Author: Hartman, Laura Pincus
Source: Darden Business Publishing
Company Name: Zynga
Number of pages: 3, 21, 13
In January 2009, Mark Pincus, founder and CEO of the immensely popular and successful Zynga Game Network met with his sister Laura Hartman, DePaul University business ethics professor, to discuss building a new brand of corporate social strategy. Pincus wanted to find a way that Zynga could have a greater social impact on the world. He and Hartman talked about creating a new social strategy that would naturally flow out of Zynga’s success in developing highly profitable interactive social games. The two of them wondered whether it was possible for one company to develop a strategy that would both be profitable and engender social change.
The B case of this three-case series outlines how Mark Pincus, with help from his sister Laura Hartman, began to implement his new brand of social strategy. Initial steps included two partnerships: (1) Zynga’s YoVille and the San Francisco SPCA; and (2) Mafia Wars and the Huntington’s Disease Society of America. A new program within Zynga was created: Zynga.org, which would focus on global problems and ways to address them. Its first project, in partnership with Zynga’s wildly popular FarmVille, was a strategy in which users could purchase “Sweet Seeds for Haiti.” Through FarmVille, Zynga would contribute 50% of all proceeds from the sale of these seeds to two Haiti-based causes: Fonkoze and FATEM (a microfinance initiative and an educational and school-meals program, respectively). In 2010, Zynga.org continued to evolve, with periodic bumps along the way when Zynga encountered bad press and unfavorable attention.
Following the May 2010 Sweet Seeds campaign, Zynga announced that it would expand its FATEM partnership to build a school for children in Haiti who had been affected by the devastating earthquake in January of that year. In one week, more than 45,000 FarmVille users raised $110,000 through the purchase of virtual social goods. Sweet Seeds would be the first of several campaigns Zynga launched to raise funds for the school. In the meantime, Zynga.org’s management had to establish concrete measures for the various projects’ success, including efficient implementation, self-sustainability, and replication. Maintaining a strong feedback loop so that those who contributed to these campaigns could see the results was important. Despite competition, Zynga remained, in 2010, a wildly successful company and its dot-org arm helped Mark Pincus and Laura Hartman realize the new type of social strategy they had discussed over the years.