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Murder Mystery Game Fuels Double-Digit Sales Increase

Pall Corp. managed to produce a double-digit increase in both site traffic and sales of two of its products with an interactive online murder mystery game called Arresting Evidence.

The East Hills, NY, company, which makes medical and industrial filtration devices, used the game in a campaign targeting molecular biologists, geneticists at drug development agencies and universities as well as law enforcement organizations such as the New York Police Department.

The effort got under way in March 2000 with a direct mail drop of nearly 10,000 pieces. The mail piece directed recipients to a Web site where they could access the game. The site was designed specifically for the campaign.

The products touted in the campaign were a centrifuge-type device called Nanosep and a membrane for DNA detection called Biodyne. The products cost an average of $50 and $200, respectively.

The game, which is still available at the site, continues to generate sales for the two products.

According to Roxanne Hook, director of strategic commerce at Pall, the double-digit increase in site traffic and sales continued for four to six months after the direct mail pieces went out. At the time of the campaign, Pall had only limited e-commerce capabilities, so most purchases were made through third-party distribution channels.

The purpose of the game is to discover who is guilty of stabbing someone to death at a local laboratory. Players must visit the crime scene, look for clues and get as much DNA evidence as possible. Once they collect the evidence, it is taken to a Pall lab that they are informed is using one of the products — Nanosep or Biodyne — to determine the DNA information of the fingerprints, hair or blood left behind. Based on those assessments, the user must choose a culprit from a list of suspects. A link to Pall.com is always present.

HSR B2B Internet Services, Cincinnati, is the integrated marketing agency that designed the game for Pall. Production for one of the agency's online games costs $15,000 to $50,000, depending on the game's complexity, said Mike Hensley, president of HSR B2B. Arresting Evidence was at the lower end of that scale.

This was not the first time Pall used an interactive game on its site or in an e-mail campaign, but it marks the first time the products it was pitching were used as tools to help solve the mystery.

The use of entertainment when targeting this particular audience shows that Pall understands not only its customers' industry and technological needs, but their personal needs as well, Hook said

“By satirizing something, we are showing them that we have a good knowledge of the applications and the technology they need,” she said. “Most times people working in laboratories are there for long hours with little release, and providing them with an outlet for a while shows we understand them and what they need aside from tools.”

Hook believes that if any company targeting its audience can show that level of understanding, it can develop a “cult-type” following and increase customer loyalty.

As for the campaign's cost, Hook would say only that it was less than $100,000 and that the return on investment was “very positive.”

Hook said the goals for the campaign were to create awareness for the products, increase sales and drive traffic to the site. While the campaign accomplished all of those things, the one change the company plans to make for future product launches is to find a way to acquire demographic information from the users, she said. With Arresting Evidence, it did not require users to provide any personal information.

“It starts to get heavy and take the fun out of it if we start asking for their information,” Hook said. “There is a happy medium in there, and we plan on finding it for our next campaign. While we want to provide our targets with entertainment and the ability to take part in something that is beneficial to them, we have to find a way to get additional value out of it for ourselves.”

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