In the corporate world, as a general rule, marketers and brand managers do not get involved in the creative aspects of advertising. Their job is to determine the strategy behind an ad campaign and then let the professional creatives do their thing. The job of the brand manager is to ensure that the ads are on strategy, but to leave the actual creation to the pros. Of course, as game developers, we are the creative pros. So that guiding principle just doesn’t sit right with me in the context of game development. Besides, I’d guess many or most indie studios probably can’t afford to hire professional creative agencies or trailer makers. So, to make the best use of the post, I’m going to walk through some of the important concepts behind ad creation. I’ll leave the decision as to who will craft the ad to you.
Everyone knows what advertisements are and why they are necessary to drive awareness. But making an effective ad is not as simple as just slapping some captured video into a YouTube upload and calling it a day. Your target audience is bombarded by ads all day, every-day. Your conscious mind spends much of its life practically bathing in them. So crafting a successful ad means assembling something that can cut through all of the noise and provide information that will stick. And the first step is determining a strategy for your ads.
Marketing has the same basic premise as football, judo, and hacking: find the opening and exploit it. In terms of your competition, the opening is known in marketing as the “white space”: the area of the canvas without any color. How does one identify the white space? With a simple exercise called, appropriately enough, a white space analysis.
Before you start an awareness campaign, you need to – say it with me now – develop a strategy. The first step was the positioning exercise from the last post. With that in hand, we can move to more esoteric, but ultimately vital aspect of marketing communication strategy.
Perception is reality, as the saying goes. Market positioning is the act of managing consumer perception of a product. This doesn’t mean misleading people or bending the facts. It means establishing and controlling the context in which you want your customers to consider your product. And effective positioning can make a world of difference between standing out from or getting lost in the crowd.
Once you’ve drilled down into your target segment and tested some of your assumptions, you now need to quantify whether that segment can be profitable. If you work for a major publisher, you have access to a professional marketing department that does this sort of thing for a living. But if you don’t, you’re not out of luck. You have an amazing tool at your disposal for free: Facebook.
Henry Ford once famously said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” More recently, Steve Jobs said “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” What these quotes are really getting at is the danger of interview-driven design. If you ask people what they want, they’ll just say “faster, better, cheaper.” And creating new products is YOUR job, not your customers’. It’s unreasonable to expect customers to tell you what products to make. Imagining completely new products is not their in their skillset.
Once you have identified a target segment, your next step is to learn as much about that segment as you can. But how do you even know where to look? The first step is to imagine a person who embodies that segment, in the form of a buyer persona.
One of Sun Tzu’s most quotable lines from The Art of War is “Know thy enemy and know thyself and in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.” And while you should never think of customers as the “enemy,” it’s still crucial to understand them in order to wage a successful marketing campaign. Understanding your customer means figuring out who they are, what their needs are and how you can serve those needs. And the first step in that journey is video game market segmentation.
Sun Tzu once said “All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.” In order for your tactical marketing decisions to be effective, they need to be coordinated around a central strategy. Your strategy is your guiding light for more than just ads. It impacts your target customers, your choice of platform and publisher, and how you respond to competition. In this post, I’ll walk you through the fundamentals of establishing a video game marketing strategy.