Thursday, July 15, 2010

FarmVille players get real organic food brand to play with

New York: Operating a successful farm is a notion that is thriving in the virtual world. Some 20 million people check into FarmVille daily to plow virtual fields or buy, plant and harvest crops on online farms.Now Zynga Game Network, the social network games creator, is linking FarmVille's vast pool of players to retailers as diverse as 7-Eleven stores and the organic food company Cascadian Farm.Users who play for fun, camaraderie and friendly competition -- reach FarmVille through a Facebook account. They can play free, but they can also spend real money to buy virtual goods, like a faster-growing crop or gifts to entice online friends to become neighbors, who are needed to expand their farms.July 19th onwards, FarmVille will, for the first time, offer its pretend farmers a specific food brand. Players will be able to plant an organic blueberry crop from Cascadian Farm, a subsidiary of General Mills.The objective is for FarmVille users to learn about organic farming and green living, and at the same time, earn additional points to grow fruits and vegetables or raise animals on their virtual farms.Cascadian Farm executives say they hope that the company can expand its food niche and make itself better known by increasing awareness among the FarmVille audiences."We're at a crossroads for the brand," said Tim Goldsmid, marketing manager for Cascadian Farm, which started selling organic crops grown in the Upper Skagit Valley in Washington State nearly 40 years ago. "We're looking to get our message out in a bigger way, and we wanted a creative way to do that.""This is FarmVille's first branded, in-game crop integration, and we chose Cascadian Farm to offer our users something that would benefit them online and offline," said Vish Makhijani, senior vice president for business operations at Zynga, the company that also created Mafia Wars and FrontierVille, two other popular Facebook games.Cascadian Farm, which sells 75 products including cereal, granola bars, vegetables and juice concentrates, is the second General Mills brand to form a partnership with Zynga.In May, its Green Giant Fresh subsidiary placed a coded sticker on broccoli, celery and other fresh products sold at 4,000 Target stores across the country. Each sticker was redeemable at for five free "farm cash" units, the currency players use to maintain and expand their FarmVille projects."In five weeks, $100,000 worth of the units were redeemed online by customers, who cashed in an average of two coupons each", said Mishalin Modena, marketing manager of Green Giant Fresh in Salinas, Calif."The company is planning to expand the promotion in Wal-Mart and other stores", Ms. Modena said. The campaign was done with Loyalty Lab, a firm based in San Francisco that works with companies to increase customer loyalty.Cascadian Farm, whose products are grown on 15,000 acres, is taking a different approach to FarmVille's users, about 60 percent of whom are women. Most players are 20 to 40 years old, and play the game for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, said Manny Anekal, Zynga's director of brand advertising.The food company is embedding its brand in the game by offering all players, including beginners, a crop that can be harvested faster and bring a bigger cash return than other crops. The promotion will run from July 19th to July 26."We don't want to overextend our stay," Mr. Goldsmid said."The promotion's short duration fits FarmVille", said Mr. Makhijani, because, "It is a little like episodic television. We add new content every other day, whether it's new features, new crops, new buildings or different ways of doing things. Many users play two to four times a week, and some more often. About 60 million people play in a month."Making money from that popularity, he said, is the challenge for Zynga, which says it has 215 million yearly users."This is early days for us in advertising," said Mr. Makhijani, who said Zynga also had a partnership with 7-Eleven in June to allow Facebook game players shopping at 7,000 stores to redeem codes found on Slurpees, Big Gulp drinks and other products for virtual goods. The six-week arrangement allowed coupons to be redeemed for virtual items on FarmVille and two other Zynga game sites."Cascadian Farms has Facebook and Twitter pages, and posts YouTube videos", said Mr. Goldsmid, adding, "FarmVille has a scale that we lack." Before this campaign, the company relied mainly on print ads placed in lifestyle magazines like Real Simple and on free samples at community events like 5K Races, he said."We are moving beyond that and trying to tap into social media," he said.Despite the premium prices for organic food, sales grew more than 5 percent last year, to $26.6 billion, according to the Organic Trade Association, the business group for organic producers and suppliers. Cascadian Farm's sales rose 14 percent over the last four years, it said, but it declined to give specific sales figures."Cascadian Farm plans to decide its marketing direction after tabulating the FarmVille results, which will be measured not only by Web activity but also by call-ins to the company's 800 number and hits on its blog (", Mr. Goldsmid said."Also available on the FarmVille site will be a $1 coupon for Cascadian Farm products, which can be redeemed in a brick-and-mortar store", said Melissa Eccles, digital creative director for the project at Sterling-Rice Group in Boulder, Colo. Sterling-Rice created Cascadian Farm's social games promotion."Allying with FarmVille, will familiarize more people with organic foods and why they are different", Mr. Goldsmid said. "This is a great venue to have a discussion," he said. "We hope that most FarmVille users will plant our crop. We are going for all 20 million."

Meghalaya treasuries go online

After Assam, Meghalaya becomes the second northeast state to take its treasury online. For the first time the model one of the cyber treasury systems in Meghalaya has been introduced followed by its integration with the SBI. Building connection around the world, Meghalaya government has introduced the first e-payment or the electronic payment of tax systems in Shillong. Although Meghalaya is the second state in the Northeast after Assam to go for cyber treasury system, however the state has adopted much more advance system to provide better Government to citizen service. This system has been introduced for the payment of commercial taxes. Now the tax payers can stay at home and can deposit their tax at any time. The system will be operated for 24X7 bases. With the introduction of e-payment system, all the treasuries will now be fully automated and interlinked through the Internet and will form part of the Integrated Financial Management System. Meghalaya Chief Minister Dr. Mukul Sangma however, said that advancement of technology has changed the mindset and the way of living for the people. As technology has made life simpler and the Government cannot shy away from such services. Technology does not only make work efficient but also eco-friendly. Mukul stresses that the government wants to serve the people at their door steps with quality transaction and functioning. The introduction and implementation of the new system would help most of the dealers in the state in depositing advance tax and to ascertain whether their money is directly going to the government. The foundation of this was laid in the last budget session when the state government had announced to carry out key financial reforms. As part of it, Government had announce its plans for operating the ‘On-line system of Tax Receipt’ via the cyber treasury in a time bound manner as a part of its e-Governance Plan. The government also stated that the web portal will facilitate online monitoring, meaningful review and effective planning & financial management. The Meghalaya Finance minister has outlaid Rs. 65 lakh for the completion of the project. An “On- Line System of Tax-Receipt” via a cyber-treasury was said to be operationalised within the next financial year as a part of the plan of e-governance.

Japanese Encephalitis outbreak confirmed in Manipur

Four districts in Manipur have been hit by Japanese encephalitis. 24 out of 27 samples sent to RMRC Dibrugarh have been confirmed to be that of the disease. Within hours of confirmation, the Manipur health department has started dealing with the situation at war footing measure. The spread of Japanese Encephalitis has been confirmed in four valley districts Thoubal, Bishenpur and in the Imphal East and Imphal West districts. The Regional Medical Research Center, Dibrugarh on Tuesday in a faxed message confirmed 24 samples out of 27 sent for test. Briefing media persons, the director of health services Manipur, Y. Yaima while announcing the confirmation said that there were 61 cases and not 66 as stated earlier…being treated at RIMS, JN Hospital and Shija Hospitals. 19 samples had been sent to NICD, Delhi and the results are expected in another two days or so. Meanwhile the health department is chalking out measures to control and contain the disease. Within the last fortnight in which Japanese Encephalitis spread in the state, already nine persons have died, three of them from the Encephalitis as confirmed. The director also allayed fears of inadequate stock of anti-viral drugs and urged the distributors and stockiest to bring in more supplies. The health directorate is issuing notifications, spreading awareness among people to take precautionary measures.