Sun Microsystems orchestrated a viral marketing campaign in the form of an online game called PIE Theory to engage the developer and programmer community. The game, which began in March and continues through June in episodic installments, is intended to raise adoption of software platform JavaFX.
Dubbed PIE Theory, the game centers around the concept, called jump theory, that every so many years there is a leap or jump in technology, and that those events are preceded by visits from strange beings. Two characters, Baron Rude and Hector Macchiato, have teamed together to form P.I.E., the Paranormal Investigations Experts. The main site, www.pietheory.com, introduces the two characters, hosts their blogs, and links to social networking sites where PIE has profiles.
The effort is meant to suggest that Sun Microsystems’ programming language might be the next technology jump.
The site has the look and feel of a suspenseful video game or serial science fiction series. “A lot of developers spend many hours playing games, and a lot of them are sci-fi enthusiasts,” said Kim Celestre, senior group marketing manager at Sun Microsystems. She said they enjoy shows such as “24,” “X-Files,” and “Lost.”
Initially teaser videos were posted on YouTube to generate interest. The videos were to “get folks to start asking what this was all about, and didn’t point anyone to a URL. It started the story,” Celestre said. The videos were brief — about 30 seconds long and focused on sightings of strange beings.
In March the campaign Web site went live at South by Southwest, a music, film, and interactive media conference. Street teams handed out t-shirts to generate word of mouth.
“After SXSW we started seeding videos on the site to help build the story. From that point we were also using social media to drive traffic to the site,” Celestre told ClickZ. The campaign has a presence on Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, LinkedIn, and posts photos and videos to Flickr. Both Hector and Baron use Twitter from the @PIE_Network account.
“In the tech industry we haven’t really seen this, so we weren’t really sure which social media channel would have the biggest uptake,” Celestre said.
Sun Microsystems worked with two agencies on the PIE Theory campaign. Crimson Consulting worked on the storyline, character development, and individual episodes. The site was designed using JavaFX by Effective UI, a Denver-based agency. Sun came up with the viral concept last summer.
The campaign has 13 episodes, and runs from March through June. Users register on the PIE Theory site and download JavaFX at that time. Participants work alone and together to use the new programming language to decode five clues. The campaign finale in June will be accessible only to registered users who have uncovered all five clues.
“The main objective is JavaFX adoption,” Celestre said. “Get folks to get in there and learn JavaFX, crack the code, and provide a fun context around doing that.”
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