/ Faces of Growth

"What do you do with these animals?" Quirky marketing that brought about a near two million dollar uptake in revenue.

Having worked around the gaming industry for many years, and being a huge goofball since forever, I’ve always enjoyed how creative, quirky and intelligent that breed of people tend to be.

Geoff Mosher’s glory story - the one that brought about a near two million dollar uptake in revenue that went up 60% week over week, generated 50,000 Facebook likes in under two weeks (when organic likes were hard to come by), and got half a million views on what was then, their small YouTube channel - involves a good deal of quirky experimentation with content personalization in the early days of free to play gaming on Electronic Art’s The Sims Mobile (then, The Sims FreePlay).

With the playbook in hand for new updates that would be coming out months later, Mosher says,

“We used push notifications leading to in-app notifications leading to interstitials, to really showcase the new content. But not only to showcase it, to tease it in an episodic way.”

He explains that this sucessfully engaged the core user base and created a rush of new content, such that sparked the brand new strategy of being re-featured by Apple and iTunes. (At that time, most games got launched and featured by the stores, then that was the end of it.) Since EA was getting more user acquisition that wasn’t from the stores, they asked to be re-featured.

Mosher’s example of the episodic release of new updates was from The Sims Nightclub being connected to The Sims Party Boat, which was the Facebook Connect (thus was born a social media following). Of course, dogs were in the game, but not cats...until gamers complained about their absence.

In response to the complaints, Mosher’s team created a campaign in which players received push notifications in game, then an overlay notification hinting at what was to come, and finally a full screen banner ad that drove people to Facebook. Little content leaks would appear on Facebook until EA did a full release of the content. To further engage their Facebook following, a Lolcat meme caption contest created an additional wave to those being simultaneously re-featured by Apple and Google stores, as well as organic and paid user acquisition.

“The Sims was about personalization. What do you do with these animals? What do you do when you’re in a disco in SimLand. We let people's’ imaginations run wild, and used their activity and love for the game and their expression for that as our marketing. And it worked. It worked very well.”

The devil’s in the details - and Geoff spared nothing when telling me about his time as the Senior Manager of Product Marketing EA Games, Director of Marketing at 505 Games, and as the Director of Product Intelligence and Growth at StoryArc Media.

He broke down the biggest marketing funnel challenges and solutions intro three categories:

Churn
Challenge: Players don’t stay in your game long enough, or ever come to it in the first place.

Solution:

  • Base A/B testing during the onboarding experience on gathered telemetry data (“You need more telemetry data for a longer period of time than your thinking,” Geoff says.), bounce point location and motivation, and organics vs. paid results.
  • Define what the user needs to be doing two weeks down the line in a clear core loop progression.
  • Monitor player progress level and content consumption
  • Have both a robust elder game as well as a game that never ends.
  • Remember that social competition drives free virality.
  • Reward players with something new every time they play, and Make customizations limitless.
  • Untap spend-potential on freemium games.

Cross promotion
Challenge: Getting external support that costs little and yields high.

Solution:

  • Study the app stores and build a relationship. If you’ve got a good relationship, stores usually want to give you good placement during a launch, and also are supportive to your building a content schedule around their smaller holidays.

“That’s potential easy free featuring you could maybe get 50,000 installs and not have to pay for a single one. A lot of teams forget to do that, and it’s because it takes some effort, it takes relationship management.”

  • Optimize what inventory you have - i.e. in-app purchases, small amounts coming from rewards, store-fronts - especially if you have a portfolio game, to drive traffic to/from the game.

Sunsetting
Challenge: “There’s a way to artfully sunset a game,” Jeff says, “that funnels that traffic to the games you think they should be playing.”

Solution:

  • Don’t rush sunsetting a game - ensure players have time to use the purchases they’ve made
  • Be generous with special offers
  • Be transparent and forthright as to why it’s being shut down - it’s ok to say if it didn’t do well
  • Offer make-goods on special games - open up something for a player who you know is coming over from another game.

What’s your quirky but successful marketing story? Tell us on Twitter!

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