Tic Tac Shake & Share App: Stop trying to imitate the old-school.

Two things have happened to influence this article. The other day, I happened to run across two ‘popular’ apps on the App Store, and decided to give them a go. After this seemingly irrelevant event, I read this article by @faris (follow him, he’s an interesting fellow) on how to ‘do’ digital marketing. Suddenly, something just clicked.

You’re probably not aware of Ferrero Australia’s suite of Tic Tac apps, so let me give you the run-down. In the beginning, there was Tic Tac (or Tic Tac Classic, as it’s now called).

(Cheers Apptizr!)

It essentially turns your iPhone/iPod Touch into a big box of Tic Tacs, which you can shake to your heart’s content, complete with dodgy Tic Tac physics, and that classic Tic Tac sound you get when you shake the box. You choose from one of many flavours, pop the virtual lid, pour out the Tic Tacs into your mouth/bin/dog, and tap the empty box to have it magically refilled. Repeat. Think iPint, but with Tic Tacs.

After some time, Ferrero Australia decided to build on their original app, in order to gain popularity. You might call it ‘going viral’, unless you’ve read the article I refer to at the beginning of this post (you really should). Essentially, it’s the same app, with what I would call a ‘football stickers’ game bolted on. Whatever you used to be into, whether it be Pokémon cards, or Magic the Gathering, you know the deal. Gotta catch ’em all. This time, instead of giving you access to a variety of flavours of Tic Tac, like the original, the app only gives you one specific flavour, which you have to pass on (or pour on) to friends, through the power of Bluetooth. You also have a number of empty receptacles, for other Tic Tac flavours, which you have to receive from friends, who hopefully carry the same app, and a different flavour to yours. Confusing, right? This is complemented by leaderboards of the ‘most popular’ flavours, and the most successful ‘sharers’. There’s just one thing I don’t get.

Trading cards, and any other real-world activities that involve trading anything are mainly popular for a couple of reasons. Firstly, what you collect are physical objects. You can hold them, physically swap them, make your friends eat them, whatever. They have a tangible value. Call me cynical, but I don’t think a digital equivalent (at least one this simplistic) is going to cut it. Secondly, people are big on bragging. Back in the day, a full football sticker album was a near-on juvenile equivalent to the Holy Grail. That’s not even to mention to massive props anyone would get for having a million ‘doubles’, or the value ‘shiny’ stickers, cards, or Gogos Crazy Bones bring to the table. That’s just not something you can get with an iTouch App, no matter how dodgy the physics are. Indeed, something tells me that Ferrero Australia assumed that potential customers around the globe would engage in the following discussion:

“Oh, hey dude!”
“Hello, dude!”
“I’ve just downloaded this BODACIOUS app!”
“Righteous! What does it let you do, brother?”
“It lets you pretend that your expensive iPhone is a 50p box of Tic Tacs, but that is fine, because I am modest!”
“But it doesn’t let you have all the flavours! We need to trade for that to happen!”
“I am eager to engage in such a minty-fresh exchange! Where do I sign up?”
“You just need to go to the App Store, find the app, download it, wait for it to install, open it, set it up, configure the Bluetooth settings, and BOOM!”
“Easy like pie!”
“Now all the women will love us!”

Well, the last few lines weren’t accurate, but you get the general idea. Who’s willing to go through all that hassle for such an ineffectual result? Does the value of swapping virtual Tic Tacs really justify the hassle of setting up the virtual exchange to make all of this possible? The disappointing scores on the app’s leaderboards suggest it doesn’t. Things need to be fun. Failing that, they need to be real, to afford all the real benefits I described earlier.

I know Tic Tacs are a silly, and somewhat boring example, but I feel this is a valuable lesson in digital advertising. You can’t take a successful offline trend and recreate it online. Instead of trying to mimic and reproduce the ‘gotta catch ’em all’ mentality, digital marketers and advertisers should be thinking of what they can do that’s unique, that you can’t do with any other medium. Why a trading game? Why not, ‘How fast can you shake this box of virtual Tic Tacs in a minute?’ Sure, you could have leaderboards, which measure number of shakes per minute. You could hook it up with Facebook Connect, so then you could trash-talk your friends, too. It could be a competition. Everybody loves competitions (especially competitions that don’t bar new entrants for lack of friends, ahem) and it’s certainly something you can’t reproduce offline. Well, unless you have very steady hands and a stopwatch. But, yeah, just a thought.

Well, at least we did end up talking about Tic Tacs.


2 Comments on “Tic Tac Shake & Share App: Stop trying to imitate the old-school.”

  1. quirksthemagpie says:

    Whatever Tic Tac marketing comes about in the next few years is set to be forgotten because of a quirk of fate: when a technical failure at ITV caused an advertisement to accidentally be aired while a football match was still in progress (it had gone into extra time, and the automated advertising software used by ITV did not account for that), Tic Tac was the product being advertised. The ad was broken into – as frantic ITV production staff cut back to the broadcast to show a goal. The only goal in two hours of ‘action’ of the type that makes Americans prefer other sports.

    • Aris says:

      I did not know this. It is a mite unlucky. I wonder how popular Tic Tacs were among football fans, anyhow, and how loss of market share can be traced back to irritating people; sports fans especially.

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