I Don’t Hate Marketing

“Oh, you’re the one who hates marketing.”

Clearly, I have failed to communicate. I don’t hate marketing. I hate poorly thought out, knee jerk, disco-era marketing perpetuated by people who don’t understand massively multiplayer games. Or the internet. Oh, and I hate hype-based marketing done without consulting anyone actually implementing the features. I suppose it’s fair to say I hate marketing that is actually porn. Hrm, now that I think about it, I hate it when people confuse “booth whore” with “marketing.” Okay, and I admit, it does seem like some people get into marketing out of a persistent inability to do anything else.

(Story time! I knew a girl once who was technically hired to do marketing, but was actually hired for her total lack of gag reflex. She and my husband were in an elevator once, and she kept trying to get him to look at her butt. “Oh, my, this skirt is just so short, it keeps riding up!” He wasn’t having any of it, because honestly, at this point, we’d ALL seen her butt. My god, we’d seen more than her butt. She had this… blog, I guess you could call it. Anyway, she kept pushing the issue, complaining about static, elastic, anything she could think of in the posterior region, just so she could walk up to someone later and complain about how this artist kept staring at her ass. Finally, my better half said, very seriously, “I hear that skirts come in bigger sizes.” But there’s no winning with this kind of marketing person. She wound up crying about how he said she was fat. Because he was looking at her butt.)

Anyway, I love good marketing. I have had the honor of working with some of the best, most creative minds in the niche. Listening to someone who actually knows what he is doing is like listening to a top jazz musician. Their minds dance and weave, and they think along several pathways at once. They don’t get bogged down in one Grand Plan (usually a variant on “must… suck… PCGamer cock…”), but rather they look at a marketing campaign as a multiheaded beast. Also, I suspect one way to tell a real marketing guy from one who thought it was an easy major is a spectacular sense of humor. Good marketing is very much dependent on timing, and people whose livelihoods depend on timing tell great stories.

But most people have lousy timing, and lack the ability to think two steps ahead. I’ve lost track of the number of times a game company arranged a major story on a product, timed to go out exactly at the right time to get people stirred up… only to have it yanked at the last second, because the story would have been online, and they managed to get a holy magazine feature with the same material. The magazine wouldn’t come out for three more months, but these pathetic refugees from the eighties think it’s better to get late paper coverage instead of properly timed web coverage. I’ve heard of feature launches being delayed to cater to a medium that even the purveyors thereof admit is not the way to get the early adopters or the evangelists.

Don’t tell me this is PR’s fault and not marketing. First of all, if there’s a game company out there where PR is not utterly owned by the marketing people, educate me. Second, PR only releases what they are told to release. And finally, PR has to periodically justify their existence with tangible printouts of whatever it was they did. Magazine clips impress the refugees from the seventies that set the budgets.

(Another story. I once saw one of these binders. A nice three inch thick one, with lots of tabbed dividers. Upon hefting this bad boy, you’d think that PR person worked their tail off. And in fact, the target of the presentation was impressed as all get out! The fact that easily a THIRD of this binder consisted of coverage entirely obtained and supported by the in-house community weenie was not remembered.)

There is a place for eight page magazine spreads – but it’s not early in the marketing cycle, and it’s certainly not the mainstay of a decent MMO campaign. Furthermore, asserting the primacy of dead tree campaigns to the detriment of websites is insane, and ultimately counterproductive. Once the MMO launches, the odds of it pushing issues is not particularly high, unless the game is a massive success. The care and feeding of a launched MMO is in the hands of the internet… and they will remember being dismissed as non-essential during the launch process.

My point: Good marketing juggles *all* avenues with impeccable timing, with no one area automatically trumping any other. Magazines/major papers, major web outlets/hubs, and niche websites need to be equally balanced in order to maximize the long term return. Treating these three groups as if they were in a descending order of value gets you a big splashy launch, and poor long term results… unless you have a community weenie frantically playing catchup for years after the marketing guy drank his champagne and went home.

(One of the biggest frustrations/regrets of my career is having worked on one of the original MMOs that valued guilds… and no one knew about it. Had I been able to work with real marketing people at the time of that launch, instead of press release sending robots who couldn’t spell and didn’t know a Vault from a porn site, what I was doing with community would have been amplified tremendously.)

I don’t advocate community OVER marketing in terms of selling a new product to players. If I sound strident at times, it’s because too often Community is subordinate to Marketing. (Don’t give me examples where you think the two teams are equal – if the head of community reports to the head of marketing, they may be pals, but they ain’t partners.) What I want to see in my lifetime is a team situation, where Community and Marketing work as partners in their areas of expertise, coordinating information and their efforts. The total would be greater than the sum of its parts.

 

 

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14 Comments

  1. mystery said,

    November 15, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    So, that girl with lack of gag reflex has a blog? You really should link it, you know, …for proper documentation.

  2. Kaa said,

    November 15, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    LOL. Clearly the intertubes lack sufficient blog pr0n.

    You still should link to it, because then this post could be read as a marketing exercise to promote a bitchslap at a tart who dared to wave her butt at your husband 😀

    Kaa

  3. Scott Jennings said,

    November 15, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    Trust me, you don’t want to see that blog. It was Myspacey before Myspace.

    So, Sanya, you don’t like marketing!

  4. savagex said,

    November 15, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    Sweet jebus you BOTH know her.

    *shudders*

  5. Kaa said,

    November 15, 2007 at 7:38 pm

    Well, Lum and Tweety worked together so I’m guessing she who is now known forever as “the girl with a total lack of gag reflex” was a Mythic employee as well…

    Kaa

  6. Rawrasaur said,

    November 15, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    The only response I’d have is that marketing and community must be tailored to the product. MMOGs live and die by the internet, so it makes sense that the (internet) community and the marketing must go hand-in-hand. Jen Gamer might pick up a MMOG based on a magazine’s reccommendation, but the retention is all about the game and community. Magazines don’t matter too much in the long run for MMOGs, since whatever gets printed is usually out of date anyway, and all the players know all about what’s coming up. This is the main reason why I skip the MMO news from various gaming websites; most of the time it’s just stuff I know already, or stuff that’s so far in the distance it’s still below the horizon.

    On the other hand, many other games don’t benefit from community either. I don’t see community being a big deal for Super Mario Galaxy or Splinter Cell: The Next One. I think that the chance of marketing and community working together is probably closer than you implied though. People are noticing the wow effect (bigger budget, more time spent polishing, etc.) leads to better retention and more customers, and a great deal of that is through the community, especially now.

  7. Bonedead said,

    November 16, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    So seriously, what about this blog link? kekeke

  8. Bonedead said,

    November 16, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    Oh, I’ve seen her before on the internets, that’s funny that she sucks.

  9. Mox said,

    November 19, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    Technically, Lum only said he’d seen the “blog.”

    The marketing departments all over the electronic entertainment industry have always struck me as, well, the best word I can think of to describe them is immature. I mean both lacking in experience, and crudely juvenile.

  10. Moorgard said,

    November 20, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    The thing is, even the most well-intentioned marketing person is likely to see community as a subset of their domain; a specialized form of target marketing. And even though there are some community people in the industry on a director level, every game company will have one or more marketing people on an executive level. Hierarchically speaking, the marketing person is going to win out.

  11. Bob the Barman said,

    November 20, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    It’s easy to have a spectacular sense of humour, when marketing an outstanding product.

    No matter how good you are at marketing, when the dust settles, if you have just sold someone a pile of steaming horse shit, they are always going to remember that you sold them a pile of steaming horse shit.

    In those circumstances, humour usually has a little difficulty entering the equation.

  12. Georgia said,

    November 20, 2007 at 9:59 pm

    “girl without a gag reflex” HAHA… the tears won’t stop streaming from my eyes!

    I love you. Deeply.

    Keep it coming!

  13. UnSub said,

    November 21, 2007 at 5:50 am

    I’m amazed (but not surprised) that anyone considers print magazines a key marketing channel for online games. For the person to play, they need online access. If they don’t have that, then it doesn’t matter what the magazine says about it, they won’t be able to play.

    Community management is a critical part of any marketing for a MMO, since these are your customers, right there in front of you, who you can talk directly to (and they will want to talk back). Most other types of marketing aren’t nearly as efficient – you can’t see who you are talking to if you use above-the-line channels like TV or newspapers and a lot of those audiences could be the wrong ones for you – while print magazines can go out with errors / outdated content. But your community (who possess the most powerful marketing channel of all in word-of-mouth) is the key, so getting the info out to them should be the priority.

    And yes, good marketing relies on good strategy across multiple channels delivered at the right time. Get one of those aspects wrong and you’ve wasted the opportunity.

    @Sanya – isn’t it great? You write a piece on community management and marketing in MMOs and all anyone will remember is “A girl without a gag reflex? Where?” 😉

  14. Philip Ripper said,

    November 27, 2007 at 10:37 am

    Moorgard, we aren’t talking about what is, but what aught. And, out of curiosity, five years ago, would you have said director level? At least, without expecting someone to take away your car keys? Even if it was true in talent then, it wasn’t in respect.

    This is still an infancy, and there are no rules, only mile stones.


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