Martha Stewart Really, Really, Really Wants to Zynga-Zig-Ah

Friends, do you like online gaming? Have you built your own virtual farm/city/empire? Have you ever hand-stenciled your floor tiles or made drapes out of old corn husks dyed in blueberry juice and baby squid ink?

If you answered yes, hold on to your papier-mâchéted hats…because Martha Stewart has arrived in CastleVille!

Yes, everybody’s favorite lifestyle guru has partnered with Zynga, the world’s leading provider of social game services, in a unique celebrity collaboration that will have computer-literate crafters everywhere jumping for joy.

For those unfamiliar with CastleVille (full disclosure: I’ve never played it, even though my fascination with the British monarchy would suggest otherwise), it’s a popular social game played on Facebook or at Zynga.com in which players can build their own kingdom, interact with their friends (who also have kingdoms), and meet whimsical characters—like Yvette, the Lovely Maiden, and Quinn, the Lyrical Traveling Bard—who are part of an overarching storyline. Players also have the opportunity to go on quests and fight off enemies. (Remember when people got beat up for playing Dungeons & Dragons? My, how times have changed…)

Launched just five months ago, CastleVille is played by more than 26 million people each month and is part of the Zynga stable of games that includes CityVille, FarmVille, Mafia Wars, and the Alec-Baldwin-approved Words with Friends.

This brings us to Ms. Stewart, who is inviting players to visit her new, limited-time-only digital kingdom from now until mid-April. (Believe it or not, it’s home to CastleVille’s largest building, which is an ode to her Bedford, New York principality house.) Once you’re there, you can interact with Martha’s avatar, join in an Easter egg hunt, and build a crafting gazebo. You can also receive in-game rewards and marvel at how cyberspace has miraculously shaved 40 years off Martha’s visage.

“I love playing games,” said Martha, in a recent press release, “but I love being in a game even more. Turning my personal domain into an imaginary and fanciful kingdom is not only fun for me and the players of CastleVille, but a clever way to share my particular style of living with an interactive and creative audience.”

Photo by David Shankbone

I must admit, I was intrigued that 70-year-old Martha Stewart decided to take a leap into this emerging medium. After all, when I think about her brand, visions of Macy’s, Kmart, and the Hallmark Channel dance in my head, not cutting-edge social media platforms.

But, it turns out that many folks in Martha’s core audience can be found lurking in the digital kingdoms, farms, and frontiers of the social gaming universe. Research has shown that women make up over half of casual social gamers, with over 60 percent of them falling into the 40-plus age bracket. And, considering Martha’s more traditional platforms have been running into some trouble lately (i.e., The Martha Stewart Show has been given the axe by the Hallmark Channel and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. is being sued by Macy’s), maybe it’s just the right time for the Camp Cupcake veteran to try something new.

Equally as important is what this partnership means for Zynga. Tech site SlashGear calls Martha’s virtual endorsement of the game “a resounding voice for how successful Zynga has become in such a short time.” In addition, Martha’s core audience—skewing older, with disposable income—is in a position to help drive sales for the company, which earns most of its revenue from selling virtual goods inside the games (e.g., love potions, tiaras, topiary unicorns, etc.).

This collaboration also suggests that social gaming is really starting to be viewed by more traditional brands as a viable platform for engaging with their audiences online. (After all, why simply read Martha Stewart’s Twitter feed when you can join her for egg decorating?) And with the social gamer population expected to top 68 million players by the end of this year, it seems likely that more and more cross-promotional efforts like this one will be coming to a virtual world near you.

So strap on your Queen Bee Tunic, buy yourself a Friesian Horse, and join in the fun, folks. This party’s just getting started!