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Brands partner with Girl Zone app to promote wellness to Gen Z

Brands such as UGG Australia, H&M and cameo are embracing mobile application Girl Zone Challenge to support its promotion of wellness to Gen Z through gamification of topics such as fitness, nutrition and mental health.

A new freemium app for iOS and Android, Girl Zone Challenge allows users to complete a series of fun challenges in association with a rewards program that doles out tangible prizes such as electronics, fitness games, clothing, books, music and more. While brand participation is currently limited to providing prizes, the next iteration of the app will open new marketing opportunities such as sponsorship.

?This is a unique and creative way for brands to engage with a hard to reach audience - teen girls. These are not simply ads on a mobile device or in an app,? said MJ Reale, president and founder of Girl Zone.

?Branding an app challenge provides a unique opportunity for marketers to engage players by embedding messaging into the game in a fun way. Brands can demonstrate innovation and participate in the new mobile marketing frontier with limited risk, cost and high return.

?We have a variety of challenge types that we can customize for each sponsor. None will be alike and all will be fun and teen girls will want to engage because the challenges are fun and they win prizes,? she said.

Educate, entertain, empower
When a challenge is complete, players are automatically entered into a sweepstakes drawing.

Integrating marketing activity into game mechanics to drive engagement and participation cultivates desired behaviors through incentives and rewards. When games are based on the right incentives, breakthrough engagement can be achieved, and is becoming a popularized trend that alters how brands interact with consumers.

Girl Zone encourages healthy mental and physical habits without focusing on extreme diets or unrealistic body images while folding in entertainment, engagement and fun. Evolving self-image is a huge part of every teenagers' life and with the increased access to 24/7 news, reality TV, social media and incessant selfies, teens are more self-conscious about body image and identity than ever.

The first version of the Girl Zone Challenge utilizes quizzes, mini games and social media to offers up three challenges: Get Moving, Stir It Up and Who Am I? Each challenge includes four goals with required actions that are validated in the app and connect with a bi-weekly sweepstakes drawing. This new community platform utilizes elements that enhance engagement and improve health adherence in adults, but are not typically offered for teen girls.

Branded challenge sponsorship opportunities are planned for the next version, which will provide a unique opportunity for marketers to engage players by embedding messaging into the app disguised by fun. Brand?s ?call to action? features drive attention, sales and brand loyalty for sponsors. Just as gamification works within apps themselves, it can also be a key component within a mobile advertising strategy. Encouraging engagement through gaming ad formats is something mobile marketers have not widely adopted, though the gamification of mobile advertising is attractive to mobile users and intriguing to marketers.

?This first version of our app ties completing challenges with entry points to a sweepstakes,? Ms. Reale said.

?The brands are prize provider partners, they are not sponsoring the challenges currently, but subsequent versions of the app will allow brands to become sponsors whereby we will create a series of goals that are validated in the app.?

?We will work with brands to incorporate a variety of digital promotional elements such as coupons, QR, texts, social media, mini-games, GPS, beacon, quizzes, video, etc. into sponsored challenges.?

In-app ad revenue via gamification
Digital advertising has been tricky, as most consumers do not click on banner ads and tend to write off ads as an intrusion to their browsing experience. To combat distaste, publishers have been further developing what has been coined ?appvertising.?

Advertising within games is not new, and really began around product placement in its early stages, similar to TV and movie versions, though marketers have learned that placing a can of Coke in the background of a scene isn?t likely to create buzz, but if a character were to drink one during a pivotal moment, that could change everything. The same is true for games, where brand presence should emerge in a way that enhances the experience instead of simply making an appearance.

Another form that is proven to be effective is asking users to endure an ad in exchange for virtual game currency. Kia partnered with digital ad agency SocialVibe to introduce its 2011 Optima to more than 200 million monthly social gamers as the automotive sponsor of Zynga?s ?Big Game Tournament? for players across FarmVille, PetVille Mafia Wars and Café World.

A virtual football games featuring Zynga characters yielded SocialVibes? highest ever average time-spent per user with gamers spending 170 seconds interacting with the content, which earned them free game currency.

Bribing consumers seems to work too, especially if real prizes are involved. Popular game Doodle Jump allowed players who won a prize to enter their email address to redeem an item, and Best Buy habitually makes a game of buying gifts for family members during the holidays.

In-app advertising still has some work to do, as right now it is not a completely mass medium, but targeting early adopters to smartphones such as Gen Z will probably evidence higher engagement, and Girl Zone plans to tighten these gaps.

?We believe many brands that do not traditionally target teen girls will be interested in this opportunity as call to action features will drive attention, sales and brand loyalty for sponsor?s products,? Ms. Reale said.

 Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York