Drawing Ideas From Draw Something

My brief career as an artist happened fortuitously.

It began with Facebook updates containing posts of abstract scribbles accompanied by exclamations of “wth is this???”

Then, I walked into the pantry where colleagues were bent double over the table, chewing mechanically on their takeaway lunches and scribbling furiously on their iPhones.

Following that, What’s App messages came from my usually-cool best friend, who beseechingly asked me to download the game so she could earn more coins.

I downloaded Draw Something, and joined 35 million other people in challenging each other, my smartphone as my canvas and finger tip as my brush.

Draw Something is simply Pictionary for iPhones. Two players take turns to visualize words thrown up randomly by the app and guess what the other player has drawn. Letters are provided as clues. Each correct guess gives both players coins, which are exchanged for more colors to draw with.


Charles Forman, founder of Omgpop which created the game, sold his company last week for USD$180 million (SGD$226 million) to social gaming giant, Zynga, which created FarmVille and all the With Friends games. That’s an amazing lot of money for a game that launched barely two months ago.

So, what is the draw about Draw Something and what can we marketers learn from it?

  1. Make it simple.
    • The game is simple and familiar. We’ve all played it at a house party or at an orientation camp, so no introduction video is needed. The in-game tools are also easy to use – Just a few colored brushes of different thickness to create works of art. Even my interns’ parents are playing this with them as there is no right or wrong way to play this.
  2. Make it collaborative.
    • Most games have a clear winner and loser. Draw Something has tapped on a more positive survival need, making each round a collaborative effort as both players earn coins when someone makes a correct guess. Players hence gun for the highest scoring and more challenging words as the rewards are two-fold.
  3. Give a reason to share… and boast!
    • The conversation at office pantry has revolved round the best… and worst drawings. The most commonly shared ones are realistic sketches of movie characters to stickmen in dodgy positions. Both types of images are shared with cries of amazement or for help.
  4. Give people insights into themselves and each other.
    • Before Draw Something, I’d only ever seen immaculate PowerPoints and carefully crafted emails from my director. His attempt at describing “frog” looked like a blue blob of spit. There is something very raw and vulnerable about seeing someone create from a blank canvas. I’ve seen very different drawings to describe “pipe,” with friends drawing toilet bowls, Super Mario, and a single thick black bar with an arrow. My friends’ different choices of brush thickness, visual perspective, and attention to detail all give me insights into how they see and express their world.
  5. Have one unforgettable unique selling point.
    • Draw Something drawings reveal stereotypes and what we most strongly associate a word or name to. When challenged, I drew Madonna’s conical boobs, Rihanna’s flaming red hair, and Lady Gaga’s meat dress. Are these celebrities known for more? Yes. What is that one remarkable thing that makes your brand or campaign so memorable that people will draw that for generations to come?

I see these as five reasons why Draw Something is the number one most downloaded free and paid in Singapore’s (as well as USA and Canada) Itunes store. The challenge Zynga faces is retaining players and increasing their time spent, a common challenge marketers face. Draw Something needs to quickly address fickle players by doing these:

  1. Have a long-term plan to maintain a long-term relationship.
    • I’ve redeemed all the color palettes and my turns have been capped at level 99. What next? Any round I play now does not contribute to my score and the only satisfaction I can squeeze is that of drawing a la Van Gogh. Without the possibility of progression, there seems little point in continuing to exchange drawings after 99 rounds.
  2. Rekindle the spark.
    • Reigning game app Angry Birds jazzes up its drag-and-shoot game by injecting surprises like festive updates, secret stages, different obstacles, and even launching a space version. Draw Something should consider words linked to holidays, movie launches, and even quests to complete certain types of words.
  3. Allow effortless conversations.
    • Discussions about the game now take place mostly by SMS or What’s App messaging. The toggling between apps is time-consuming and rather annoying when you speak to multiple people. Zynga’s games all come with standard issues like in-game chat functions and links to Facebook and Twitter, so I presume these will be implemented soon.

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Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.