Game Theory

26 06 2011

Everything I Know I Learned From Survivor.

If I were to write my memoir, that quite possibly could become the title. Except that it’s not exactly completely true. It just sounds good. To be honest, I have learned quite a bit from Survivor about playing the game we call a career. The interactions. The power plays. The networking and social pacts.

And as show host Jeff Probst loves to tell, the recommended readings for the game include anything and everything about Game Theory, as developed by John Nash.

Yep, it’s all a game. Which, I suppose, goes a long way toward explaining the development of SCVNGR, the location-based service (LBS) that has added the nuance of gaming to its checking-in feature. Furthermore, it also explains why companies like Coca Cola have partnered with SCVNGR for special promotions.

Of course, none of this would matter unless users could (hint, hint) tie their check-ins to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Remember, if it ain’t viral, it ain’t worth anything.

SCVNGR has rather silently been amassing users (both consumer and enterprise), along with seed money. It takes the best aspects of Gowalla, Foursquare and Facebok Places, and rolls it all up in a very social game that is (hence, the name) one big scavenger hunt. Add virtual badges, promos and free stuff, and you have a perfect marketing storm.

Naturally, there will be those for whom LBS apps are not their thing (or the broader social graph as well, like FB and TW). And then there are those who do not own a smartphone (required for playing). So many will cry foul over such discrimination. There’s no punch card to carry in a billfold…this is the 21C, and it’s all virtual. But it’s no different from those who opt-out of (or never used) a TV, radio, or newspaper, and by virtue of such missed out on announcements, coupons, etc.

What SCVNGR enterprise clients are doing is basically this: targeting a very hip, young, socially-connected crowd. And in this era, that’s not a bad demographic, Maybe not the biggest income earners, but if all you want is cheap message dissemination, this is the group on whom to bank.

And it is alliances such as these that will help companies win in their games of survivor. Affinities and endearments are the currency of the 21C, and companies who ignore (or don’t) understand this, do so at their own peril.

Maybe it’s time for them to watch a little Survivor and uncork a bottle of Nash. Or risk being voted off the island.

Dr “The Tribe Has Spoken” Gerlich


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