SCVNGR is a “mobile gaming platform” available as an application on the iPhone, devices using Google’s Android operating system, and any phone with text-messaging capability. It is similar to other “geo-social” apps such as Gowalla, Loopt, and Foursquare, said Harvey Morris, CCTB’s director of digital marketing and social media.
But unlike those apps, which emphasize “checking in” from your current location, SCVNGR allows organizers to create interactive challenges for attendees to complete. “We did a lot of product comparison,” Morris said, “and [SCVNGR’s] ability to customize the challenges and connect those across themed ‘treks’ seemed to make more sense to us for the event space.”
IMTS 2010 had 12 challenges, spread evenly among McCormick Place’s North, South, West, and Lakeside Center buildings. They were developed by AMT Special Projects Manager Lee Anne Orange and Marketing Communications Manager Monica Haley, with input from CCTB and SCVNGR. “Monica and I did a list [of potential challenges],” Orange said, “because we wanted to lead [attendees] around to all four buildings.”
Two of IMTS 2010’s challenges were especially popular: Up, Up & Away, which required participants to take a photo of the iconic IMTS hot-air balloon and share it on Facebook; and Check Mate, which had them make their way to the yellow pod in the Emerging Technology Center to find an image of a miniature chessboard and identify what was sitting on it.
Each challenge was assigned a point value, and attendees who achieved a certain number of points could receive a discount at the on-site IMTS store, which sold show-branded clothing, water bottles, and other products. A “silver badge” – 20 points – got attendees a 20-percent discount, while a “gold badge” – 40 points – got them 40 percent off.
Of the 82,411 attendees at IMTS 2010, just 27 took part in the SCVNGR program. But they completed an average of eight challenges each. “It seems like a tiny amount,” Orange said, “but we didn’t do any marketing [about the program] whatsoever.”
Haley added: “To say that we have a social-networking program without that geo-social element … would be irresponsible of us.” And at this point, it’s all about growing usage at future shows. In 2008, for example, 20 to 30 IMTS attendees posted comments on Twitter – whereas this year’s show had 300 tweeters.
“We want to grow whatever geotracker game we use 10 times by 2012,” said Haley, who noted that IMTS 2010 was the “youngest-looking show” she’d seen in a long time. “There is a lot of transition in the industry,” she said, “and the vast majority of people between 25 and 35 are going to have smartphones.”