Company: Adobe Systems, Inc.
Contact: Elisa Haidt, Marketing Manager, Education
Location: San Jose, CA
Industry: Software
Annual revenue: $3,579,890,000
Number of employees: 7335

Quick Read

Faking out college students may not exactly be a standard approach, but it recently worked out well for Adobe.

In an effort to generate awareness for its new offer of Student Editions at up to 80% off, the company launched a Facebook game application that challenged users to determine the real from the fake.

And users responded, with over 11,500 plays in the first two weeks—6% of which culminated with the user clicking "Buy Now" for the product promoted on the final game page.

The application also brought in 10 times the usual traffic the company had been receiving on its Adobe Students Facebook page, and more than 5,500 new fans.


Headquartered in San Jose, CA, Adobe Systems, Inc. is the company behind several mainstream software products, including Photoshop, Acrobat, InDesign, and Dreamweaver.

In 2008, the company began offering Student Editions of these same products at steep discounts for college students, regardless of where they attend (previously, it had special licensing arrangements with select campuses), and wanted to get the word out on a massive scale.

Adobe already understood the popularity of Facebook among college students and had established a company page on the network about a year earlier. The page had attracted 11,500 fans, but a static message and lack of interactivity did little to encourage return visitors.

To drive page traffic and overall awareness for the new pricing offer, Elisa Haidt, marketing manager of education at Adobe, set out in late 2008 to engage the student market with a more interactive user experience.

"Our goal was to increase awareness for the new Adobe Student Editions and the discounted offer, and to move [students] down the funnel to purchase," said Haidt, "by giving them a reason to come to our page, and get their friends to come to our page, and engaging them in a way that would explain the value of having Adobe products."


Haidt worked with Traction, a San Francisco-based ad agency, to develop a Facebook application called "Real or Fake," which presented players with five images per week and challenged them to determine whether each was a real photograph or a Photoshopped image.

Answer screens for the Photoshopped images included links to tutorials, which showed users how the effect was achieved using Adobe's product.

At the end of the game, users were presented with a promotion for Adobe Creative Suite 4 and a button to "Buy Now," as well as options to "Play Again" and "Share" the game with their friends.

In-game and end-of-game messaging further encouraged return play by letting users know that five new images would be posted each week.

The game was prominently featured on the Adobe Students Facebook page, and a discussion board post on the page encouraged users to share their scores and talk about the game.

In addition, during the first two weeks after launch, Adobe placed a Facebook engagement ad, which targeted students by major and demographic, linked to the game, and allowed users to become fans of the Adobe Students page directly within the ad.


Adobe's "Real or Fake" application, which launched in November 2008, ran for one month and during that time received over 14,000 game plays, including 5,469 in the first week and 6,160 in the second. The engagement ad ran only in those first two weeks.

During the first week, 40% of players returned to play again that same week, 22% checked out the tutorials, 6% clicked the "Share" button at the end of the game, and 6% clicked "Buy Now" at the end of the game.

The Adobe Students Facebook page also received 3,000 new fans and over 53,000 pageviews that week, compared with an average of 5,057 views per week prior to the campaign.

Numbers also remained high in the second week, with 21% of players accessing the game tutorials, 4% sharing the game with friends, and another 6% clicking "Buy Now." Week two also brought in an additional 2,500 new fans to the Adobe Students page and almost 50,000 additional pageviews.

Lessons Learned

Engage, engage, engage

The Adobe Students page had featured the student pricing message for some time before the game was launched, but the engagement factor just wasn't there. By deploying the application, Adobe not only generated new awareness for its offer but also introduced a fun, interactive feature to the page. And the game itself was particularly effective because it captured user attention with an interaction that clearly demonstrated the value of the product.

Adobe also crafted its game-related messaging to appeal to the student population and draw users in, often challenging them with gritty wording such as "Can you spot the real from the fake" on its engagement ad and "Gotcha! This image is fake. Mother nature doesn't do mohawks" on one of the puzzle answer pages.

"We wanted to engage [students] where they are, and in a way they like to be talked to, not just push the product out to them," said Haidt. "With any company, when you're going out and trying to talk to a segment like students who do see through corporate-speak and deal with a lot of media, the challenge is how to be clever and still be true to the corporate brand, and we were able to do both."

Use an integrated push strategy

Simply launching an application does not guarantee engagement, no matter how cool the application. "You can build a great application, but if you're not getting the word out, it won't necessarily be worth the resources you put into it," Haidt explained.

With so much competing for user attention on the Facebook network, it's important to take a multi-pronged approach to let users know what you've put out there. For Adobe, this was achieved by using targeted ad placements in combination with key placement on the Adobe Student page, where the company already had around 11,500 fans.

Encourage return visits

Adobe was able to further increase engagement by giving users a reason to come back to the application each week. It also made sure users knew that new images would be available each week by posting messages throughout the game.

Related Links

Interested in learning more customer engagement strategies? Check out Web 2.0 Marketing Guide in the MarketingProfs Store for an overview of how you can use Web 2.0 technologies in your marketing mix to engage your customers and keep them coming back for more. Premium Plus Members may also enjoy viewing Proven Ways to Create Engaging Online Customer Experiences in the MarketingProfs Seminar Library. We hope these resources help you create more engaging experiences for your customers and prospects.

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Case Study: How a Facebook Game Attracted 10 Times the Traffic, New Fans, Real Sales

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Kimberly Smith is a staff writer for MarketingProfs. Reach her via