When a gamer walks into a store determined to buy a product, several things
affect his decision: a demo, a sales pitch from the retailer, a product's
packaging, etc. When he finally makes a decision, however, he relies mostly
on the first game line or game manufacturer that comes to mind.
Ask any gamer to name five games and most likely you will hear Magic: The
Gathering, Pokemon, Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer, and Vampire. Why?
Because their makers have created T.O.M.A (Top-of-the-Mind Awareness). Call
it luck, great promotional programs, or longevity-- these products continue
to sell because the consumers think of them FIRST!
Promoting head to head against well-established companies is nearly
impossible. They have more clout, more money, and a successful track record
under their belt. Any company who says it is going to sell Magic: The
Gathering numbers is, well, crazy. It takes a LOT of money and a LOT of luck
to get that kind of consumer awareness.
If you want to fight the good promotions fight, you need to take baby steps..
Try to corner a source category. Break up the gaming industry into genres
and niches, go after the "weak" areas or even create new ones. Who's the
current top dog in the cyberpunk genre? Who has the Hard Sci-Fi market
locked up now? Take time to research the field and make smart choices when
competing with other companies offering products in that category. Do you
really want to go up against Dream Pod 9, Palladium, and Wiz Kids in pushing
a Giant Robot game? Not the smartest choice when so many other avenues are
less traveled or waiting to be discovered.
FREQUENCY is a Strategic Part of Creating T.O.M.A.
Every day, consumers are bombarded by manufacturers trying to get them to
buy a product. Coca-Cola understands if you don't buy its red cans of soda,
at least you got the message... and if you get the message 50 more times today
than Pepsi's message, you will choose Coke over Pepsi.
How many times do gamers hear about Magic: The Gathering in a single day?
How many times do gamers hear about D&D in a single day? How many times do
gamers hear about your product in a single day? If the answer is 1000 to 1
(or not at all), you can see why your sales are not meeting expectations.
When you create a promotional campaign, the key is to mention your company
and product to as many people per day as possible. Sometimes you spend money
on advertising, sometimes you work to increase traffic on your web site,
sometimes you go out and promote to fans at a convention. But the more
consumers you reach each day, the better your chances of them remembering
your product the next time they have $20 to spend.
Creating a Promotional Campaign
In the gaming industry, companies tend to spend between 7% and 9% of yearly
earnings on promotions. Some promotions could be a toll-free number, product
giveaways, convention presence, fliers, demo-kits, advertising, etc., etc.
If you are not spending this money, you are SERIOUSLY hindering your chances
of success. You cannot expect to beat out competitors in your chosen field
if they have an active promotional campaign, while you are rely on your
great game designing skills and personal charisma. You are going to lose.
You may say you don't have the money to create a decent promotional
campaign. Yeah right! So you have to do it the grass roots way: word of
mouth, demos, giving away samples to excited consumers, and so on. However,
when you start making cash, you'd better take this campaign to the next level!
Why? Because your competitor will!
Make a Plan of Attack
Sit down and figure out what you are going to do. Which conventions will you
go to? Will you buy advertising? How will you support yourself on the web?
It's hard to beat your competitors without a plan. When you sit down to play
a game, do you try to read your opponents, try to anticipate their next
move, try to out-think them every step of the way-- all in the name of
winning? So why are you not doing that in real life?!? Think of a
promotional campaign as a big game and the winner is the company that makes
consumers think about their products most often!
Become Aware of Your Strengths
Each of us possesses different skills that we can take advantage of when
creating a good promotional campaign. If you can design web sites well,
focus a campaign around that. If you are a showman, go to more conventions
and retail stores. If your spouse works for a game distributor, use that as
a way to learn how the distribution chain works. The more you play to your
strengths, the better the chance and faster you will succeed.
A common complaint among game company owners has always been, "I just don't
advertise in magazines because I don't see any (or enough) returns from the
ads we placed!"
But you MUST remember that a successful ad campaign is trying to create
T.O.M.A. for your company and products. This CANNOT be achieved by one
"strategically placed" full-page ad. To be successful, an ad campaign must
be long-term AND supported by other creative promotions.
If you have a choice of one full page color ad, or twelve 1/10-page ads,
always choose frequency! Once again, use T.O.M.A. as your ultimate goal and
eventually you can upgrade to full-page ads. Be patient.
Don't expect to see "immediate" returns on an ad campaign. You have to give
it time to work. This means a consumer must see your ad or name several
times before he starts recognizing you and your product.
An ad campaign should be one of your many tools to increase T.O.M.A. If it
happens to increase sales immediately, that's just icing on the cake!
Is Your Campaign Working
Once you create a promotional campaign, stick to it for four months to a
year. Don't second-guess yourself. Stick to your guns. Make changes slowly
and keep your focus. Creating T.O.M.A. takes time. On average, it takes two
to four years to establish a firm T.O.M.A. for your game company and
Figure out your yearly budget. Aim to cultivate the highest level of
consumer awareness for the buck. Use an arsenal of promotion programs, not
just one! Be Patient. Take Small steps. And keep in mind, the winner is the
company that gets thought of first!
Sales & Marketing
Games Unplugged Magazine