An article on Fast Company.com caught my eye this week.
Why Companies Promote Games Through Huge Events
The article explores how some companies are adding something extra to their integrated marketing campaign, they are running huge events to keep their fans engaged. The article focuses in on the gaming industry and specifically BlizzCon 2011, an event put on by Blizzard, the creators of the immensely popular World of Warcraft. This is a wonderfully expensive event, which operates at a loss. A loss? And they still do it? Why?
Paul Sams, COO of Blizzard says it’s worth it. “[BlizzCon] started out as, and has continued to be, an opportunity for us to connect with our very passionate player community. We wanted to have a celebration of Blizzard games,” Sams told FastCompany.com. For a video game company supporting one of the most profitable entertainment franchises in existence–WoW earns over $1 billion per year–it only makes sense to give back to the fans, he suggests. “We run BlizzCon at a financial loss…[but] we get to see to the passion in person, to hear the enthusiasm in the voice of the players.”
Other game companies, like Activision are offering “IRL” or in-real-life fan experience events. To their Call of Duty franchise they created a Call of Duty XP event.
“Activision’s CEO Paul Hirschberg said, “We did everything from building levels of the game at actual size and using them as paintball stadiums, to recreating a level from Modern Warfare 2 as an obstacle course, and a jeep experience where you are riding with a professional driver, through a jeep obstacle course that looks like the game come to life, with mortal shells and gunfire going off all around you.”’
Sounds pretty bad ass. The 8,500 people who showed up and millions of people who followed thought so. Their Facebook page received tens of impressions and they were a trending topic on Twitter. Massive PR attention was round as well with stories being published in the gaming media and even Forbes. In the end this marketing experiment had a solid return on investment.
This kind of activation and promotion strategy makes sense for big brands like Blizzard who are racking in 1 billion a year off of the faithful fans of WoW. But does this approach make sense for the more mainstream non-gaming brands?
Coke thinks so.
Jonathan Mildenhall, Coca Cola’s vice president of global advertising strategy and excellence, was the focus of a MarkeingWeek article last week. “Creative content will fuel Coca Cola’s growth” Mildenhall states that companies advertising strategy is going to “move from creative excellence to content excellence.
” The goal is to gain a“disproportional share of popular culture”.
(Is that a great quote or what!)
Coke is to use a combination of crowdsourcing and mainstream popular culture (artists, music, the film industry) to create creative content through storytelling.Ditching traditional methods of marketing is gutsy. You hear a lot about how brands need to offer an experience and tell a story, but not to many are backing it up with a budget. Seems like that is going to shift.
Mildenhall goes on to say that “We want to double the size of the business in 10 years so we need to disrupt everything about the business.” I bet that guy has the bean counters sweating!!
They are kicking things off at the 2012 Olympics, where they will showcase a 120 pieces of creative content. Sounds like they are going to be offering some “IRL” with a Coke spin. Excited to see what that is going to be.
I predict we are going to see more of this strategy inserted into the marketing mix. Brands like Coke who have decided it is CONTENT that drives creativity, the ability to provide substance and value to the consumer through an experience (not just in the product). Creative wit is easy (budlight) creative substance is not. Coke is going to try and set the bar. The gaming industry is showing us that while the events may not make a ‘profit’ the return on investment can be achieved. It is working for gaming because games by nature provide new content and interactivity. Can soda pop do the same thing? Maybe.
I am suspicious of the idea that a brand can bring “substance and value’ to my life through creative content. That their motives are some how being pushed by a deeper value system is suspect. With that said I much prefer creative content curated by the genius of Mildenhall (big fan) over 30 seconds of dribble or poor IMC strategy. I am rooting for him. Perhaps Coke can melt some of my cold skepticism.