Love it or hate it, you have to admit that when it comes to marketing and promotion, there aren't many companies who play the game better than Zynga. The campaign for the new Las Vegas expansion to the hit Facebook game Mafia Wars is no exception: To power the drive to ten million visitors, Zynga is going to blow up a real, honest-to-goodness armored car in Las Vegas.
Giving stuff away is easy and Zynga is doing that, too, with ten iPads up for grabs every week until the big kaboom (or the end of August) along with a grand prize of $25,000 in cash. But it takes a special kind of recklessness to blow up a full-size, armor-plated vehicle just to get a little attention; luckily, that's the kind of bell that Zynga is only too happy to answer.
There's no question that Mafia Wars Las Vegas will hit ten million users; the "Vegas Visitor Counter" at mafiawarslv.com is already pushing 3.4 million. The promotion will almost certainly speed things up but as Joel Brodie of Gamezebo pointed out, that's not necessarily the best way for Zynga to blow its advertising budget.
"Zynga's issue is its brand and the negative connotation it has with the public. No matter how much money Zynga generates for Haiti, people (industry and gamers) still associate Zynga with the sleazy and spammy practices it took to get to number one," he wrote. "At some point this will become a big issue for Zynga's future expansion plans beyond Facebook."
"Instead of spending all your marketing dollars to blow up armored trucks in Vegas, grow up and launch a marketing branding campaign across TV and Internet," he continued. "Toyota spent a billion dollars this past year to brand themselves as a quality car company, all the while selling cars with faulty brakes. Zynga should spend a fraction of that to build up its brand and trust with the general public."
It's a very good point; Zynga is incredibly popular with the Facebook crowd but anger and suspicion still lingers outside of that boundary and Zynga has done nothing to address it. That could become a very serious concern if Zynga decides to move ahead with its planned Zynga Live online service.
On the other hand, they're blowing up an armored truck in Las Vegas! That goes a long way toward "all is forgiven" in my eyes.