About the Applicant
McKinney is a creative agency based in Durham, North Carolina.
Big Boss Brewing Beercade
Great ideas can come from outside of briefs. Big Boss Brewing did not originally ask us for or brief us on a way to make beer trial more exciting. The beercade was something we came up with and proactively pitched to them on our own terms. In fact, the insight came initially after a meeting with a different client who had a very different business challenge. Two agency designers went on a creative tangent dreaming up ideas involving games, beer and social gatherings. After a period of creative exploration, they developed an idea solid enough to pitch to Big Boss. The design restraints lie within the context. An overload of sampling options at crowded beer festivals meant that Big Boss Brewing had to do something different — not just pour beer and hand out free T-shirts like everyone else. We realized that our beercade idea had to
A) work for a variety of people across ages 21 – 50,
B) have short, intense moments of gameplay so many players would have a chance to participate,
C) relevantly involve the product, and
D) be easy to transport, set up and maintain during long periods of use (4+ hours).
These discoveries (and several others) helped guide the direction of the product design, game design, event management and campaign drivers. The past inspires the future. We noticed that today's gaming, as advanced and immersive as it is, has become very complicated. Most games today require expensive devices, social logins and long tutorials. Remember “Super Mario Bros.”? It never required a tutorial, and most people knew how it worked after just seconds of gameplay. If we wanted our game interactions to be intuitive, they had to respect familiar design patterns that people understood easily. Social media doesn't have to be just online. This is what we called low-fi social, where we bring people physically together and force them to meet, interact and have a conversation in a new way. We didn't have paid media support behind the campaign, so we had to create something worth talking about in order to build buzz for Big Boss Brewing outside of festivals. The product is integral to its advertising. Each Big Boss beer labels shows a different character (think one part World War II bomber names, two parts pinup art and a handful of kustom culture), and these characters are integral to the products and their branding. Those characters and names inspired the exact characters in “The Last Barfighter” video game. The game essentially brings the product and its branding to life. This enforced the brand-to-product connection while players played the game. If we hadn't done this, the experience would not have been so cohesive and simple.
Our challenge was to help a small regional brewer—Big Boss Brewing—stand out and win over new customers. Our strategy was to turn first-time beer trial at bars, brewery events and festivals into an unforgettable experience. We knew that our target users thrived in the ‘90s arcade experience, and we wanted to revive it—both the gaming and the social aspects—in an innovative way. Our designers had years of real-world experience with video games and had either been a part of the ‘90s arcade scene or were very familiar with it. A large part of the initial conception involved researching and understanding what drove the design of the arcade cabinet, controls, game and overall experience. For example, users of the beercade place empty beer cups into the machine where coins are normally inserted to activate gameplay. The contrasting player color indicators are stereotypically red and blue, and their respective controls look and feel like a joystick and push buttons used on retro fighting games. Even the typographical setting and illustration style are inspired by the arcade era. We knew that if we designed an arcade game in 2012 using ‘90s design considerations, we could ensure our target users would intuitively know how to use the beercade the first time they walked up to it.
The beercade is the campaign. In the beginning, an initial PR campaign and promotional video distributed via social media were picked up by Huffington Post, Engadget, Beerpulse.com, NBC News, BuzzFeed and other national media sources. This built mass quantities of awareness and excitement around Big Boss and this unique experience. The beercade began as a spectacle and lo-fi social initiative, and it has now evolved into a platform for continuous engagement. Big Boss takes the beercade to conventions, beer festivals and brewery events where people can engage with the brand, play the game and sample Big Boss beer. The brewery posts the beercade’s location on their website, shares it through their social media channels, and emails updates to subscribers of BigBossBrewing.com.
It creates a one-of-a-kind gaming experience that richens the generic bar or festival occurrence and leaves a lasting, branded impression with the players and spectators. It’s fun (as games should be) and brings a sense of wonder, excitement and delight to its users. It gives people at typical beer-drinking events unique reasons to start a conversation and interact with one another. Players are poured a Big Boss beer that they may not have considered sampling any other way.
Since the beercade’s unveiling at Big Boss’s Oktoberfest event, the local brewer has experienced a 200% increase in distributor requests. The beercade and the game played on it, The Last Barfighter, have generated over 100 million PR impressions equaling more than $1.1 million in earned media, with $0 paid media spent. After the release of a promotional video for the game on YouTube, the site traffic to bigbossbrewing.com increased 400% and daily page views increased 254%. NBC News called it “a flash of genius,” while geekologie.com said simply, “Damn yeah!”