A letter to the Chief Ninja

Recently, I wrote up two blog posts on how SCVNGR could improve by offering greater utility and engaging users with better game dynamics. With @sethpriebatsch and my links to them shortened up afterwards, I paused and thought: I should be more straightforward.

Here goes.

Mr. Priebatsch, as a student of consumer behavior I offer the following observations regarding how SCVNGR might better appeal to new users and more actively engage its current user base.

The game layer can be better.

Points for checking in and leveling up, these features mimic the characteristics of video games in a cool way, but the SCVNGR platform doesn’t fully speak to why people play games in the first place.

I didn’t play Mario on NES for the coins and neither did you. My friends don’t play World of Warcraft to level up. There are deeper reasons we love playing games, especially virtual ones, and SCVNGR’s robust platform is well positioned to start tapping into these motivations.

Specifically, these motivations include: experiencing a narrative, overcoming difficult challenges, and direct competition. Tapping into these motivations could help broaden and deepen the appeal of SCVNGR.

Here’s an example of what I mean. After overcoming any obstacle, how good you feel is inversely proportional to the likelihood of success. The harder the challenge, the bigger the rush when you finally achieve success. This emotional core is absent from SCVNGR’s game dynamic. Tap into this, and you’ll be giving people a compelling reason to play (read more).

The game layer can be useful.

In terms of marketing to marketers, the term “game layer” sounds great. Framing SCVNGR as a game works very well in this space, after all Farmville is all the rage and gamification is what marketers want. However, as you know, from the consumer’s POV this framing can be problematic.

Many people engage with SCVNGR primarily as digital rewards cards, i.e. buy 9 coffees get the 10th free. This is decidedly less-sexy than gaming, nonetheless it’s a concept that people easily understand. They connect with the utility of the concept.

Consider the day-to-day problems people face and how SCVNGR could help solve these problems.

For example, it’s tough to keep track of all the cool spots around town that I like, and especially tough to remember when friends come to visit. If, at check in, I could tag places into favorites lists, soon I’d have my very own Best of Boston list with me all plotted out on Google maps. That’s real value in the form of utility (read more).

SCVNGR is a great company with a lot of potential. Keep up the great work, you’re changing the world. If you’d like to chance to discuss these ideas more I’ve just moved to Inman Square, the 1369 Coffee House there is a great spot.

Thank you,

Jason Potteiger

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