chain of paintballing centers, whilst a ‘When Will I Die’ quiz set up in the correct way could bring in plenty of new readers to the health orientated website that spawned it.

As with anything, setting up these kind of games to engage with different target audiences requires practice. I highly recommend that you take the time to experiment with different types of quizzes before spending money to create a high quality campaign.

Luckily, there are free online tools to test your audience playfulness preferences before investing money in the campagn. For example, ProProfs.com is a great site that provides a free online quiz maker, as well as a more advanced interactive game maker. What’s particularly good about the quiz maker on this site (apart from the fact it’s free) is that you can include all kinds of images and video within your quiz, both of which you should be using when trying to engage your audience in an entertaining playful experience.

There are huge rewards to be gained by successful capturing the power of playfulness for subtle marketing campaigns, just be careful to make sure you never produce something that could potentially put whatever your promoting in an unfavorable light. The idea is to be entertaining, but at the same time try to avoid anything too crude or offensive.

This is a guest post by Ann Smarty, owner of My Blog Guest, the free community of guest bloggers.

Mars Cureg

Web designer by profession, photography hobbyist, T-shirt lover, design blog founder, gamer. Socially and physically awkward, lack of social skills, struggles to communicate with anyone who doesn't have a keyboard. Willing to walk to get to the promised land. Photo and video freelancer, SEO. Check out more on my Google+

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