Brands Should Play

As the economy was tanking and the world seemed to fold in on itself, the video game industry continued to grow. Is there a lesson here?

A few weeks ago, I was in a French cafe in Toronto called Crepes a Go Go (a playful name, n’est-ce pas?) with my colleagues Julie Geller and Mark Petch, and they played for me a video of a mock TV show from Israel starring Angry Birds and Evil Pigs, one of the most popular iPhone downloads. I laughed hysterically and thought about how I could share this video with my friends and family – a true recipe for a viral video, there isn’t a soul that wouldn’t find this funny!

Out of that experience came some pretty odd thoughts. I mean me, a grownup, playing an iPhone game and losing my head laughing. It was awesome. And in some odd way, it made me want to buy an iPhone, even though I hate using touch screens. I thought about the premise of “play” leading organically to commerce. It makes sense, human beings are born to play. Play is the way almost all social species learn. Progressive schools encourage multiple forms of play in children – we are actually socialized to play!

So with all the pleasure associated with play, and with the powerful and universal human tendency to play – why is it that brands and marketing are for the most part so serious? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if brands encouraged and modeled play? If they offered us playgrounds and amusement parks (both virtual and literal) for many different forms of play? I would love to redesign my local Starbucks to be more about relaxing forms of play. I want Indigo bookstores to be more playful and creative spaces. I’d love for Amazon to be more dynamic and fun. The list goes on and on.

I sincerely hope that marketers everywhere are playing Angry Birds – perhaps it will influence their next marketing campaign.