Bic Makes a Game of Marketing

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Pen manufacturer Bic Consumer Products is rolling out its major back-to-school initiative -- the Bic Extreme Sports CD-ROM give away.


The goal of the promotion is to appeal to the 12- to 18-year-old market by tapping into the popularity of extreme sports and video games.


The CD-ROM game is available to consumers who mail in a proof-of-purchase from two Bic pen 10-packs, which are available in 90 percent of retail stores in the United States, plus $2.99 for shipping and handling. The specially marked packs hit stores this week. They will be available for nine months.


The Bic Extreme Sports game involves three parts -- Jet Skiing, rock climbing and skateboarding -- and incorporates Bic products. Its Velocity pen, for example, plays a major role in the Velocity Jet Ski game. Its Wite-Out correction tape helps climbers in the Gripmatic Mountain Mission.


"Bic is such a household name, I don't know if people know the variety of Bic products we have. We've been able to show some of our new products in the game," said Ilyne Rothschild, product manager at Bic USA Inc., Milford, CT. "Hopefully it will subliminally let consumers know what some of our new products are. It might want to make them buy products over our competitors."


Bic has tried typical premium items such as hats and T-shirts, but "this is more in tune with the times with extreme sports being very hot right now," Rothschild said.


In many ways, the promotion is an interactive ad, said Jim Wexler, vice president of marketing at BrandGames, a youth marketing company in New York that created the games.


"Bic has the older audience because of all of the TV advertising they did in the '60s and '70s," he said. "The hope is that these games are relevant for young people, considering that video games are the No. 1 use of the PC for teens. Bic's trying to capitalize on that popularity. We try to make the games as cool as the ones kids are buying in the stores to get some mind share and make Bic cool."


The product is being shipped now to build up word of mouth about the game, according to Rothschild. The hope is that the game's popularity will peak at the beginning of the school year.


To drive traffic to its site, bicworldusa.com, the CD-ROM includes embedded links. Players who click on the links are brought to the site via a Bic-branded browser that lets them return to where they left off in the game.


While consumers cannot make purchases at the site, they can learn more about the company's new products. It is for this reason that secret hints for the games have been sprinkled throughout the site. Players must navigate the site to discover these tricks. A new hint will be released each month for the duration of the program.


"In the Jet Ski game, if they're able to complete the course once, they'll be able to go to the site to get the 'power-up' feature," Rothschild said. "We just want them to get familiar with Bic and the different products we offer and hopefully look at Bic as a cool, hip company."


The final goal of the promotion was to animate for the first time the "Bic boy" character, a fixture on Bic products for decades.


"Because of the popularity of animated characters and brand characters in general with the young consumer, we went with him as the host of the game," Wexler said. "He introduces the game and gets kids jazzed about it."


Rothschild added, "We're looking to basically build some brand equity with our Bic boy character."


BrandGames has designed video games for General Mills, Pepsi-Cola, Taco Bell and Reebok.

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