First-Person Marketer

First-Person Marketer
The Business of Manipulation

J.P. Sherman | 9 Aug 2010 15:31
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We Don't Realize That Girls Play Games Too
If you want girls to buy your product, just pink it and shrink it. Better yet, give girls videogames like Ubisoft's "Imagine" series, preparing girls for future careers in cooking, dressing up and making babies. Gamer girls have a special place in Hell for marketers using that kind of thinking. More women play casual and social games than men, they tend to spend more in micro-transactions and play in shorter bursts. When it comes to core games and MMOGs, female gamers are nearly equal in numbers to male gamers. Here's where things get complex and where most marketers fail. When marketing a videogame, both male and female gamers are looking for the same content. If you tailor that content towards a particular gender, you're doing it wrong. While it's true that male and female gamers weigh parts of a game differently, it's up to you to tailor your media not towards a gender, but to an aspect of the game. Show the action, show the story, show the customization and show the character arc. Tailor the content towards what people want to see, not what you think their gender is.

We Try to Control the Narrative
Look, there are always going to be gamers who laugh at you. I had a conversation once with a client a few years ago after he sent me a link with a particularly vicious blog post and comments about their game. After asking me to call up the popular videogame blog and ask them to remove the post and comments, I told them that would actually be worse. After a long discussion, I educated them on "The Streisand Effect", and they realized any action would be interpreted as a cover-up or information manipulation would be immediately pounced upon and they'd have an even worse disaster on their hands. They gradually relented and went through with their relationship with that popular gaming blog. We marketers try to control information releases, perspectives and even spin. When things happen beyond our control, forcing those things to be in our control never turns out the way we want.

We Just Make It Hard to Trust Us
It's overwhelmingly proven that gamers, especially core gamers, want to be marketed to. They crave new media about the games they're excited for. They want exclusive information, screenshots, videos and codes. They want swag and they want in-game rewards. Gamers, for the prospect of getting something they value, will give marketers personal information, they'll download apps and they'll sign up for newsletters. But they want to know that marketers and game companies value their input and support. We, as marketers, make it an unpleasant experience. We're not transparent. I can't tell you how many times I've told people that "sockpuppeting" in forums is a bad idea. Once, the entire office's access to Penny Arcade's forums was blocked because one marketing executive started posting things like, "OMG, u guys gotta check this awesome new gaming site lol, it's the pownz!". We don't understand the complexities of the audience and we tend to think that we know best, because that thing that we're marketing, we know you'll love it, we focus grouped it last year.

It's Not Just What Not to Do
When the marketing campaign integrates social media marketing and community management, the relationship between the marketing and the gamer has gotten better, but marketing to gamers is more than just not doing the things I said not to do. Videogame marketers need to assume that the gamer is intelligent and at least, curious. We leave a digital trail with our marketing campaigns and if we're not transparent, we'll be exposed. Focus on value and experience and not trying to fit in to the gamer subculture, awesome though it may be. Show the community that their feedback is worthwhile and valuable. User feedback is precious information that needs to be cultivated. If we don't give back, that community, along with its information, will dry up. If we find ourselves saying that PR & marketing problems stem from a vocal minority, it's time to review how we're treating the community and the people who want to be our customers.

JP Sherman's a professional marketer, which means that he spends his time trying to manipulate you into buying more stuff. When he's not trying to modify your behavior, he writes and does a podcast about video game marketing at Set on Stun.

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