By Patrick O’Kell

In a world where advertising messages are being delivered to the consumer en mass, how do you get your message across? With consumers becoming increasingly savvy at filtering out superfluous messages, social gaming presents interesting alternatives to traditional marketing methods.

Since social gaming is a new genre of game it is still ill defined yet can be commonly acknowledged as an environment where people can casually play online games with, and against, their friends. Just as social network sites are exploding in popularity so too are social games. People have developed an almost addictive relationship with online games whether it is having a better farm than your friends or being the biggest mob boss.

With social games reaching a larger audience than most prime time television shows it’s hard not to sit up and take notice. One social game designer Zynga boasts over 45 million users who are engaged and active on a daily basis. That is a large captive audience to play around with.

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However, social games are not just about delivering on GRP. Social games allow for you to target your consumers and generate an experience where they can interact with your brand and develop positive brand relationships. Anywhere from simply being exposed, to your brand logo, to purchasing your product virtually, the social gaming environment allows for a completely customizable consumer experience.

As one example, many companies are venturing into the social gaming world with branded virtual goods. The social game Farmville partnered with Cascadian Farm to deliver a branded crop of blueberries. That crop was planted over 500 million times resulting in a 550% increase in unaided brand awareness. It is amazing; people are willing to pay to interact with a virtual good that is branded.

The retail chain 7-11 ran a six week campaign where it offered Facebook game branded ice cream which, when purchased, prompted users to perform tasks in the virtual game. The ice cream surpassed the brand’s forecast in the first week. 7-11 demonstrates that social games do not have to remain virtual as it prepares for a contract selling Farmville branded items.

The clothing store Old Navy has also taken advantage of social games in a unique way. Old Navy has created a virtual store in the social game It Girl. Players can explore the store and interact with the items by purchasing them or giving them to their friends.

There are so many avenues to explore when venturing into the virtual world to interact with your consumers it is exciting to think of all the inventive and creative possibilities. With a tool with such massive reach, precise targeting methods, and high yielding results this should be top of mind when thinking of your next marketing campaign. Will the virtual world become saturated with advertising messages to the point where consumers will no longer pay attention or does the branded experience have the consumer eager to engage?