Wema Bank and Maliyo Experiment With Social Gaming To Bolster Brand Awareness

For brands in Nigeria, social media is still largely uncharted waters. While some of the bigger, savvier ones wasted no time and have dived in headfirst, most are still gingerly dipping their toes in. The experiences of course vary from brand to brand. Some have taken to social media like fishes to water. Others have found it filled with ravenous piranha.

But if Nigerian social media is a beach where everyone came to with their surfboards, Wema Bank would be the old guy that came with jet skis in a bid to outdo all the cool kids. For about a week now, the bank has been experimenting with social gaming to bolster its brand and have gotten Maliyo Games to create a Wema Bank-themed Facebook game app and brand awareness promo called Sharp Sule.

The game itself is simple. All you have to do is hit the spacebar to help Sule, the cyclist, jump over familiar Lagos traffic denizens like Danfos, Keke Marwas and more, while earning coins that the bank promises you’ll be able to convert into real cash as well as other prizes. In return, while you enjoy the game, you’re also sure to get an eyeful of virtual billboard ads which are of course devoted solely to various Wema bank products.

That Wema would adopt this sort of social media strategy is intriguing, if not outrightly uncharacteristic. Afterall, they aren’t exactly one of the Nigerian banks considered to be on the bleeding edge of technology and marketing trends. You never know though, maybe this relatively ancient financial codger has learnt a few new marketing tricks. I was mildly surprised to learn that they have over 30k fans on Facebook. Of course that doesn’t even qualify as a joke next to GTBank’s 600k, but they are way ahead of most local banking brands like Zenith and Oceanic, both of whom have pathetic showings.

But it’s not just Wema Bank that is experimenting here. The second bit of news is that if Sharp Sule really takes off, Maliyo Games might just have found themselves a viable business model.

Maliyo doesn’t seem in the mood to waste time with a Zynga-esque freemium model — people around these parts are famous for not wanting to pay a cent for apps — instead, they’re targeting the deep pockets of brands with the concept of advergaming. Advergaming is not only a creative means for attention starved brands to get in front of their target audience, it might also prove a more cost effective approach to traditional offline media, which ironically is slowly but surely losing its audience to the internet.

So long as Maliyo and does not make the mistake of stopping at a web-based, Facebook and Flash-enabled gaming experience and concentrates on pulling a mobile rabbit out of their hat, I should think the model has promise. They’ll also have to move fast — there’s nothing to stop their local competitor, Kuluya, from copying them.

Aside from simplistic game mechanics (no matter how sharp Sule is, he shouldn’t be able to make a bike jump over a Danfo), fuzzy contest rules, and the fact that it’s only available on PC via a flash-enabled browser, you can’t fault Wema and Maliyo for effort. If you have some spare time to kill, by all means go ahead and play Sharp Sule here. Just know that if you want to have a shot at the N100,000 grand prize money, you’ll have to beat these guys first.