You Attract More Barflies With Fun Than With Savings

Go into many Hooters, Friday’s, Buffalo Wild Wings or thousands of bars around the country and you will see yet another class of digital video screen that actually has been a fixture in watering holes and family restaurants for decades: the gaming tabletop. More than 4,000 venues running more than 15,000 of these screens are operated by the in-venue gaming and marketing platform Buzztime, More than 52 million trivia, card and sports games are played on these tabletops each year, adding up to a lot of deeply engaged users over the course of a year. These engagements can be powerful marketing tools for the local establishments as well as the usual collection of brands. Buzztime is now leveraging both social and mobile media to expand the audience and the reach of these marketing efforts outside of the bar itself.

The key attraction a gaming platform offers its users is, well, more fun. “Using registrationm we can focus behavioral marketing efforts around game play,” says Barry Chandler, CMO. Chandler was recently named to the post after Buzztime acquired his social media agency Chandler Interactive, which runs sites like and “Game play will trigger various responses from the venues, like a reward. To the bar or restaurant, they can close the loop on marketing efforts, but they can also see when the system is bringing people back in and analyze return on investment.”



Buzztime has about 3 million registered users now, but mobile and social channels are going to be invaluable in extending that reach. The mobile app for Buzztime games lets players bring the game with them outside of the venue but also use their smartphone as a controller in the venue. The app can be used to play trivia contests, with multiple people in a location joining in. But the app then becomes the registration and tracking mechanism. “We engage through mobile but follow up through email and social, “he says.

“We have seen extraordinary success from content driven by context and entertainment,” says Buzztime Chief Content Officer Vlad Edelman. “We prioritize entertainment and content. What does the customer get, is the most important question. They get fun. They get games, not just throw-aways,” he says. In fact, he says that fun beat savings. “When we send out an offer like 10% off next week, the response is about at industry average. But when we send a message that we will give them something for playing a game or getting a specific high score, we do exponentially better. We see people getting blind to simple offers and predatory couponing.” If the offer is being triggered by a specific behavior, then a dialogue is created that breaks through the couponing noise, he says. “You know me and you noticed I played this game, and that elevates it,” he says.

This is an interesting insight about the nature of messaging and discounting overload. Savings offers may become invisible and in the end not as attractive as marketers expect. Of course we also know what the overuse of discounts can do to margins. 

This was a point reiterated this week at Mediapost’s own Mobile Insider Summit. Our panel on mobile messaging discussed the question of what really constitutes the "value" marketers say they provide customers. At the Summit, Emmis Communications Digital VP Angie May-Cook said that one of the things she is doing this year is using mobile platforms to help determine what value means to her customers. Discounts and offers are not always what users value most in a given moment. Instead, value could be providing information in the right format. Or, as Buzztime discovered, value could come in the form of recognizing someone’s otherwise meaningless high score in a trivia game.  

1 comment about "You Attract More Barflies With Fun Than With Savings".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, February 18, 2013 at 4:55 a.m.

    I assume this only happens in restaurants in the USA. But where I have seen this is on aircraft, as seat-back games can be played on all but the cheapest airlines. But I've never once seen anyone advertising them as a reason to fly, which suggests they have no significant value to punters. I think the value is more to the restaurants/airlines, to help keep customers quiet during long waits for service.

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