Marketing. Some people still don’t get it

Yesterday I was at the Best of British conference in London rubbing shoulders with the good and the great of the video game industry. And once again the stark message came over that there are some people who get it when it comes to marketing. And there are big swathes of the industry who don’t get it at all.

In the 1960s and 1970s consumer marketing was perfected by huge multinational companies that manufactured detergents for washing clothes. This is a commodity product, one detergent is much the same as another detergent. So the wise housewife will buy the one that does the job for the least money. But most housewives don’t, this is because they are victims of the marketing of the detergent manufacturers.

This form of marketing involves creating and building a brand by shouting at your potential customer. And shouting can take many forms. TV commercials, billboards and print advertising were especially popular. All that mattered was getting the brand message across. This was unbelievably inefficient and cost an absolute fortune. But the detergent companies didn’t mind because they were rolling in money. Every household needs to wash their clothes and housewives were willing to pay a hefty price premium just to buy into the brand. The other reason the detergent companies didn’t mind is because there was no alternative. It was shout at your customers or nothing. So it was a war of brand against brand (often owned by the same company) in a shouting war where the winner was the person who spent the most money.

Of course the methods, practices and techniques of the detergent wars were adopted by a wide range of other manufacturers selling an immense range of other products, even when it was patently inappropriate. And it is what a lot of the game industry, unbelievably, still does today. They needlessly throw very many millions away shouting at customers.

When it comes to consumer marketing (there are many other sorts) it is important to step back and look at what you are trying to do. Firstly you have to clearly identify who you are trying to reach, you are wasting your time trying to tell the Women’s Institute about a first person shooter. Then you have to work out the message that you want to get over to these people. Finally you need to investigate what is the most cost effective way of getting this message over to them. Now this may sound very simple and very obvious, but, unbelievably, most people spending money on marketing don’t do it.

Video games are not detergent. Video games are interesting and rouse emotions in people. This actually makes them very, very easy to market, because your customer wants to listen to what you have to say. There is no need whatsoever to shout.

Which brings us to the internet. The internet is any true marketeers dream. The ability to interact in real time with your entire global customer base is something that previous generations of marketeers could only dream about. It is as good as it can get. And the tools are free and easy to use. WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, YouTube.

So let’s look at what a game marketeer should be doing, rather than shouting at people like the dinosaurs do. The first thing to remember is that the most powerful marketing tool, by an immense margin, is word of mouth. So you want people talking about you. Then you need to actively engage with your customers and potential customers. And by engage I mean listen just as much as talk. You need to generate genuinely interesting marketing content. Blogs and videos are essential. And you need to keep on top of it, keep it fresh and continuously analyse what is happening. Easy, if you have a brain.

In this world the press release is more powerful than the advertisement, because the press release is telling people stuff that they want to know. Whereas advertisements are things that people want to ignore. Press releases tell a genuine story, they feed people’s appetite for news and they can be leveraged to reach vast audiences with key marketing messages.

So we have two distinct marketing philosophies. One the one hand the outdated, expensive detergent methodology still amazingly used by some. And the massively superior methodology of engaging with your customers which, refreshingly, more and more of the industry is gradually coming round to. The amazing thing isn’t just that engagement is better in every possible way to get the messages that you want over to the right people, it is also a whole lot cheaper.


  1. of course the sad fact is that a press release IS an advertisement, and sometimes a rather dishonest one at that

  2. Bang on! It’s always amazed me that for an industry so far advanced in terms of technology and development it continues to utilize old, outdated methods of engaging their potential buyers – it’s true, some are beginning to see there are other ways to market their wares but on the whole the attitude has always been – if we’re not burning a few million on tv ads, big posters and mammoth advertising campaigns it’s deemed the “product” won’t be successful – getting people talking and involved with your product will always generate buzz, arguably more so than any lavish advert – that’s why the indie developer scene, who don’t have huge money trees, rely on demo’s to let their product do the talking and not the fancy marketing spin – they invest more time talking directly to their customers using social media tools rather than, as you say “shouting” a message at them – personally i’d like to see more of the former.

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