Farmville Killed the Soap Star

Something very interesting happened in last two years and a mainstay of American culture began fading into the background.

Soap operas are disappearing off the airwaves. Most nine-to-fivers never built a true appreciation for the content of these shows. Nevertheless soaps engaged a very large and vocal audience. But these shows aren’t losing out to lack of content or creativity, but actual ratings. The main culprit?

Farmville.

A new market has emerged for the gaming industry built around the “casual gamer” segment. That’s an audience who’s tolerance for gaming is slightly above Tetris or an online slot machine.

While Facebook has been innovative in it’s own right, Farmvillle is building on a concept that’s been around for ages. Farmville may not represent the apex of game design, or even the best user experience, but it has capitalized on and scaled with Facebook by providing incentive to players to recruit their friends. In fact, Facebook changed the rules in response to Farmville and other “user hoarding” applications.

The real story here isn’t about the fact that soaps are losing out to games like Farmville. It’s that social gaming has, quietly and without asking permission, taken over an entire demographic.

There’s an upside to Farmville’s presence in the market. Smart brands have realized that building gaming elements into their digital marketing efforts means more frequent and longer engagement. It also means more loyalty and a higher likelihood that a brand will come up in casual conversation.

I’m not suggesting you kill your TV budget and create a social gaming experience. Gamification is just another lens to apply as a modern day marketer. Catching up to and getting ahead of the digital curve helps ensure your brand won’t share the same fate as once beloved American soaps.