Feeding the Addiction: Content Marketing Lessons from Candy Crush Saga

Tree Treacy
Tree Treacy Staff Writer, Content Equals Money

Posted on March 18th 2014

Feeding the Addiction: Content Marketing Lessons from Candy Crush Saga

It’s just a game… or is it? Mentioning Candy Crush Saga to any of my friends elicits a couple of different responses, but one of the main ones is, “I hate that game!” Hate as they may, Candy Crush players continually come back for more – especially now that the bizarrely notorious Flappy Bird has been pulled from the app market. Let’s explore just how content marketers can learn from one of the most addictive games the internet has ever seen.

Sweet: The Mechanics of Candy Crush

Gamification, or the use of game design techniques to solve non-game problems, has been used by marketers for years to strategize. Candy Crush Saga is the perfect example of a game that has a lot to teach the world of content marketing.

Candy Crush has adhered to one of the most rudimentary rules of content presentation: keep it simple. Almost everyone knows how to play the game Bejeweled, and Candy Crush has commandeered the classic game format while adding a few bells and whistles to spice things up.

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The incredibly simple content delivery is the first takeaway. Simple content is accessible to people from all walks of life. Candy Crush is also visually appealing and immensely satisfying, with fun, bright colors and ease of booster achievement within levels. Visually speaking, it’s content that people will want to come back to again and again.

Simply put, Candy Crush is addictive – and it was expertly designed to be that way. Time Magazine has even explored the science behind Candy Crush to figure out why people can’t stop playing. Check out this hilarious New York Times opinion piece for a look into the mind of a Candy Crush player:

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Delicious: Teaser Tactics to Bring In an Audience

One of the most ingenious mechanisms behind Candy Crush Saga is its ability to make players want more. Unlike most online games, you can’t get lost in Candy Crush for hours and hours at a time. If you run out of lives, that’s that for at least half an hour – unless you pay to get back into the game. Making people wait for content is one of the main reasons that players can’t seem to get enough of Candy Crush – they can’t have more lives, but they want them.

Similarly, when you are out of moves but only need that one last swipe to beat the level, the game will automatically ask if you want to keep playing. If you do, your only option is to pay up – usually about $1 to do so.

How can businesses follow this model? It’s all based around a need to keep going. That means making content as much of a daily presence as Candy Crush. In order to make people want to come back for more, it’s important to set up a routine – and to deliver. High quality content delivered through blogging and social media updates is always a smart way to get started.

Divine: Integration with Social Media

Candy Crush is all about social media sharing. After all, the game started out on Facebook. When you beat a level, the game asks if you want to share your progress with friends. It will also show where you rank on that particular level, where friends rank, and if you’ve beaten one of their scores.

Every twist and turn prompts sharing your Candy Crush experience with friends. Friends are also encouraged to help each other by giving extra moves and lives, and by helping players move into the next “chapter” of the game. It is possible to play the game without any help – but, again, it does mean paying a few dollars to move forward in the game.

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Candy Crush is social media royalty, and this is a level of interactivity that any brand should strive for. Facebook, Instagram, and Vine are excellent platforms for sharing visual content, and these social media sites can also be integrated with other web content. It’s all about encouraging interaction; not only should users be interacting with your brand, but they should also be using your brand to interact with each other.

Candy Crush has also simplified the way to pay. Because the game will connect directly with user PayPal accounts, the game’s system of micropayments is easy to access. So while you don’t have to pay – and, according to King, 60% of players on the last existing level haven’t paid – it’s incredibly easy to do so.

Spun Sugar Perfection: Winning Former Players Back

I’ll confess: I got stuck on level 125 last fall. As a result, I got bored and didn’t really feel like playing anymore. But then I learned about some of the new features of Candy Crush and was immediately sucked back in (oops). How did that happen? Well, the game released its new feature – the Booster Wheel – which users can spin once per day for bonuses that will help them beat levels they’re stuck on. Again, this new feature is perfectly integrated with the social media aspect of the game: after you spin and receive a free power up, the game asks if you know a friend who is stuck on a level, letting users spread the word.

The Booster Wheel was released in conjunction with the game’s new Dream World, another “world” in the game that provides its own unique levels and challenges. For me, that meant I could leave behind the level I was stuck on for a little while – or switch back and forth between worlds if I was stuck on two different levels at once.

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It’s no accident that the release of these two features last November came up just as many players began to feel bored or frustrated with the game. In fact, upping the ante to win back lost customers is one of the most overlooked marketing strategies around. Studies have shown that marketers have a 60-70% chance of making another sale with a current customer and a 5-20% chance of converting a prospect into a customer. Where does winning back a former customer fit in? Well, the chances are higher of winning back an ex-customer than converting a prospect: 20-40%.

When Candy Crush play began to wane and players complained that certain levels were too difficult, the game made adjustments to keep those players committed. By figuring out what consumers wanted, taking responsibility, and making minor changes to the game, Candy Crush offered a sweet deal for those who were on the fence about continuing play – or had left the game completely.

Finally, there is no way to “beat” the game, because Candy Crush is constantly adding new levels. So if you’ve reached the highest level, not to worry – there will always be more to come. The never-ending stream of high quality content on behalf of this game is the last takeaway. When it comes to showing your stuff, don’t forget to deliver consistently and well.

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Reaping the Sweet Rewards

As of the end of 2013, over half a billion people have installed Candy Crush Saga on their mobile devices. In fact, Candy Crush has been so successful with its seamless system of micropayments that the game was able to eliminate ads entirely last summer, meaning that its only revenue is brought in through the game itself.

My mandatory 25-minute wait time is done. I’ll be going back to my game now.

What tactics might your business pick up from Candy Crush Saga?

Tree Treacy

Tree Treacy

Staff Writer, Content Equals Money

Tree is a somewhat nomadic graduate student pursuing an MFA in Poetry and Literary Translation from Drew University and currently very seriously settled in Atlanta, GA. A self-identified “diplobrat,” she spent over 16 years living as an expat in countries like Guatemala, Bolivia, and Tanzania. Tree graduated from Smith College in 2012 with a degree in Spanish Language and Literature, a minor in Studio Art, and a concentration in Landscape Studies. In between writing poetry for school and content for CEM, she dabbles in goat herding and freelancing. Other interests include reading, watercolor painting, gardening, and traveling.

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