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World of Warcraft’s WOM Techniques

ZhevraThis morning on Wired, I read about a new referral bonus for World of Warcraft players who successfully recruit new players. The genius of it? The referral bonus is specifically tailored to their target audience. If you bring in a new player you get, to quote the Blizzard support site, “an exclusive in-game zhevra mount“. WoW Wiki describes a zhevra as a unicorn-like , zebra-hybrid equine beast. How fun is it that they have to specify that this will be “in-game”? Heck, if I could win a zebra with a horn in real life I would quit my job to recruit Warcraft players.

Because I am a WoW virgin, I reached out to the esteemed Mike Nels to comment. Mike is my only friend who has been able to manage a long term relationship with Warcraft – others have tried and become so engrossed that they needed to go cold turkey. Mike manages a busy technical job, brilliant wife, 2 kids under 4, a single-digit golf handicap, and his WoW identity.

So, what does this brand evangelist think about this newest referral marketing execution?

Mike NelsBlizzard has done a great job with Warcraft because they continue to display mastery at converting real life friends into crack whores.

Step 1: Convince WoW players that playing the game with their real life friends/girlfriend/spouse is a great way to spend quality time with them. Throw in a stylish mount at the referring friend and you increase allure.

Step 2: Create 70 levels (soon to be 80) of eye-popping content and status so instead of playing with your friends, you are “coopeting” with them to see who can get to 70 fastest.

Step 3: Throw a myriad of powerfully sexy gear at those that reach 70 so that the race to 70 soon becomes a competition about who has the best gear.

Step 4: Guard your eyes from the pasty white boys that used to be friends, but now never see each other’s real faces or the light of day because they need to take down this one last ogre/dragon/demon/ghost to get the best piece of gear. Only give the gear to one of them and force them to repeat step 4 until every player has the gear. Oh, and did I mention that each player wears about 16 pieces of gear. So repeat this once for each friend and once for each type of gear.

Step 5: Introduce more levels, monsters, gear into the next expansion pack and toss out some referral bonus. Repeat process starting with Step 1.

I’m exhausted just reading it, but I do understand that this cycle, with its interdependencies and intricacies, is a sustainable way to grow a community and identify new potential members. Are there other examples of brands that market through “Coopetition“?

  1. tpon
    August 21st, 2008 at 06:26 | #1

    I can add as a captive and more than casual observer of this cult brand, I think that another big factor that rides on top of this cycle is the naysayers. Those who dog the brand only make the evangelists and enthusiasts even more adamant and loyal to this funny little alter-reality. Because, as you can imagine… “only my true friends in the computer really understand me…”

  2. September 19th, 2008 at 02:17 | #2

    Yeah I agree, the mount is about as dumb as this article. In which you failed to mention the REAL advantages of this recruit a friend offer. This offer is not going to bring more people, instead it’s making people buy another account for themselves to take advantage of it. It’s a great way to make profit, but making the community much larger it will not.

  1. September 22nd, 2008 at 23:02 | #1