Content Creation Marketing

Unlock with the Konami code

When up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A is added to a higher ed site, magic happens.

Those of us who grew up using the famous combination on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) of up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A—or some variation thereof—know that this Konami code is what allowed us to gain extra lives in Contra and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (It seems the inventor forgot to remove a shortcut in the Gradius release, but that mistake became a meme in its own right.)

The creative folks at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) decided to capitalize on the Konami code and the 25th anniversary of Contra to raise awareness of their Game Design and Development degree program.

Visitors to who enter the Konami code unlock a playable version of Contra along with the history of the game, information on the university’s Game Design and Development program, and several calls to action, including a request for more information, scheduling a campus visit and sharing the game through social media.

Seth Odell, video marketing manager at SNHU, filled us in on the project.

SNHU Konami code Easter Egg

Where did this idea come from?

The idea for the Contra campaign came about quite organically after a casual conversation between myself, our head designer Adam Fitzgerald, and developer Derek Rousseau. We were discussing the idea of putting an Easter egg on the homepage, something that had been discussed before.  When we realized the Contra 25th anniversary was just a couple weeks away, it quickly went from a fun idea to a tangible campaign to support brand awareness of our great Game Design and Development degree program.

Who dreamed the dream?

I think it’s safe to say that Adam, Derek and I all shared the dream of pulling off this fun tribute to one of our favorite classic games. That said, everyone who became involved in the effort was incredibly supportive and on board.

How many people and departments worked together to launch the Konami campaign?

The best part about this project was how little of an investment it took to pull off. As many folks know, we’re growing fast at SNHU and while we wanted to try our hand at something a bit different, we knew it couldn’t be at the expense of any of our other open projects. Part of the reason we were able to pull this off was the number of folks who were involved.

My role, working out of our social media division, was to act as project lead and to handle PR/outreach efforts. The design for the page was produced by our head designer Adam, who worked alongside our in-house multimedia designer David Westerdale. Derek, a member of SNHU’s web services team, took charge of setting up the page, the redirects and the Easter egg, as well as manipulating the social sharing options. Additionally, one of our writers was involved in crafting copy, and several other members of the web services team – as well as our data team – were involved in getting the page published, tracked, monitored and analyzed.

Finally, our incredibly hard-working account director made sure to clue in and secure buy-in from several key players, including AVPs, VPs and Deans.

What was SNHU trying to accomplish with this project?

There were primarily two goals with this campaign:

  1. Expand brand awareness of SNHU’s world-class game design program offerings
  2. Have some fun honoring a classic video game we all loved

What responses have your received?

The feedback we’ve received thus far as been amazing, certainly more than we expected. Primarily being shared via social media, we received hundreds of tweets sharing the campaign, telling us how much they enjoyed the tribute, and encouraging others to participate. We also received emails from several tech and gaming companies saying that the Easter egg was going around the office and getting a lot of love.

Did you do any marketing to promote the campaign?

For the most part, no, we did not do any marketing. After publishing the Easter egg, a few of us in the office shared it with a few friends, and I also sent targeted emails to a couple select individuals who I thought would especially appreciate the tribute.

We really wanted to approach this project as authentically as possible, so it was important for us not to push it too hard. We believed that if the few folks we shared it with enjoyed the experience, they would share it with others and it would – for at least a brief window in time – grow upon itself.

In just a few days, roughly 1,100 visitors entered the Konami code on our homepage for a total of just under 3,000 page views. Of the 1,100 visitors, 945 of them were first time visitors to the SNHU website.

The best stat though, in my opinion, is that if you divide social mentions by unique visitors, we experienced almost a 25-percent engagement rate. Not a hard fact, given the variables, but certainly a ratio far exceeding our wildest imagination.

Ultimately, we set out to pay tribute to a classic video game that helped not only define a generation of gamers, but also help influence how people approached game design, development and play. At SNHU we’re proud to offer such great game design programs online. This project provided us a great opportunity to pay tribute, have fun and expand awareness of our academic offerings.

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