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Marketers pull products into online perks

Marketers are incorporating Zynga’s Facebook games, including FarmVille, YoVille and Mafia Wars, into campaigns that link product purchases to in-game redemptions.

Last month, General Mills-owned CPG brand Green Giant placed codes on packs of its frozen vegetables that consumers could redeem for Farm Cash, the virtual currency in FarmVille. Microsoft, meanwhile, attracted more Facebook fans by offering Farm Cash in exchange for becoming a fan of its Bing search engine.

Convenience store chain 7-Eleven also began using a redemption code model last month. By purchasing products in 7-Eleven stores, consumers can gain limited-edition virtual goods in the Facebook games. For example, buying a pint of 7-Select ice cream yields a “Neapolitan cow” in FarmVille.

“If you go on Facebook at all, it’s hard to miss how big this has all become,” said Evan Brody, marketing manager at 7-Eleven. “We were starting to get into the business of selling the game cards, and seeing how the industry grew, we thought this was a good thing to try and pursue.”

7-Eleven has tried numerous social networking initiatives recently. These include its “Wake up with a hot Brazilian” advergame for 7-Eleven coffee, and the “Slurpee Nation” rewards program, which also has a code-redemption model. “People are asking, ‘How do you know what the ROI is on these social media programs?’ and, in this case, we can definitely track directly to sales on our registers,” Brody said. “We can compare redemption data to sales data. There’s a lot of great information that will come out of this.”

Games like FarmVille are changing the conversation about in-game marketing, according to integrated agency Razorfish’s 2010 Outlook Report.

“What we like about this movement is [brands are] more engaged with the actions the consumer takes and are getting involved with the currency of the game,” said Joe Mele, managing director of media and marketing at the agency.

“In the end, what you want is to have people who are big fans of the game become aware of the promotions,” said Augie Ray, senior analyst at Forrester Research.

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