The PlaySpent.org online game raises awareness of people who are a paycheck away from being homeless — you have to survive for a month with $1,000 in the bank, while making 30 difficult decisions. The pro bono marketing campaign has gotten 900K views from over 500K people in 200+ countries, while also garnering media coverage for the client on CNN and other venues. And it’s led to similar work for McKinney with other clients.
At this month’s Triangle Interactive Marketing Association (TIMA) event in Durham, NC, copywriter Jenny Nicholson (@missjenny) and interactive producer Carmen Bocanegra (@carmenboca) gave a great presentation about the project.
Jenny and Carmen shared 11 tips on making your own non-profit marketing campaign a success:
- Make it personal. Playing Spent requires people to make difficult decisions, ones that almost anyone can identify with (for instance, your child wants to play sports… do you pay for the uniform or say no?). And McKinney intentionally didn’t set up a “PlaySpent” Twitter account — sharing had to be personal, rather than corporate.
- Make sharing matter. For instance, if you get stuck in the game and don’t have money, you can ask a friend for help. This posts your in-game request to your Facebook account (e.g., “My washing machine broke… can someone let me use theirs?”), which takes the experience beyond the game website.
- Be brave. Don’t use the committee approach. This leads to soul-less work.
- There are no borders. McKinney started by focusing on local needs, but the website makes it a global thing. And the issue — surviving on limited resources — has global appeal. The game has been played by people in 213 countries, and Urban Ministries of Durham has gotten donations from across the country.
- Know who’s talking. Listen to the conversation about your campaign, and respond appropriately. For instance, an NPR personality tweeted the game. McKinney followed up about getting additional publicity. Also, they found people tended to use Facebook more than Twitter. This can vary, depending on your audience.
- Embrace feedback. McKinney and UMD set up an email address for viewer feedback. Two weeks after launching the game, they made several changes, which improved the game.
- Be ready to respond. McKinney made the game easy to update. This made it easy to update the game as they received feedback along the way. Loyal brands respond to people. Also, McKinney had a PR plan from the start, which did evolve over time.
- Set expectations. The original goal was to raise awareness of UMD’s mission, including the large hidden swath of people who are a paycheck away from homeless. That is, raising money was a secondary goal. Stop adding more metrics.
- Ask for what you want. Originally, the end of the game had three buttons (Donate, Get Involved, and Play Again), all the same size. But they realized that people who play the game are ready to act — they spend an average of 10 minutes on the site. They revised the buttons to highlight a “Donate $5” option, and spelled out that $5 bought two meals. Making it obvious and making it concrete led donations to skyrocket. McKinney mentioned they wish they’d done this from the beginning.
- Visit PlaySpent.org. McKinney spent 1,000+ hours on building the game, all on a pro bono basis. UMD gave them nearly full creative control. I’ve played the game several times — it’s engaging and thought-provoking.
- BONUS: If an agency is doing pro bono work for you, trust them. This gets the best results. As long as the agency knows your business goals (e.g., raise awareness of UMD’s mission, while preserving the dignity of those who are homeless), let them run with it. Jenny mentioned having full freedom meant people were willing to work all night on the project. That doesn’t happen when things are highly restricted.
What’s your top non-profit marketing lesson from McKinney and PlaySpent.org?