As sports and entertainment marketers develop innovative ways to reach fan audiences, brands ranging from the NFL Players Association to Tarzan have begun experimenting with a new trend that is both retro and future-looking at once: digital trading cards.
The idea is familiar, reminiscent of traditional baseball cards: a pack of cards, each card showcasing a figure, which you can collect and trade, some being more rare than others. But instead of a baseball player, the figure is an illustrated character — for example, a Care Bear. And instead of buying paper cards with a pack of gum at a store counter, the cards are all digital, collected and viewed only on NeonMob.
Founded four years ago, NeonMob is a growing online art platform whose unique blend of gaming, social media, and e-commerce elements make it addictive to users. And with a hyper-engaged audience of hundreds of thousands of active “collectors,” the platform is now interesting to brands as well. Domo, Care Bears, Tarzan, Zorro and NLF Players Association are some of the licensed properties that have released digital trading card “series” on NeonMob.
In 2015, NeonMob partnered with American Greetings to introduce two of their iconic properties, Care Bears and Madballs, to new fans as digital collectibles. Utilizing existing visual assets, trading card series were launched for both properties on NeonMob. Using a freemium system, hundreds of thousands of cards were collected by tens of thousands of users with each engagement (pack purchase, free pack claim, trade) driving up value for and interest in each series. As part of a larger suite of brand products, NeonMob is an incredibly “sticky” and fun way to generate income while promoting to new fans and engaging with existing ones.
From a brand standpoint, the strategy is simply additive. The cost is minimal — zero financial cost and only a minimal amount of time (especially when the artwork has already exists). And although hundreds of thousands of NeonMob collectors may not outnumber millions of viewers in more established channels, collecting and trading branded cards represents a fundamentally new and personal way to reach fans. The level of engagement is also quite high: users care enough about their cards to propose trades with other collectors or buy the cards they want outright. (Each collector gets a number of free packs each day and also has the option to buy packs of cards, hoping to complete a collection.)
For smaller brands that are actively looking for meaningful ways to identify and build an audience, NeonMob can be an incredible partner. Fledgling comic book and toy company, Frombie: Friendly Zombies, has launched two successful series on NeonMob since 2015. By positioning their interesting characters and artwork into a platform focused on discovery, Frombie has been able to distribute over 100,000 cards featuring their property to NeonMob users, while creating a new revenue stream.
With such a low barrier to entry — and no alternative method of engagement in this way — NeonMob’s platform makes it easy for brands to say, “Why not?” And since the platform earns money from its players, not the paid advertisers, it does not seem too far-fetched to imagine a time when every new television show launches digital trading cards along with its other marketing efforts surrounding each new season. As NeonMob’s audience grows, this new arrow in the marketer’s quiver may prove even more powerful.