Written by Racepoint Global intern Jaclyn Kleban
A few days ago, I learned of a new app called “Tanked the Aquarium Game.” In the game, players pick their favorite fish to call their own, play games with, and care for. Users can interact with friends via Facebook, and get notifications when their fish is in need of “play time” or food.
At first, I had no idea that the game was based on the hit Animal Planet reality series “Tanked.” After a friend filled me in, I decided to explore the motive and purpose behind the game given that it had very little to do with the show’s actual plot. “Tanked” follows two men in Las Vegas who travel around taking on wild and crazy projects to create one of a kind fish tanks. While the app hints at the show here and there, the basic idea of the game is self-standing, having very little to do with competitive home aquarium building.
Some critics may see the strategy of the app as either pointless or some sort of subliminal mind game, but I find this mode of reaching the consumer to be extremely strategic and engaging. The purpose of “Tanked the Aquarium Game” is not only to give fans another way to enjoy the show beyond the television screen, but to also introduce the series and network to an entirely new audience. Animal Planet’s demographics usually include an older, animal loving audience, so exposing this show to the younger, mobile game playing population is a great way to gain exposure without bluntly shoving the show’s pitch in the consumers face. Sure, some people may play the game and not end up watching or even knowing about the show. But, the “Animal Planet” logo at the beginning and occasional reference to the show throughout the game’s instructions and storytelling is enough to give the consumer something to be curious about.
It is true however, that Animal Planet is nowhere near the first company to think of this. Apps have become a new mode of implicit advertising, which in general has made brands reach their consumer where they wouldn’t expect it. We saw it pop up in September when Chipotle created the brilliant Scarecrow animated short playing off their platform to serve only unprocessed, clean food. What accompanied this short film you may ask? A mobile game where you can be the scarecrow and save the city from evil monopolies serving processed and poisonous food.
So in short, companies using mobile games as a mode of advertisement is not necessarily the newest marketing strategy, but it is in fact a great way to keep consumers interested in the product. By giving their audience a fun and entertaining pastime, Animal Planet has both given their viewers a chance to keep the show with them off the air, and has exposed the show to a wider, more diverse audience.