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Creating Passion and Involvement With Mobile: A Japanese Showcase

habanero_title2.gifThe “World’s Worst War” is a mobile campaign that ran in Japan to launch a line of spicy new snack foods. It is one of the best examples of a mobile campaign that truly engaged its audience to build a brand. It is fun, it had interesting characters, and a great viral element.

This campaign began almost a year ago, and you may have heard about at a conference, from a colleague, or seen it in an awards list. But it’s worth looking in a bit more detail to see how the campaign ran and to understand just how engaged a customer base can be.

Tohato is a Japanese maker of snack foods, and last year they introduced two new, very spicy snacks. Their market is clearly a youth audience, so they gave names and personalities to these new snacks. One is “Tyrant Habanero – Burning Hell Hot“, and his arch enemy “Satan Jorquia – Bazooka Deadly Hot” (you have to like the names!).


The basic idea behind the launch campaign was to have consumers take part in a massive, multi-player war game between the armies of Tyrant Habanero and Satan Jorquia. This is similar to one of the very popular multiplayer online games, such as Worlds of Warcraft, except that it played on mobile, and was in effect a branded adver-game.

The Armies
As a first step, each consumer had to pick his Master – Habanero or Satan Jorquia. To do this, they just had to buy a package of the appropriate snack, and then use the QR code on the package to enlist.


Viral Recruitment
The ‘viral’ part of the campaign was very clever. When each player first enrolled, they would simply be a private in the army. The route for advancement was to recruit friends to become warriors in the same army. When someone had recruited enough new warriors, they would be promoted.

And as with any good pyramid scheme, as the recruited friends in turn recruited their friends to join, the original player would also get credit and be promoted further. This scheme meant that involvement in the evil armies spread very rapidly across Japan.


The Battlegrounds
Battles took place in some 31 different online battle grounds, with more incredible names such as “Sweet Suckers Execution Hall”, “Shapdap Bay”, and of course, “Ouch, The City of Anal Torture”.


The army that managed to conquer all the battlefields would win the war.

The Battles
The battles themselves were scheduled to take place at 4am each day when the mobile networks were quietest. A series of additional activities were set up to increase the consumer engagement even more.

  • In order to keep the players involved during the other hours, there was an SMS war news service, with “war reporters” sending back reports throughout the day as if it was a real war. Messages such as “Shadap Bay was captured by the forces of Satan Jorqui last night”, or “Tom was graded up to Major, Congratulations!” kept the players updated and focused on the game.
  • Players could also win various downloadable wallpapers, some of them quite hard to get, depending on their accomplishments such as which bases they had captured.
  • There was also a system of boosting the power of your soldiers by training, and also a way to gain points by strategically sharing information.
  • It also turned out that players got so involved with the games that they would meet in social networking sites on a daily basis to plan their strategies for the evening battles!

As this campaign rolled out, both sales and activities on the site increased dramtically, reaching up to 100,000 pageviews per day.

Here’s a fun video that gives you a good sense of the style and feel of the campaign. Make sure you have the sound turned on.

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The game was developed by Japanese creative ad agency Hakuhodo, and won the Yellow Pencil award at the annual D&AD awards in the UK. It is a great example of a campaign that uses mobile in a fun way that is totally engaging for the target audience. It manages to take a completely non-digital brand and effectively link it to an advanced digital lifestyle.

Tomi Ahonen who blogs at wrote about the Habanero campaign and offered this conclusion which sums it up very well:

“Now, I love this concept in a million different ways. Its clearly interactive and very viral. It is true engagement, in that the users had fun playing with the brand, their characters had shapes in the style of the death masks of the snack of choice, and they had to go and literally fight (and virtually even die) for their preferred brand. Talk about creating passion and involvement.”


29.10.2008    Tags: , , ,
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