Toyota's brand integration on Electronic Arts' free Facebook game, "Monopoly Millionaires," might seem an odd idea at first blush. After all, most automotive brand integrations in digital games feature sports cars, factory-modified performance cars, and vehicles that players can personalize, or any vehicle an automaker aims at people who just wanna have some fun.
But Toyota's decision to put Prius in "Monopoly Millionaire" -- the car is both a mover game piece and part of an "Eco-Greenhouse" game property -- is right on target, according to Kim Kyaw, senior media strategist at Torrance, Calif.-based Toyota Motor Sales, USA.
"We have found that eco-conscious consumers -- we call them Eco-Modernists -- are more likely to play console games than other people," she says. "Gaming allows interactivity with the brand. The hope is that as people play, they learn more about Prius."
The year-long deal ties into the expansion of the Prius brand to three vehicles this year, a point Toyota made with a social-media campaign earlier this year to get people to come up with a plural for the term "Prius."
Kyaw says Toyota will extend the "Monopoly" placement with grassroots efforts around events like the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) in June, where Toyota will have a "Monopoly"-themed presence along with the Prius family of vehicles. She says Toyota is advertising around the game itself on tablets and mobile devices.
Toyota has a broader relationship with the game maker. "We are also involved in EA's 'The Sims 3' and we are looking at other opportunities that may be available around EA and (EA division) Playfish). I think this is a real outlet for creativity, for sharing. And our research suggests that Prius owners and intenders find a creative outlet in playing games."
Toyota also had Prius in the popular "Car Town" social-media game earlier this year, which has in the neighborhood of eight million users. "Monopoly" owner Hasbro created a physical Prius game piece for its board game, but Kyaw says the real payoff is online. "Social is growing so fast, and the Prius target is so highly engaged. The key is focusing on in-game experiences in a relevant and authentic way. It's about surrounding the brand with relevant content."
EA says that the game -- which was released in February and now has 6.2 million users -- was the fastest-growing Facebook game for two weeks in March, with a 472% increase in players.