GE is one of those companies that is familiar to almost everyone because it is so massive and old, and yet most people have very little knowledge of what it does. GE Wonderground, a new desktop and mobile game released for the iPhone last month, is designed to inform or reintroduce consumers to the 121-year-old company’s long history in science, design and industrial technology.
Whether it’s the jet engine that powers the plane we’re traveling on or the energy technology that provides power to the cities we live in, GE wants people to discover the important roles it serves in a game it describes as a sort of modern-day treasure hunt.
The app, which was produced by GE’s agency partner Noise, was “based on the idea that GE technology is all around us, but we often don’t know it,” Katrina Craigwell, manager of digital marketing at GE, tells ClickZ. “There’s amazing technology and amazing science history all around us at the foundation of our cities and we probably don’t know about it. And for anyone who’s a science or tech geek, discovering that is always fun.”
The Wonderground app is part game and part augmented reality, presenting users with a series of missions they can play across the metropolitan areas of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco. By pulling location data, the app displays a series of nearby missions that users can play when they are within range of the mission at hand. A clue checklist leads users through a discovery phase as they learn more about places like Little Tokyo in Los Angeles or Telegraph Hill in San Francisco mixed with “random and delightful” facts about GE.
“The idea is to help people celebrate their cities, learn a little bit about GE but do it in a valuable way,” Craigwell says. “The grand majority of the information, about 75 to 80 percent of the information that you uncover in the game is not about GE because we didn’t want to hit people over the head with it.“
Wonderground is not only the most involved gaming program that GE has created from a brand perspective, it is also a “heavy lift” and ongoing experiment of sorts for GE, adds Craigwell. “One of the goals with this game is to really make GE accessible to a younger audience, to a college audience, to use it as a recruiting tool in a sense as well,” she says. "We comb through it to really make sure that the stuff was interesting, to make sure that it made sense, and make sure that the GE part of the story was compelling and it wasn’t kind of just cheaply thrown in there,” she adds.
"How do we create an environment that incentivizes people to keep uncovering information? There’s a lot of information that we want to get across and we think it’s valuable at that volume. We could put it in a long video. We do that a lot and we love video but you can’t have that long of a video. So how do we create something that’s new and fresh and will incentivize people to keep uncovering information?” Craigwell explains.
GE has put considerable effort into growing its base of 1 million fans on Facebook, 100,000 followers on Twitter, other social sites and its own GE.com, alongside branded content efforts on sites like BuzzFeed,Tumblr and others.
“We spent a lot of time making sure that we’re messaging across our own base and driving from there,” Craigwell says.
To reach residents and tourists in a more analog and creative way, GE hired Artist John Pugh to paint a series of outdoor murals on walls in the cities that Wonderground currently reaches through the app.
Back online GE’s branded content on BuzzFeed is – you guessed it, a series of images running under titles like “10 Things You Probably Never Knew About New York City” and “10 Things You Might Not Have Known About Los Angeles” in addition to a video produced by BuzzFeed about places to explore in Los Angeles.
"It’s not as simple as distribution for some other things might be, but the traffic and the visitors that we’re getting from Buzzfeed are sticking with the game for quite a bit of time,” Craigwell says. "Overall user acquisition is a slow burn… We look a lot at time on site, and we have people that are playing the game from anything from 10 to 19 minutes and we’re really happy with that.”