Almost exactly a year ago (give or take 3 weeks) I wrote a post on Microsofts’s then new XBox accessory, the motion sensing Kinect. Back then I noted how the Kinect had been passionately embraced by hackers and scientists across America and the globe. Engineering grad students were finding uses for the Kinect that Microsoft could not have even begun to dream of. Microsoft’s initial reaction was to lets it’s lawyers off the leash but luckily, someone with a modicum of sense managed to beat that instinct down and lock it in cupboard. However, after that, Microsoft largely turned silent. Videos of new and creative uses for the Kinect kept coming but the big M seemed to stick to the plan that the Kinect should be nothing but a cool addition to a gaming console. Truly a horrific waste in terms of marketing and a sad testament to Microsofts ability to grasp the reins of a potentially paradigm shifting opportunity. I was genuinely sad.
Until this video was passed around my office on Monday morning.
That video is goddamn magic.
For me it is more than just the hauntingly beautiful interpretation of the Pixies “Where is my mind?” that accompanies the video* of people using the Kinect in ways that most hardcore gamers would find baffling, if not downright infuriating.
The video is accompanies Microsoft’s recent launch of The Kinect Effect website and the release of SDK Beta, a software package that will make it easier for people to write programs for their Kinect. The company has finally decided to throw its full weight behind the modding community, a move we usually only get from Google. What is more, Microsoft has decided that the Kinect has the heft and power to stand on it’s own. No longer is it merely an fancy gadget that will allow your kids to interact with Elmo or for you to impress your drunk friends with your Dance Central moves. It is a product, no, it is brand all on its own and the video is testament to this.
Only once do you hear someone in the video mention the word XBox, but the fabled entertainment console is nowhere to be seen in the video. At the end of the video, the word “Kinect” stands entirely on it’s own. It is no longer the XBox Kinect, it has grown beyond it.
I don’t think that I would be out of line by saying that even the great, late Steve Jobs could not help but be impressed by this.
- Philip Beickler
* The video was made by twofifteenmccann, a division of McCann Erikson, the global ad agency that won the exclusive contract to all Microsoft advertising. The company is responsible for the hugely impressive Halo and Gears of War ad campaigns that I have mentioned in this space previously. They really have done some amazing work for Microsoft and for the XBox division in particular. I will definitely write about those campaigns in the future.
At least 3/4 of the writers of Your Brand is Showing are video game fans. While we aren’t hardcore gamers, we are long out of the teenage twitch muscles years and have discovered means other than World Warcraft to dispossessing ourselves of time and money, we all love to kick back and play a little Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. What is more, the video games industry is the fastest growing and most lucrative entertainment industry at the moment. 2009 global video game sales were $65.8 billion USD according to Euromonitor Int. (slightly down from $65.9 bln in 2008). I am going to take a more in depth look at the industry at a later date; they are doing some very exciting things with the marketing of their products. For today, however, I want to focus on a specific series of market communications for a video game product. The promotions are for the phenomenally successful Gears of War series, and in my opinion, they are incredibly well done. Please take a moment to watch the three promotions.
You may have heard about the Gears of War series being a hyper-violent, gore drenched shooter exclusively populated by “insecure, faux macho twats with necks like overturned mixing bowls”, to paraphrase my favorite video game reviewer. Well, you would have heard correctly, as that is exactly what the game is. Which is precisely the reason why I believe the above communications are so effective. I will break them down according to the first three of our beloved Five Buckets (a tool popular within the Thunderbird Marketing program): Category Need, Brand Awareness and Brand Attitude. The last two (Brand Purchase Intention and Brand Purchase Facilitation) I shall leave out as they are more concerned with point of purchase brand promotion.
The first promotion sets a very stark and bleak tone, a strain that is very effectively continued in the other two videos. The strange juxtaposition between the somber pop music, the ruined city, the protagonist kneeling the rain over the remains of a statue of a child and the subsequent violence give the advert an air of inevitable doom not unalike that of a Greek tragedy. An immediate emotional attachment is formed with the viewer: the world has ended, humanity is finished. But who is the enemy? What are these strange creatures and who is this man resolved to fight them alone in the dark? To answer these questions, the viewer must buy the game. The following two videos continue this theme: in both of them we get the sense that the characters are locked in an ultimately futile struggle, fighting a war they have already lost. While this is more implicit in the second video (the characters enjoying their moments of daylight before heading in to the dark), the last and most recent brooks no question that this is indeed “The End”. The emotional connection that was originally established is strengthened, and the customers motivation to buy the sequels and continue the story has further increased.
The communications also serve to distinguish the brand from it’s many competitors in the third-person shooter market. Customers will have strong brand recollection due to the unusually subdued and emotional nature of the market communication. What is more, the prominence of the games characters in the videos makes them instantly recognizable at the point of purchase. To further enforce brand awareness, the brand logo and title font which are shown at the end of advert are very unique and instantly recognizable, further enforcing point of purchase brand recognition.
The common thread of a tragic and futile struggle that permeates all three of these trailers goes a long way to shape and define customers attitude towards the game. What is more, the videos themselves seem to follow a traditional three act narrative structure. The first teaser establishes the setting, the second expands it, providing more depth to the characters and the third sets the stage for the final fight as darkness descends on the characters. This structure as gives us an indication that the brand understands very well how to drawn in their target demographic. The teasers promise a compelling story and a visceral and exciting experience, something video gamers crave. Additionally, the Gears of War series has maintained a very tight release schedule. New teasers and titles have been released every two years, allowing the brand to refresh the experience in consumers memories just as their interest in the product is about to wane.
In conclusion, the series of Gears of War communications are amongst some of the emotionally resonant and memorable adverts I have seen in a many years. They achieve their goal of increasing brand awareness perfectly. What is more, they show that the video game industry, oft maligned as a red headed step child of the entertainment industry, is in fact the most creative and effective market communicator at the moment.