Siemens Industry, Inc., is proving that engineers just wanna have fun. And it’s filling the sales pipeline in the process.
In March of 2011, the Siemens team launched Plantville. This online game simulates the experience of being a plant manager. Players are challenged to maintain operation of their plant while improving productivity, efficiency and facility health.
Since that time, 23,000 engineering professionals have spent approximately 14 minutes with the game every time they visit the site. That means at almost any time of the day someone somewhere is playing Plantville. These players include:
- Prospects and customers from more than 11,500 companies
- Engineering recruits from more than 600 universities and colleges nationwide
- Several government associations
- More than 3,500 employees
Plantville was inspired by need and opportunity. Back in 2010, Siemens Industry’s communications team was challenged to do the following:
- Build brand awareness
- Engage customers and prospects
- Help employees better understand the scope of the organization
- Recruit future engineers (there is a dearth in the manufacturing industry)
- Showcase thought leadership in sustainability and productivity, as well as the breadth and depth of products and services
“To achieve these diverse goals, we needed to go where our audiences spend most of their time – online. But we wanted to do so in a different, trendsetting way before any of our competitors,” explains Catherine Derkosh, Director of Marketing Communications for Siemens. The team took these steps to make it happen:
- Review research
Derkosh describes Siemens as a company with a strong engineering heritage. Leadership needed to see developing an online game as a wise investment. The team mined data, tracked trends and “put as many statistics as we could into showing the power of gamification,” she says.
- Select resources to help
Gaming was completely uncharted territory for Siemens, so they turned to external creative agencies to help bring the project together.Derkosh describes working with game designers as a world apart from traditional B2B agencies.“They’re not corporate, they’re small, and they’re very creative,” Derkosh says.
For two months, these creative types were immersed in the Siemens culture. They visited several plants and manufacturing sites, and had dozens of conference calls and meetings with subject-matter experts.
“We wanted them to understand the end points of our products, and the product-level application and imagery so they could create a user experience that was very realistic,” explains Derkosh.
- Develop the scope of work
The team developed a scope-of-work document, outlining what the end deliverable would look like and the path required to get there, including:
- How it would work
- What platforms would be required
- What the interaction would feel like for the end user
Its development required seamless collaboration between agencies, subject-matter experts, IT and Marketing, and face-to-face meetings were critical to making this happen.
“Our culture is so different, and our terminology is so different that we were speaking different languages,” explains Derkosh. “Face-to-face meetings make it easier to say, ‘Pardon me, I don’t quite understand what you’re saying.’ Plus, it’s easier to get to know the personalities involved.”
- Execute the scope of work
The creative agencies took what they learned to create a game built around Pete the Plant Manager, whose plant just won the “Plant of the Year” award. Pete shares his best practices throughout the game to help players achieve outstanding results in plant performance. The game challenges players to improve the health of the plant by learning about, and applying, industrial and infrastructure products and solutions from Siemens. They compete with each other on key performance indicators like safety, on-time delivery, quality, energy management and employee satisfaction.
Pete’s Puzzlers are interspersed throughout to test problem-solving abilities and gain new insights on enhancing plant performance.
Plantville Café also allows an opportunity to chat with experts on topics like process control, energy efficiency and industrial networking, and sessions are kept in a library as a player’s resource.
- Test extensively
“Test early and often,” Derkosh advises.
More than 60 non-disclosure agreements were signed for the testing process, which included dozens of subject-matter experts and potential end users. The goal was to ensure product usage and plant operations were accurate and realistic, and that the game was easy to understand.
“The most important aspect is the user experience. You can design an amazing game, but if people can’t figure out how to play it or get frustrated with it, they’re never going to come back,” Derkosh says. “You want to deliver meaningful content in a meaningful way and make it a very, very easy user experience. You can’t know if you have it right without testing.”
- Launch the game
The team launched the game on March 24, 2011. In the morning, it was introduced to more than 60,000 employees at Siemens via their managers, who underwent communication training about the program and provided a toolkit, including a review of social media policies. That afternoon, there was a paperless launch to the media, which leveraged Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Stories about Plantville were featured in more than 235 outlets, reaching more than a million people.
Within seven months, in addition to having more than 23,000 regular gamers, Plantville had:
- 2,700 friends on Facebook.
- 30,000 video views on YouTube
- 117 connections on LinkedIn (Pete the Plantville Manager has his own LinkedIn page)
“When we embarked on something completely new like this, we had no idea what to expect, but the results so far have been positive,” says Derkosh.