Google’s Answer to Game of Thrones

The leaves have fallen from the trees and winter is on the way and here I sit at my computer with chills running down my spine.  Not from the cold but from the possibilities that one of Google’s latest announcements could have on the field of marketing and public relations.

Endgame: The Calling is a series of sci-fi novels being written by author James Frey and a project that he has challenged Google’s off-shoot company, Niantic Labs to help turn into a marketing juggernaut.  Their goal is to turn this story about 12 teenagers that compete from around the globe in a high-stakes competition; into the starting point for something amazing.  John Hanke, the head of Niantic Labs, goes on to explain:

Frey’s vision was to do this as a book and game and a movie all together, and to use social media as a way to extend the universe and make it a place where people could really live within the game universe.  He had this whole thing conceived of as a never-before-done experience across all these media.

4-PortalKey-225x400Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 6.22.49 PMTo understand how they could accomplish this we have to look back a few years to Niantic Labs last project, Ingress.  Ingress was created as a real world battle between factions to control portals in cities across the globe.  People chose their faction, met their new community and worked together to go out into the real world to participate in a giant global game unlike any other before it.

So imagine this global game structure used for other marketing campaigns.  Suddenly, CNN could have a real-life political map where voters showed their political pride in real-time during election campaigns; or if this were indeed Game of Thrones, each viewer could participate and claim global territory in the name of the Starks, the Lannisters or even in the name of Hodor himself.

Now we up the ante and take that to the next level.  This is where Endgame comes in, incorporating a physical product (the series of novels or their Lost-inspired website) into the mix.  Suddenly, your participation in the real world event takes on a whole new meaning.  You could influence the future of the stories themselves.  A few flash mobs of support and through community participation an army rises up to support someone the author never intended to be popular and change the lore of the brands universe and story.

Popularity wins and now Hodor takes his place on the Iron Throne in a live performance streamed across the game in real-time; only to have another faction assemble en-masse to try to ruin the event with a  spur of the moment community planned and funded Red Wedding event.  Reality and fiction finally blend together with paid and organic promotional marketing.

And behind the scenes the marketing team watches it all in real time.  They can visually see the communities within their brand, how those communities have formed over time and where they’ll be in the near future.  They can tailor the brands message, create new products that cater to the popular communities and their victories while adjusting future campaigns and plans in real-time.

This is what Endgame and Google hope to accomplish; with movies, novellas and the trilogy of books all working together to give its players competitions for cash prizes of real gold.  A game that could connect billions of potential players with their high-tech devices, allowing them to shape the global game.

So can you see the possibilities that it can be used for in the field of marketing?  I can.  Who needs to wait for Khaleesi’s dragons when you have the strength of Hodor’s community that can band together and take the Iron Throne before she crosses the ocean.  Let your voice be heard and comment below on how you’d use this technology!





Misinterpretation and Human Nature

As the old adage supposedly goes, “Music soothes the savage beast”.   Everyone knows it because everyone misquotes it.  And NO, for the fifty-seventh time, it wasn’t written by William Shakespeare.  Even Bugs Bunny, that wascally wabbit himself, misquoted the actual misquote when he looked at our childhood selves through the magic of television and proclaimed that “Music calms the savage beast”.

Originally penned by William Congreve in 1697 for his play “The Mourning Bride” the real quote goes “Music has charms to soothe the savage breast”.  So why is it that throughout time not only have we misquoted the original saying but even misattributed the person who wrote or was saying it?  Is it human laziness that leaves us unwilling to try and discover the truth behind what we hear and see as being correct?  Was it censorship of a North American culture that couldn’t handle the word breast in a quotable saying?  Or is it our trust that the quote was always written that way and we just accept it as the truth?

In my opinion I feel that part of it is our own desire to own the words that we say.  We adapt something to suit our current emotional or physical needs at any given moment, be it to impress someone we are attracted to, to intimidate someone or to make us sound like we’re smarter than we really are.   An example of this is the game “Telephone” (or “Chinese Whispers” as it once was known) that begins with one person whispering a message to the person standing next to them.  As the game progresses the message is whispered from person to person around the circle until it gets back to the original whisperer.   There is no winner to the game except to see how distorted the message is by the time it circles the entire group.  We want to own the words we speak and make them ours; so we try to embellish what we say or censor a word we are too prudish to repeat.  Sometimes we just aren’t paying attention to the words that are being spoken and instead are paying attention to another part of the whisperer’s anatomy.  Like the curvy bits.  We all like the curvy bits.  This brings us into the next reason we tend to misinterpret the things we hear or read: distortion and distraction.

Imagine this.  We are standing in a crowded room.  All around us music is playing and the background noise is roaring all around us.  That’s when somewhere nearby we hear a snippet of a conversation that we suddenly find interesting.  It strikes a chord with us.  Maybe it had something to do with those curvy bits we’ve been hearing about.  Only we didn’t catch the entire phrase because something had distracted us.  Either we were half-drunk, busy dancing or even ignoring that person until after an hour of them droning on they finally said that one lone thing that caught our attention.  So what happens next?  Easy, our minds fill in the blanks to the best of our ability.  We’ve all seen those Facebook posts sent to us from the best friend of your sister’s roommate’s cousin that show us how we miraculously put together sentences with missing words in our heads.  You know this because you scored a 9 out of 10 on it last week and are secretly proud of that achievement.  Congratulations “Music has charms to soothe the savage breast” has just become “Music soothes the savage beast!” and we’ve come full circle.

To put that into a context we can easily identify with we’ll look at how the lyrics to our favourite songs tend to be the first casualties of misquotation, especially when we’re not paying attention.  Listen to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s song Bad Moon Rising.  Hear it playing in the background and practice some impromptu juggling while it plays.  Odds are that by the time you’ve finally gotten to the chorus you’ve had to restart your juggling attempt at least twice and somehow managed to knock over your nearby coffee mug.  So while you are mopping liquid off the floor chances are that in the background the chorus will start to sing to you that “There’s a bathroom on the right!” and you will believe them.  That is a prime example of our minds trying to fill in the blanks in what we think we hear when the message gets distorted.

This example applies to everything we see or hear in life and is the main reason that we should take the extra time to make sure that our messages are clear and concise.  Not just in music or literature but in everything you say.  Fights have been started in crowded bars for less and we all know that the most general miscommunication in the office occurs when you use the wrong enunciation or emotional emphasis on a word or sentence.  That “breast” might become “beast” and then chances are you’re going to get hit for it (or charged).  Although to be honest, chances are you were going to get hit, sued or charged anyway for saying it.  It is after all, human nature and could be the difference between solicitation and bestiality.  So just practice what you preach and if you are worried that what you say might be misinterpreted you can always  grab some friends and Telephone it around the circle for safety.

They’re – There – Their

Those three words misused on social media drives me around the virtual bend.   Not just casual crazy but almost to the point I want to give someone a Blackberry beat down or an iPhone interrogation to educate them on the finer points of grammar in texts or emails.

Now I’m not saying that they weren’t taught the finer points of it in school, just that chances are they were too busy lolcoptering around the internet on their phones to even care that day or week.

You might say that it’s a moot point.  That this sort of error can’t really hurt anyone.


So let’s put this into perspective with a real world example showing what happens when bad grammar leads to miscommunication in modern social media.  The Tragic Tale of Johnny Q. Public.

What happens when little Johnny, or J0#n69 as he calls himself online (I apologize if there’s a real J0#n69 out there) has his friends pizza money stolen by a group of bullies.  Ego bruised, clothes dirty he chokes back his tears and decides to round up some friends to go kick their butts to get the money back.  He turns to social media and does a mass text to his friends telling him of his plight.  He types in his message and hits send knowing help is on the way.

What he doesn’t realize is that his not paying attention in class just cost him dearly.  That instead of texting to his friends that “they’re going to have to go there to fight that gang for their stuff” he instead has typed in “Their going to have to go their to get their stuff” only to realize his friends think he’s got it handled.  J0hn69 has just shown up alone at the destination and now has to fight the bullies by himself.

Maybe six weeks of intensive care will teach Johnny to pay attention next time in English Class.  Hopefully his painful example shows you the importance in taking more care in choosing the correct word (they’re, their, there) when you input your various texts – after all it could save your life some day.