At the GameStop Expo recently the [a]list daily sat down with Mike Hogan, GameStop's executive vice president of strategic business & brand development (and fomerly the company's chief marketing officer), to talk about what GameStop is seeing for game marketing this fall and beyond.
Of course, the big buzz right now at GameStop is a combination of new consoles and a wave of highly anticipated games for both existing and new consoles. “Obviously with the new consoles people are excited about Call of Duty, Battlefield, Assassin's Creed,” Hogan said. “Hopefully there will be something for everyone, or almost everyone. What probably excites me the most is the amount of new IP you're seeing in the category. It could be Titanfall, it could be Watch_Dogs, it could be a number of things. Seeing companies investing tens of millions of dollars in new IP is a great sign of health. It means people are bullish.”
GameStop sees their buy-sell-trade model as a very important part of the strategy for the fall. “The number one reason fro not having reserved a new console is 'I don't have enough money,'” said Hogan. GameStop is intent on solving that problem by helping consumers unlock the billions of dollars of value they have in hardware and software that can be traded in for credit.
“We're going to be very aggressive around value,” Hogan continued. “You can trade to get your console, and you can trade your smartphone or your iPad. Getting people to think about the electronics that you have around the house as currency that you can actually spend is a big thing. We've actually produced an ad that hasn't run yet that has that message. This is a fall where we know there's lots of things that people want, so if we make consoles affordable to millions more people than would otherwise buy them, that's great for consumers and it's great for us.”
The biggest change in marketing that Hogan sees is the transformation that data is causing. “Data is transforming everything,” Hogan said. “It's the ability to take the data and attach it to an individual consumer. What you're seeing is an evolution of the marketing mix. You'll see more targeted media, you'll see less mass media. You'll see increased digital.”
What Hogan sees is this evolution taking place not just online, but at retail. “There's a lot of targeted marketing that actually happens in the store,” Hogan explained. “If you come into the store and you're a PowerUp member, I know who you are and what you've bought. It tells me things like the last five titles that you bought. Rather than saying 'hey, we sell digital content' I can say 'we see you bought Madden, did you like the game? Did you know there's additional digital content?' Even in store what's happening is customization of the experience.”
The overall trend for game marketing is an increase in spending. “From a development perspective, people are investing more and more in the category, and I think marketing goes hand in hand with that,” Hogan said. “There's a lot of good indicators of that – we can look at Game Informer magazine, advertising there tends to be a good leading indicator. Not only do we see increased spend, but we see publishers doing the same thing we're doing. They're spending a lower percentage of their budget on traditional mass-media vehicles and more of it on targeted things, like programs at GameStop. We can touch the consumer at the point of sale, we've got people there that can make recommendations, we've got an email base with 25 million members, and so on.”
“There's definitely more investment in the category, and they're getting data,” Hogan continued. “Everybody's getting smarter about saying I'm going to put my dollars where I get the biggest return. So dollars are are coming out of vehicles where you don't have hard data to demonstrate impact, and they're going into things where you can demonstrate impact.”
GameStop is giving its marketing partners more data, but of course there's a level of caution there. “We never give individual consumer data,” said Hogan. “But in terms of a targeted program impact, being able to go to publishers and say we're going to reach out to this group of people based on these criteria, absolutely. You can imagine for a Disney Infinity versus a Call of Duty you're talking a radically different market you're going after. The ability to slice and dice that is a pretty big deal.”
Speaking of that Hogan doesn't view the competition between Disney Infinity and Skylanders as a bad thing. “They're both going to win and that's good for the category,” said Hogan. “If you remember Guitar Hero and Rock Band, these were new things that took the category to a group of consumers that hadn't been as involved before. Obviously Activision was first out of the chute with Skylanders, and what Disney is doing is a recognition of the legitimacy of that category. Toys in that age target audience is doing well. I would say you'll see even more entries into that category.”