At Gamesom, MCV sat down to speak with Maxis VP of Marketing Jordan Edelstein about where marketing for games has been and is going.
How has games marketing changed, and how do you see it changing again in the next five years?
I’ve been with EA for nine-and-a-half years, and I think the biggest change has been the growth of digital marketing, and our ability to customise our message based on the consumer. It’s probably not an original thought in the US and anyone in the industry, but the growth of digital marketing has allowed us to customise messaging, customise offers: “We understand you saw this and it interested you, so here’s some more about that.” Or, “We saw you came, and we saw you weren’t interested, but you came in the first place, so here’s something else.”
I think our ability to do that efficiently and effectively certainly benefits us as marketers, but I think it also benefits consumers, as we’re able to serve more relevant content to them. Everyone throws away junk mail, whereas if you get a piece of mail that’s relevant to you, you open it. I think it’s that simple. That’s a big one.
We used to treat our launches like movie launches, where we build up and scream bloody murder on launch day. Obviously we still want to do that, but I think now we’re able to build more long-term relationships with consumers over the course of a marketing campaign – before, at, and after a game ships. The digital marketing tools we have allow us to do that.
In-game advertising is something that has been talked about for years. It has seen popularity spikes, but its never quite achieved its promise for businesses. Do you think it’s something that will work, or can work in the future?
Yeah, I think it went way too far, and then got dialled back. I think [the reason for that] is when the fit with the product just doesn’t make any sense. The places where in-game advertising can be integrated in a way that’s authentic, where consumers would expect to see it, are the ones that make sense and drive strong performance. The ones that are complete force-fits or are heavy-handed get ridiculed. So as those things started to get ridiculed, people started to dial back.
We see it in our social games, our Facebook titles where it still has pretty good legs, and there are opportunities in our traditional packaged goods as well, but it’s really where they make sense rather than the [former] gold rush mentality we saw maybe five years ago.
There were even some examples from EA where you would shake your head. I spent years working on the EA Sports business, and I think we got to a point where because the games reflect a sports broadcast where you would expect to see, “The coin-toss is brought to you by X” The consumer can get it, it feels more like television, as opposed to snowboarding through a 7-UP can.
I think within Maxis titles, there are opportunities where it makes sense, and a lot of it people can opt in to. A lot of people like it because it adds authenticity, other people don’t want that in their product, and that’s OK.
SimCity is all about buildings and town planning, something that must be a challenge when thinking about marketing creative for the game. How are you getting on?
The visual identity work for SimCity is very tricky in the sense that they’re all buildings, and you can shape it any way you want but at the end of the day, they’re still buildings. We work really closely with the development team in terms of the product aesthetic; they’re using a toy model, a tilt shift kind of approach, so we’re overlaying that into a lot of our marketing visuals.
It’s a marriage of our creative director on the product’s vision, our creative team on the marketing assets, and making that gel together.
And of course, we’re not building a completely new brand. If you look at historical SimCity visual marks in terms of logos and packs – we ask ourselves whether we can use any of that historical stuff, or do we need to do something fresh? Because we’re really treating this as a reboot of the franchise as it’s been dormant, we can start on that ground make sure it really fits with where the product is headed.
Stay tuned for Part 2 on Monday.
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