A novel approach to market intelligence: games and prizes, but not gamification

On a recent trip to Dublin, I met a cool startup, Upfront Analytics (UFA), which is creating a mobile game platform designed to deliver market intelligence. They’ve developed a really novel approach that reveals latent opinions of consumers and encourages honest answers to research questions. How? By creating a game platform which is free to play, but that gives real prizes to players. The games are designed in such a way to reward honest participation.

The company has launched a mobile (currently Android only) game platform “The Pryz Manor” which comprises several games and activity centers. The games are inspired by popular board or parlor games and similar in a way to popular mobile games like “words with friends” or “draw something”. Unlike those games, you don’t play with someone you know — when you select a game you are matched up against an anonymous competitor, which helps prevent people “gaming” the system. Most of each game is centered solely on fun for the players, but about 20% of each game is designed to gather market intelligence.

For example, one game — Name Dropper — requires players to guess words or phrases based on clues provided by another player, within a time limit. The player providing the clues uses words that are predefined, some of which carry the equivalent of time penalties. For example, if I was trying to get someone to guess the word Guinness, while I might think of it as “nectar of the Gods,” that phrase might not be available, and might not actually help someone else guess the word. So, I’d be more likely to choose words like “beer”, “black”, and “Irish” in the hopes that it would be more obvious to my team mate. You can bet that those words, if available, would eat in to the time that we’d have available.

The neat thing is that companies can use the game to see which attributes players select most often about their company, or about their competitors. To take a different example, if you gave the same attributes to different groups of players about Coke and Pepsi, or Target and Walmart, or British Airways and Emirates Airlines, the words players select to help the other person guess says much more than having people answer a survey question about “which of these attributes do you associated with brand x”. And, likewise, being able to track which words help people guess most quickly and most often (e.g. do people respond to Starbucks as “premium” or “expensive”) indicates perceived brand attributes that are far more real than survey answers.

Other games allow Upfront Analytics to help firms compare brands, products, and services; understand product combination affinities; estimate pricing tolerance; gauge market awareness; assess product sentiment; track and forecast trends; as well as ask traditional market research questions, while examining the data across a plethora of demographic or other segmented forms of data.

I’ve already started playing their games and I see immense potential. I’m hoping to partner with the UFA team to uncover consumer attitudes around topics relevant to consumer-oriented businesses — topics such as loyalty, preference, privacy, personal data, and brand trust. If you have ideas of what I should be digging in to, please email, tweet, or comment below. I’ll tag the findings with “UFA” for those of you that wish to follow along. Also, consider downloading it and playing yourself if you have an Android device.

Cheers,

Dave

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