Building A Global Dinosaur-Riding Community Is Key To Launching ‘Durango’

A group of passengers, each with different backgrounds and skill sets, are quietly riding a passenger train when they are suddenly transported to a strange world where human civilization and technology doesn’t exist. Instead, they’re surrounded by untamed jungle filled with roaming dinosaurs. These people must learn to forage, rediscover technologies, and build up their defenses in order to survive.

This might sound like the plot for a new sci-fi movie or show, but it’s actually the premise for Durango, an upcoming open world MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) from Nexon M, designed specifically for mobile devices.

Mike Tekle, associate director of product at Nexon M

Mike Tekle, associate director of product at Nexon M, explained to AListDaily that time travel isn’t necessarily involved in Durango. Rather, players are transported to an alternate world and they must learn to survive and pioneer the land against a multitude of carnivorous dinosaurs.

Durango was officially announced in June and was shown for the first time on the E3 show floor where attendees could try the game out. Nexon had a Durango kiosk set up, and players got a taste of the game as a guide stood nearby to present background and tips. Nexon has also been promoting the game extensively via its Facebook and Twitter channels.

Having released hits such as Maple Story, Vindictus and many others, Nexon is no stranger to MMO games. However, this is the first MMO the company is releasing for mobile platforms. When asked what inspired the development of a free-to-play dinosaur-themed survival MMO for mobile, Tekle said, “The development team at What! Studio, one of the top studios in South Korea, and their director Eunseok Yi have a lot of experience in the MMORPG space. Mabinogi and Vindictus are a couple of the titles that Yi led. They saw that the MMORPG landscape was pretty similar where high fantasy themes were concerned and felt that coming in with a unique theme like this would resonate globally. Humans interacting with dinosaurs crosses cultural barriers, and that’s what they wanted to strive for.”

However, both Mabinogi and Vindictus are PC games. So, we asked Tekle why Yi and his studio decided to develop an MMO game for mobile devices.

“We want to be pioneers in the MMORPG space on the mobile front,” said Tekle. “We feel like there’s plenty of opportunity on the mobile side, and it’s just a matter of coming in with the right concept, an intuitive interface and gameplay that’s bite-sized enough for mobile players to enjoy in short sessions—or they can sit down with it for hours. Again, there’s plenty of opportunities, and we feel like Durango is the one that will occupy the space.”

Tekle detailed how Nexon was growing the player community in the lead-up to the game’s launch later this year. “Part of our initiative right now is pre-awareness, which is one of the reasons why we were at E3,” said Tekle. “We’re spreading the word around and we had a press release announcing that the game would be launched in Q4 [2017]. So, we’re strategically planting the seeds over the next few months so that the fans who have already played and know about Durango can organically spread the message to their friends—letting them know that this awesome and unique game is coming out soon. We expect that with our efforts combined with the fans spreading the word that the word will get out.”

“On the mobile space, we’re going to heavily rely on our community to help grow our efforts by engaging them through Facebook, Twitter, our website and forums, to have them be evangelists for the game. That’s one of the ways to help spread the word for mobile games. [On mobile] it’s about, ‘are your friends playing it and are they evangelizing it?’ If they are, then the game will grow organically and globally,” said Tekle.

“We’ve been posting pictures from E3 [and other events] on social media, and teasing players by saying that we’re launching soon so they can be prepared. We’re also encouraging them to be part of the upcoming beta test if the game is available in their regions. The community has already been very supportive, and they’re looking forward to the launch.”

In addition to presenting Durango at public events like E3, the upcoming beta is the perfect opportunity to give players an early look at the game. “There will be a limited beta test scheduled relatively soon,” said Tekle. “It will be confined to a few territories and the goal is to refine the game, make sure it will scale as needed, and get feedback from users about what we can do better to prepare for the global launch.”

So, does Nexon’s experience with publishing MMO games for the PC help with growing a new game in the mobile space? “I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned,” said Tekle. “There are differences between PC and mobile, but I don’t think that they’re differences that can’t be overcome. Essentially, creating a fun experience on the platform that the game is intended for is key. With PC MMORPGs, most people will expect a mouse and keyboard or controller to interact with. Durango’s interface is smooth and intuitive [for mobile], so those types of things cross paths. We expect that this game will feel right for mobile.”

“An ideal MMO on mobile has a persistent world where users can see what others are doing,” he replied. “Players can play bite-sized chunks if they want to. The idea is having a game you can play on the go when you have a couple of minutes here or there. But if you want to sit down and play for hours, you can also do that and have fun. Having a game that’s on-the-go and massive is something we think mobile users will enjoy.”

As with all of Nexon’s mobile games, Durango is being designed with a 10-year service plan in mind. “With all of Nexon’s games, we plan for five or ten years of success,” Tekle explained. “That’s been a staple with Nexon going back to Maple Story and a lot of other games. We don’t look at things from a short-term perspective—we expect that games will be services for many years to come.”

Inside Panasonic’s Brand Repositioning

Panasonic will soon celebrate its centennial with a brand repositioning that’s shifting their strategy from a basic consumer electronics products provider to one bringing business-and-government integrated technology solutions.

The multinational Japanese electronics corporation runs an $11 billion business portfolio in North America, but if you have plans of purchasing a Panasonic TV, think again, because they have exponentially expanded their non-consumer business, specifically under the following four categories: automated supply chains, sustainable energy, immersive entertainment and connected world.

Panasonic created the taxonomy and solution categories to better share stories about their brand evolution under its latest marketing message, “Technologies That Move Us,” hoping their experience in the consumer market will help its other lines of business begin to boom.

Lauren Sallata, Panasonic USA’s chief marketing officer and senior vice president, who leads the corporation’s digital, brand, content and advertising efforts, joined AListDaily to detail how they’re repositioning the company.

Lauren Sallata, Panasonic USA’s CMO and SVP

How do you introduce the Panasonic brand today?

Being a basic consumer electronics products provider is at the bottom of our value pyramid’s hierarchy. The messaging up the food chain, or up the pyramid, so to speak, is around what we’re truly doing, which is integrated technology solutions. That said, this is a tremendous time in our company’s history. We’re a very mission-driven brand. We have a set of business principles that were created by our founder, Kōnosuke Matsushita, 100 years ago—leading with contribution to society first, and supporting employees. I think that’s very much a part of our culture. As we rebuild our brand, and leverage our heritage, we’re just reaching consumers in a different way then we have been in the past—as an enabler through business and government. I think we still have the end user in mind, which is the consumer, it’s just at a slightly different framework and go-to-market approach.

What are the products that Panasonic is marketing and positioning in North America?

We’re very much a holistic provider to consumer businesses and government. We’re still in North America, but we’re not selling televisions anymore at this time. We discontinued sales of TVs about two years ago as part of our transformation. We’re still very much in the consumer business in the US and in Canada with cooktops, cameras, microwaves and grooming products. There’s still very much a base in business consumers. If you look at our capability categories, we’re really more into things like sustainable energy. That means looking at ion batteries for Tesla, or Toyota . . . solar installations, micro-grids, and the like. In the category of the connected world, we’re doing integrated vehicle-to-vehicle technology and vehicle-to-X technology, and connected worlds in places like Denver, Colorado.

How is Panasonic engaging and starting conversations with consumers to spread the word about your brand ethos? How are you reintroducing a legacy brand in the marketplace?

Right now we’re very much in awareness-building. We did a lot of research to optimize, and first and foremost, we needed to tell our business story, because that’s 80-plus percent of the revenue for us in North America. It’s actually business-to-business, and business-to-government. Our consumers represent about 20 percent of our business in North America. We did a lot of research into our buyer set, created those personas and then we matched the media buy, very specifically, to how consumers get information. We landed in a lot of tech, news and sports media outlets. We were heavy on video. We’re seeing a lot of people signing up for newsletters and for more information, which we kind of officially haven’t gotten into as part of the campaign. But we’re seeing early engagement there. . . . The next phase of work we’re doing is bringing it down into the business levels and working and making sense of it for everybody’s different particular market space.

You mention going heavy on video. What have you experimented with?

We’re making 60-30-and-15-second videos on paid social. We skew very heavily with our buyer personas, believe it or not, on Facebook. We’re getting a lot of really good traction there. We’re doing programmatic as well.

What is your marketing approach on social media?

We absolutely are heavy on social, both organic and paid. Right now we’re putting together a pilot program for social selling to bring that into the fold as a strategic growth program. Influencer marketing is absolutely something that’s within the business units—you’ll see a lot of that going on. We’re covered by different influencers and industry analysts, sort of at the business-unit level. We have 10-plus business units in North America, and each of those business units has their own small marketing team. We employed that strategy at the previous two CES [in Las Vegas] just to engage with influencers and bring forward the real story and reality of our company. We’re seeing a lot of lift in engagement and shares when we do use those strategies. I think we do it very surgically.

The Denver Smart City project is one of the projects that aligns with your four categories. What insights can you share? 

It’s going well. We’re continuing to deliver on the commitments that we made for Denver. Most of our development is focused around Peña Station, which is a light rail line going from the Denver International Airport to Union Station in the center of Denver. This 400 acre-development area is like a test bed for the technologies that will be implemented in the smart city. And we have a micro-grid that we’re working on with our partner, Xcel Energy. We’re also implementing other technologies, like smart street lights, which do more than just illuminate, but also providing security and pointing out parking spaces, and a lot of other added value, smart city features.

How is Panasonic empowering creators and inviting them to share their work?

Panasonic plays, invests or sells in some version in nine-of-the-top-12 disruptive technologies—things like robotics, artificial intelligence and energy. We put our $5 billion research and development investment into play every year. There are a number of initiatives being driven out of our parent corporation to engage entrepreneurs and innovators that are largely targeted for millennials. We’ve set up what we call the Wonder Lab, and it’s in Osaka, Japan. It invites incubation, and brings in projects with some level of funding. We recently announced a partnership with the Parsons School of Design to do a collaboration for students that are inventing the next generation of wearable technology pieces and experiences that address wellness needs. Panasonic is holistically focused on the future. Next year will be our 100-year anniversary, so there’s a lot of interest in what the next 100 years after that are going to look like.

What marketing activations can we expect for the centennial birthday? Will this be the opportune time to bring that brand repositioning forward?

Definitely. We’re going to have some big things up our sleeve for CES in January 2018. We’re making these types of investments in the next generation that’s influencing technology and new solutions and new ways to go to market.

You were also a global partner for the Rio Olympics last summer. What were the results that continuing sponsorship yielded?    

I think it’s been a successful partnership for us. It’s been ongoing since the 1988 Games. We have an ongoing relationship and it continues with an eye toward Tokyo in 2020, and beyond. We received a lot of very positive feedback last year from the opening and closing ceremonies and the work that we enabled for both. We’ll absolutely continue that relationship. Collectively we felt that Rio was a success.

You’ve been with Panasonic for a little over a year now, after working four years with Xerox before that. What are some of the big marketing shifts that you’re experiencing in the industry?

I think it’s tact, platforms and programs. All of that is constantly changing. There’s a constant drum beat of marketing technology coming onto the scene. As a marketing leader, you have to understand all of the possibilities, and make decisions about expensive martech purchases. Your tech strategy is also a constant piece of the puzzle, and I don’t think that will be stopping any time soon. Breaking through and getting to your buyer set in a compelling and engaging way is always big. I see the frenzy of marketing automation still very relevant. There are techniques like account-based marketing that are also emerging as more strategic and targeted, especially at a B-to-B or B-to-G level. There’s also a tremendous opportunity with the new programs that LinkedIn is launching since it was acquired by Microsoft last year. I see that as an incredible marketing platform, especially in B-to-B and B-to-G. . . . How do you enable the best possible result? What is that platform or tool? What are the processes and teams that you have to put in place? Where do you double down with your budget? How do you make those difficult choices? . . . You have to figure these things out, get the right tools and processes in place to succeed and know where to best place your bets that align with your marketing strategy.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

StubHub Strikes Deal With New CMO

Ticketing company StubHub has named Olivier Ropars as their new vice president and CMO. Ropars previously was the head of global performance marketing for eBay.

“As a seasoned retail and e-commerce expert, Olivier will be key to building a global marketing engine to power StubHub’s continued growth and reach throughout the world,” said StubHub president Scott Cutler. “With extensive international experience and a proven ability to drive results, Olivier is the perfect fit . . . in our mission to connect fans to inspiring live event experiences across any screen—anytime, anywhere—worldwide.”

Actor George Takei is joining the mobile gaming business as a creative director for Fifth Journey. Takei will help create new content and promote the mobile game based on Kubo and the Two Strings, while also reprising his role from the movie.

Kubo is the story of a young samurai’s magical quest to save his family,” said Takei. “It’s a beautifully crafted film and I’m thrilled to be working with Fifth Journey on the game.”

“George is an amazing storyteller and one of the first in Hollywood to bridge east and west,” said Fifth Journey co-founder Eric Tan. “We couldn’t have asked for a more inspired individual to join our company, and to help bring Kubo’s magic to game audiences on both sides of the Pacific.”

Volkswagen Group of America named Werner Eichhorn as head of sales and marketing in North America. Eichhorn was previously an executive for Volkswagen’s European operations and has worked for the car manufacturer more than 35 years.

Formula One tapped Ellie Norman as head of marketing for the worldwide auto racing company. Norman previously worked at Virgin Media and was responsible for the 9.58 seconds campaign featuring renowned track and field star Usain Bolt.

“Ellie’s appointment represents the latest addition to our expanding management team, aimed at increasing engagement with Formula One fans globally,” said Sean Bratches, Formula One’s  managing director of commercial operations.

Millennium Hotels and Resorts has a new global chief marketing officer in Franck Kermarrec. He will oversee globally integrated marketing and review the brand portfolio. Previously, Kermarrec led commercial strategy for Hertz International.

“We are thrilled to have Franck on board and believe that his extensive knowledge and experience of the travel and hospitality sector will be invaluable in developing the global brand portfolio further” said Clive Harrington, chief commercial officer for Millennium Hotels.

Warner Bros. Records added two former Universal Music executives, Chris Atlas and Mark Flaherty, to its marketing department. Atlas will serve as senior vice president of urban marketing; Flaherty will be senior vice president of marketing at the Warner Music imprint.

“Chris and Mark have a wealth of experience creating bold and original marketing campaigns that excite global audiences and help build long careers for artists,” said Warner Music general manager Larry Mattera. “They are both inspiring leaders who will strengthen our expertise around specific genres of music, at a time when our approach to artist development must be more inventive and fan-focused than ever before.”

BET Networks appointed Michael D. Armstrong to the newly created position of general manager. The television network also promoted Jeanine Liburd to the newly created role of CMO and Donna Blackman to senior vice president of business operations.

“[The] announcement outlines key changes to our operating structure that further solidify our position as a thriving global brand,” said Debra Lee, chairman and CEO of BET Networks. “Michael exemplifies the values of strong, dynamic leadership—and his vast knowledge of our industry and how our audiences connect with content is unmatched. Known for their passion for our business and their strong experience in the industry, Jeanine and Donna have a proven track record of developing dynamic strategies that have accelerated growth, elevated brand awareness for BET and engaged consumers worldwide. These appointments will strengthen our ability to drive growth in ratings and digital metrics, achieve strategic goals and deliver strong financial performance.”

Digital comics publisher Madefire announced Jon Middleton as their new chief revenue officer. Middleton has held executive roles in the gaming industry for over 20 years. In a corresponding announcement, Madefire announced an initiative to expand its portfolio of content, targeting gaming for its platform.

Katherine Barna, the former head of communications for Tumblr, will now be vice president of communications for Awesomeness. Barna will oversee PR strategy for various branches of the media and entertainment company, including DreamWorks TV and Awesomeness Films.

“Katherine’s success working at Tumblr, a platform beloved by its community and respected in the industry, makes her a great fit for our company as we continue to embrace the global Gen Z audience,” said Awesomeness CMO T.J. Marchetti.

Actor George Takei is joining the mobile gaming business as a creative director for Fifth Journey. Takei will help create new content and promote the mobile game based on Kubo and the Two Strings, while also reprising his role from the film.

“George is an amazing storyteller and one of the first in Hollywood to bridge east and west,” said Fifth Journey co-founder Eric Tan. “We couldn’t have asked for a more inspired individual to join our company, and to help bring Kubo’s magic to game audiences on both sides of the Pacific.”

Julien Noble has been promoted to executive vice president of worldwide digital marketing at 20th Century Fox. Noble previously spent seven years at Walt Disney Studios, climbing his way up to vice president of digital marketing and publicity.

Rob Owen has been named vice president of creative, catalog and marketing for Warner/Chappell Music’s United Kingdom division

Mid-Atlantic food retailer Weis Markets named Ron Bonacci as vice president of marketing and advertising. Previously, Bonacci was senior director of marketing at Texas-based supermarket Lubbock.

“Ron Bonacci has extensive experience in managing cross-functional teams in developing and implementing strategies for customer relationship management, marketing and advertising,” said Weis senior vice president of merchandising Richard Gunn.

Digital comics publisher Madefire announced Jon Middleton as chief revenue officer. Middleton has held executive roles in the gaming industry for over 20 years.

“We’re very excited to have Jon lead the business team here at Madefire,” said Madefire CEO Ben Wolstenholme. “He’s a very senior hire and comes to us with a stellar network and unique experience in building content and technology companies.”

Shinola CMO Bridget Russo is leaving the luxury-goods maker after five years. Russo oversaw the marketing for Shinola as it grew from a Detroit-based watchmaker to a global upscale brand.

(Editor’s Note: This post will be updated daily until Friday, July 7. Have a new hire tip? Let us know at

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Former Apple CEO John Sculley On The Power Of Brands And Marketing

Having served as the president of PepsiCo and CEO of Apple during his career, John Sculley has been responsible in helping build out some of the best known brands in the world today.

After introducing the world to the Pepsi Challenge in 1975 during his 15-year stint for the soft drinks company that started in 1967, Sculley helped Steve Jobs grow Apple from $800 million in sales to over $8 billion throughout his tenure from 1983 to 1993.

The established executive joined AListDaily to explain that there are marketing lessons to be learned from past successes.

“In the days of the cola wars, Pepsi was outsold in the early 1970s by 10-to-one in 50 percent of the country. We realized Coca-Cola was the most valuable brand in the world at that time and they had almost unlimited marketing dollars. So, they owned reality,” said Sculley. “We decided we had to own perception if we had any chance of gaining share in the market on them, and so we created what at the time I called experiential marketing with the Pepsi Challenge.”

That’s what motivated Jobs to lure Sculley to Apple. Jobs wanted to learn all about experiential marketing, which was deeply imbedded in the high-tech world in the end-user experience.

“Jobs was designing the Macintosh for non-technical people to do creative things, an idea that seemed outrageous in the early 1980s, but obviously we take for granted today,” said Sculley. “Those fundamental principles of experiential marketing are still here today. In fact, they are even more relevant today as you see companies like Amazon develop what’s now being called the 360-degree experience with Amazon Prime. You see it with the new technologies like augmented reality and eventually virtual reality.”

When it comes to new technology, Sculley is more optimistic about AR than VR.

“When you can take things like Microsoft HoloLens—and other companies will have their versions of that—and superimpose digital things into the real world, that feels much like the way that desktop publishing became a mainstream application in the 1980s when we first were showing it experimentally,” Sculley said. “People asked why anyone would want to do that, and now everyone knows what a PowerPoint presentation is and we just take it for granted that it’s always been here. My sense is AR will follow an adoption pretty similar to desktop publishing. VR is hard to know—it’s so early in the game. We still don’t have much content with VR that’s really caught on in a mainstream way.”

Back when Sculley was building underdog brands like Pepsi and Apple, there were a lot less opportunities for marketers—and a much easier path to connecting with young audiences.

“It’s all about signal-to-noise ratio,” Sculley said. “There’s an awful lot of noise. So how do you break through the noise and get the signal that will connect? Obviously, personalization is a fundamental factor. We never had personalized marketing back in the days when I was at Pepsi, or even at Apple. It wasn’t technically possible, but now personalized marketing—where you can actually make adjustments based on behavior by looking at thousands of data points per individual—is something that is mainstream now. That means how work gets done in marketing is radically different than the way it got done even a decade ago, and it will continue to change. But the question is who is in control? Who has power?”

With social platforms like Facebook reaching 2 billion people a month, messaging is no longer a one-way street. In addition, new livestreaming technology like Facebook Live is enabling content creators, including influencers, to connect with audiences.

“There’s been a big change in what the roles are,” said Sculley. “In some cases it means that there will be lots of little entrepreneurial companies, even individuals, who can create things things at a very high production level of quality—even at their own desk. On the other hand, you’re going to see massive controls continue to expand with Facebook, Google and Amazon and other companies that have crossed borders to dabble into a little bit of everything.”

One constant in the field of marketing that Sculley hasn’t seen change in over 40 years is starting with an insatiable curiosity.

“Everyone that I ever worked with who made breakthrough changes in marketing always was a curious and hardworking person that wasn’t afraid to take risks,” Sculley said. “You have to be a risk-taker if you’re going to be a really good marketer. You have to be prepared to make mistakes and fail, and you just pick yourself back up and try to figure out what you learned and try it again. Those are identical characteristics in what you see with the best entrepreneurs. That makes sense because entrepreneurs by instinct and design are creative people, and marketing is a creative endeavor. So there’s a natural alignment between the personality of an entrepreneur and the personality of a great marketer.”

Dell Exec Dives Into Their Virtual Reality Strategy

In anticipation of the upcoming film Spider-Man: Homecoming, Dell collaborated with Sony Pictures for a virtual reality experience that serves as part of a multi-platform marketing deal for both of the brands.

The experience, created on Dell Precision workstations, gives consumers a chance to suit up as the comic book character and icon to hone their web-shooting skills and sling high above Gotham City in pursuit of the Vulture.

It is paired with an experiential ploy at select Cinemark theaters in the US, where moviegoers can experience Dell’s PC line of VR-ready products firsthand.

Dell’s latest move in VR complements a strategy of engaging gamers by using two distinct brands—all while enabling VR “to come into its own.” They also envision a sizable potential for VR esports.

Gary Radburn, Dell’s global head of virtual and augmented reality, joined AListDaily to share some insights on how they are approaching the immersive vertical.

On Dell’s positioning for professional-and-consumer-focused VR . . .

 I feel that we’ve got the largest range of VR-ready products out there. We do a lot of internal testing with our products as well. We ensure that the consumer and the commercial sectors get the best experience they possibly can when they use VR. The worst thing that can happen is somebody uses a system, they have a bad experience and they don’t come back to it for a long time. We’ve taken all of that legwork out by introducing systems that go above and beyond in terms of VR testing and the experience. We invest in the commercial space with VR centers of excellence at some of our solution centers, where we invite customers in as a free-of-charge service to actually experience their industry, or their vertical, in a VR environment. It allows them to associate the goodness that VR can bring, the shortening of time cycles and the increase of monetization because of it. From the consumer’s point-of-view, just really giving people the best so they can blow away their friends with the experiences they’re receiving. We’ve traditionally had all the graphics power inside the tower systems, both in consumer and in the professional space. Now with the advent of the new chip sets that are there with the power that’s available inside a mobile platform, we’ve really reached that point in the industry where mobile becomes pertinent. We have the 13-inch Alienware with 1060 graphics inside of it that can really drive VR in a small platform. On the professional side, we haven’t had a platform before that’s been able to drive VR with the chip set. With the Dell Precision 7720, the chip set inside of there, the P500 from NVIDIA, really allows you to drive VR in a degree we haven’t seen before inside of commercial space.

On marketing content in new ways . . .

Currently, you can use techniques like audio and visual cues of getting the audience to watch particular things. In a 360 video, that becomes a bit more complex. But you can be clever—like if the action is taking place in front, you can actually put audio and visual cues in the 360 space. Then using social media, you can say, “Did anyone see what happened in the scene, five minutes in at 270 degrees?” Those people are going to go back and re-watch the film, but from a different perspective. From a marketing angle, you’re now getting more eyeballs on the film because people are going to want to watch that experience more than once.

On storytelling opportunities VR opens up . . .

In terms of the marketing, the whole idea of making a film is to get eyeballs on it. Story experiencing as we’re seeing in the 360 and immersive video space is really helping people connect. You’re now being put inside an immersive environment. We’re seeing pieces being written where you’re actually a central character, and seeing VR from a different point of view. You get more of an emotive connection, and you get more empathy with what’s actually trying to be expressed. Because of the impact, you feel like you’re actually there. You can look around, immerse yourself in that space. It really helps you understand more than a potentially flat film, and takes it to a next level.

On confusion in the space slowing down adoption . . .

I feel that VR is very much like the wild west at the moment. There’s a lot of people saying “this” is VR, but VR encompasses so many different mediums at the moment. We’ve got 360-degree video, which could be an immersive video. You’ve got photogrammetry. You’re then moving into VR itself with six degrees of freedom—augmented reality, mixed reality, and then people are using this over-arching concept of “we do VR.” There’s no division. There’s no context of what people are actually doing, so consumers get confused. Confusion then slows down adoption. We need to actually start using terms that the entire industry can use, and everybody agrees to. For example, when we say we’re doing 360 video, which is the entry point to VR, we can say that’s an “immersive video piece.” With 360 video, it’s a low cost of entry for doing that inside of a piece.

On the democratization of VR . . .

We’ve got a huge gamut of products at different price points for different needs. Not everyone needs the fastest, the best, the top end. So now we’ve got different price points along the way. You can then decide on what your end result is going to be, on the power of the system that you need to be able to drive that, and there will be something at a price point that can suit you. So basically, the democratization of VR is starting to happen. It’s not for the largest wallets in the land anymore. We’re now trying to bring VR to more and more people because VR is very exciting. It used to be deemed as a high cost of entry. That’s now changing over the period of time. We’ve all seen the shop videos on YouTube of people trying it for the first time, like older family members and being absolutely in awe. Younger generations just take it in stride and say this is the norm. But where do we move from there?

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

‘Forge Of Empires’ Creator Lays Out Strategy For Sustained Growth

InnoGames was founded by two brothers with their friend to create a game they wanted to play with their friends. Its first game, Tribal Wars, which released for browsers in 2003, grew so quickly that it prompted the trio to officially found InnoGames in 2007. The German company now has two studios, one in Hamburg and the other in Düsseldorf, with the latter dedicated to developing mobile games. Although InnoGames has released multiple browser and mobile games since its founding while still maintaining the Tribal Wars franchise, the company’s most successful game to date is Forge of Empires, which released in 2012 and now boasts over 50 million registered players with a lifetime revenue of EUR 250 million (about $283.4 million US). Last year, InnoGames brought in EUR 130 million ($147.4 million US), which is a 25 percent increase in revenue over the previous year.

Its success did not go unnoticed, and last year it became the first video game company to be acquired by the Nordic TV broadcaster Modern Times Group (MTG), which currently owns 51 percent of InnoGames’ shares. The timing coincides with the gaming company’s strategy to put increased focus on mobile gaming, but it hasn’t forgotten about its browser-based roots. Almost all of its games, including Forge of Empires, can be played cross-platform—meaning that users can switch between playing from their computers and mobile devices at any time. That said, the history-themed strategy game is seeing more mobile installations than ever, which may be spurred by its weekly content updates, promotions that include television commercials, and audience engagement through a web series called InnoGames TV.

Armin Busen, chief product officer at InnoGames, spoke with AListDaily about the company’s continued growth and how it engages with a global audience between two gaming platforms.

Armin Busen, InnoGames chief product officer

How would you say Forge of Empires compares to other mobile strategy games?

Forge of Empires stands out as a long-running successful game. It has a total of 5.8 billion game sessions and a total worldwide playtime of 136,984 years. Compared to its competitors, we continuously rank high across app stores and maintain our steady growth. We recently reached a lifetime revenue of EUR 250 million and celebrated our fifth anniversary. On top of that, we have had many past successes with the game, including winning Google’s “Best of Games 2015” and was named the “Best Browser Game 2013” at the German Computer Game Award (Deutscher Computerspielpreis).

Is there a lot of audience crossover when going from web-based browser games to mobile?

Next to browser, Forge of Empires is also available cross-platform for iOS and Android devices. This allows our players to play across platforms which extend their play time and increase their overall experience. Therefore, we see different levels of platform adoption across markets, with some markets preferring mobile over browser.

While we are strongly focusing on mobile, browser is and will continue to be important for our company. The revenue we see on browser combined with the number of players that are active on it is a clear sign the platform is still strong.

What is the key to discoverability when it comes to the mobile space and how does it compare to browser-based gaming?

Our strong marketing strategy plays a crucial role when it comes to discoverability. As a lot of marketers know, most of the media consumption has switched in the recent years to mobile. Yet, despite these trends, InnoGames has diversified its strategy to be able to reach potential players on every facet of the sales funnel.

Discoverability focused on browser-based gaming is normally based on game portals, while on mobile it is through the app stores. Since our games are cross-platform we have the greatest success through TV advertisement as it reaches all platforms. Our marketing department is also a forerunner in the field of social networks, with campaigns that have been used as case studies for Facebook. Overall, our approach to marketing is innovative, we try to test and gather as much information as we can while maintaining a high-quality approach.

How well would you say InnoGames’ television commercial marketing has worked?

At InnoGames, we mainly see TV campaigns as a complementary addition to our online ones, especially since our goal is to reach customers across platforms. Through our commercials, we capitalize on the growing number of individuals who use a tablet or smartphone as a second screen while watching shows.

Our marketing strategy allows us to use the best of both worlds: TV’s immense reach and the specialized targeted reach of online campaigns. Imagine you are browsing through your Facebook feed, and you see an ad telling you to play Forge of Empires. You later browse a website and see a banner, then later that night as you sit in your living room, you see an ad for the game. As you can see, combining TV and online campaigns allows us to increase the reach of awareness with our customers—with viewers seeing the same message across different platforms and experiences.

What led to the acquisition by MTG and what does it enable InnoGames to do with its games?

InnoGames’ position within the gaming industry combined with its strong yet continuous growth influenced MTG’s decision about the acquisition. Through this partnership, we aim to carry our titles to even larger audiences around the world by utilizing MTG’s international presence, their strong media network and their understanding of storytelling. MTG’s culture of empowering entrepreneurial spirit is exactly what we were looking for as we move into the next chapter of our story. The team could not be more excited about further boosting our future potential and performance.

How does the InnoGames brand align with MTG’s?

While we have joined the MTG family, we are still an independent family with its own goals and schedules. We are collaborating with MTG on projects that are mutually beneficial. For example, we already collaborated with them on a project called MTGeneration. They recently visited our offices to shoot a special season highlighting our employees and our work. Despite this or any future projects, our focus will always be our games.

What would you say is the key to long-term engagement on the mobile platform?

In the case of all our long-running games, the key is to run our games as a service compared to a product and continue to relentlessly improve and innovate on every aspect of the game development. We provide meaningful social content that keeps our players engaged and motivated to play. For example, in Forge of Empires, we offer new content on a weekly basis, we incorporated Guild Expeditions, which is a cross-platform cooperative feature, and we continue to update our late game with new Ages.

What led to the creation of the InnoGames TV series and how do they contribute to continued audience engagement?

At InnoGames, we pride ourselves on having a diverse, qualified and interesting team that works on our games. Not only are they an asset to our company, but they are the reason our games run so successfully. When we first started our YouTube series, we saw two needs that we were not yet meeting: having information in an engaging format and a way to highlight our employees. We wanted our players to get a glimpse of what it is like to work at InnoGames while being as genuine as possible. Therefore, we started InnoGames TV at the end of 2013 to address this.

This format also gives us content for our individual game channels which feature the content in forums, CRM campaigns and announcements.

The purpose of InnoGames TV is to keep our current players updated on the current news. We have consistently achieved a high number of organic views, consistently hitting over 200K, including Facebook views. In this regard, InnoGames TV achieves its purpose while also helping us build our brand image.

‘Spider-Man Homecoming’ Marketing Swings Into Full Effect

Spider-Man webs his way back into theaters with Spider-Man: Homecoming on Friday, and to avoid franchise fatigue, Sony Pictures crafted an expansive marketing campaign to get viewers’ Spidey senses tingling.

Outside of the standard slate of trailers, Sony Pictures teamed up with ESPN to release a special promotion centered around the NBA Finals last month. In the ad, Spider-Man, played by actor Tom Holland, received an invitation to a viewing party hosted by Avengers’ member Tony Stark, played by actor Robert Downey Jr. In the NBA ad, Spider-Man runs into Stark’s secretary Happy Hogan, played by director Jon Favreau, NBA greats Magic Johnson and Tim Duncan, famed comic book writer Stan Lee and producer DJ Khaled.

Fans of the web-slinger have been clamoring for him to interact with other Marvel heroes, like Stark. Legal issues forced Sony to use only Spider-Man and his foes in their previous two cinematic incarnations. However, the 2015 deal with Marvel Studios allowed Sony to access the popular Avengers roster.

Sony further highlights Spider-Man’s interaction with other Marvel heroes in the PlayStation exclusive short A Film By Peter Parker. The announcement shows some of the events from last year’s Captain America: Civil War, but from the point of view of the young hero.

For fans wanting to experience being Spider-Man himself, Sony and CreateVR released Spider-Man Homecoming Virtual Reality Experience. The game allows players to suit up, swing around and defeat villains like the Vulture, played in the film by actor Michael Keaton. Sony is releasing the game on PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and in select Cinemark theaters.

Sony also announced a partnership with Audi, a brand deal that stretches across several Marvel Studio releases—which previously entailed the Audi R8 V10 Spyder in Iron Man 2 and the Audi R8 in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The car manufacturer will unveil the new Audi A8 in Spider-Man: Homecoming and will show the new AI traffic jam feature in a scene with Holland and Favreau. The company also released a digital short showing the teenage hero trying to get his driver’s license.

“We tried to find the sweet spot where this character arc might intersect with the Audi brand,” Benny Lawrence, manager of media and branded integration at Audi of America, told AListDaily. “Passing a driver’s test felt like the perfect milestone in a young person’s life.”

Feeling equally driven, Dell will feature the hero in the marketing campaign of their new Inspiron 15 7000 gaming laptop. On the mobile side, Sony and Dell invited fans to try a location-based Spider-Man game in Times Square, New York. Spider-Man Scramble challenges players to get the superhero atop a New York skyscraper in the fastest time.

Spider-Man: Homecoming stunt-double Chris Silcox took the web-slinging shenanigans one step further. In a London photo shoot with Premier magazine, Silcox wore an authentic movie suit, climbed the London BT Tower and Heron Tower and performed flips and acrobatics to help promote the film.

Most fans can’t get their hands on a movie-accurate suit, so Goodwill announced a costume competition on Twitter, challenging fans to build their own custom Spider-Man outfit. While it did not have to shoot webs or climb walls, the suit had to be made with used materials, do-it-yourself style, similar to how the teenage hero created his first costume.

Digital content agency Portal A invited YouTube celebrities to a custom design studio to create their own costumes and promote the contest.

Pizza Hut took to Twitter to announce a tie-in with the movie, which included a cameo in the film for the pie maker, as well as a Spider-Man-themed box for consumers ordering from the chain. The limited-edition packaging aimed at reviving the restaurant’s cheesy bites pizza.

All of the marketing partnerships likely drove Spider-Man to the wall and in need of a caffeine kick, which led him to drop into Starbucks and prank customers in the coffee shop by rapelling from the ceiling to grab his drink.

Dave and Busters introduced an arcade conversion of the 2014 mobile game Spider-Man Unlimited, which is now updated with custom assets from the new film.

Hot Wheels hopes to reconnect with Spider-Man’s comic book history with toy recreations of the Spider-Mobile. The dune buggy was first introduced in 1974 and the scale toys will be a San Diego Comic-Con exclusive later this month.

Accessories brand Charlotte Olympia also drew inspiration from the comic book style by releasing a limited edition line of shoes and purses with the iconic webbing pattern.

General Mills partnered with Sony to create Spider-Man-themed packaging for its fruit snacks and cereals, which included water squirters designed after the hero’s web shooters.

Sony is also using the excitement around Spider-Man: Homecoming to help boost promotion for the 2018 release of Marvel’s Spider-Man game for PS4.

“We’re influenced by certain situations, but this is an original story and these are original events,” Bryan Intihar, creative director for Marvel’s Spider-Man at Insomniac Studios, told AListDaily. “I’m a big Marvel fan, and as cool as it would be to recreate these events, I want to give people a new experience.”

Sony Pictures has had a difficult relationship with Spider-Man since the studio’s acquisition of the film rights in 1999. Spider-Man Homecoming marks Sony’s third attempt at creating a franchise around the comic book icon. Since 2002, Sony has experienced diminishing box office returns on their Spider-Man films.

It remains to be seen if the multifaceted marketing for the forthcoming film helps move the needle with moviegoers and the franchise’s fervent fans alike.

Jonathan Goldsmith, “The Most Interesting Man In The World,” Trades Beer For Tequila

Jonathan Goldsmith, best known as the original most interesting man in the world from the Dos Equis marketing campaign that ran from 2006 through 2016, is back.

And he’s still thirsty, my friends, only this time he has a taste for Astral Tequila. He can be seen in a new commercial, essentially reprising the character that changed the face of Dos Equis, saying, “I told you, I don’t always drink beer. Astral Tequila.”

After becoming a globally recognized pitchman, Goldsmith can now pick and choose the brands he works with while also having the power to own a piece of the ventures, too. Ooma is another brand that he has an equity position in.

“I only want to do things that are important to me,” Goldsmith told AListDaily. “Dos Equis sent me to Mars, and I came back with Astral Tequila. Astral is an incredible tequila. The other day George Clooney sold his tequila company (Casamigos) for a billion dollars, and that was in just under four years. So, I hope that’s the coming trend. Astral is a double-gold winner and it’s going to be a huge launch over the summer; I’m very excited about that. I’ve got an equity position in the company. Master Sommelier Richard Betts has created something very, very special.”

Goldsmith said he’s part of an entire campaign for the new brand, which he expects will be another “meteor” in the advertising world.

“It’s going to be tremendous,” Goldsmith said. “It’s great.”

For a decade, Goldsmith was the face for arguably one of the most iconic marketing campaigns of this millennium for Heineken USA’s Dos Equis brand until they decided to go for a younger frontman.

Goldsmith said the fame eventually became so great that he had to move to Vermont. “I started to get a lot of recognition, not just from fans but also from the industry because it was a different kind of a sell,” Goldsmith said. “By the third year (of the campaign) we left Los Angeles. I had no anonymity whatsoever. I had no privacy. And I’m not complaining, believe me. You’re talking to a very lucky guy.”

Goldsmith knew the campaign was forever changing his life in the second year, when people who stopped asking if he was the Dos Equis guy and started asking if he was Jonathan Goldsmith.

“People started to know me, and then I got so many offers and invitations to do all kinds of things,” Goldsmith explained. “After the second year, a fellow came down to my boat and offered me way more than a million dollars—I don’t remember the exact fee—to say ‘I once made a mistake’ and hold up another beer.  Of course, I couldn’t do that.”

Goldsmith reveals a lot more about his life in the new Penguin Random House book, Stay Interesting, which is yet another opportunity that Dos Equis has opened up for the actor.

The 78 year-old actor had spent decades as a young man racking up over 500 television and movie credits, starring opposite John Wayne and Judy Garland during his career. But it wasn’t until the Dos Equis fame that Hollywood really rolled out the red carpet.

“I made a living as an actor and I did well, but I didn’t reach the heights that I wanted to,” Goldsmith admitted. “And this incredible campaign just took me to places that I never dreamt of before. It really was an extremely meteoric rise. Everything that had been closed to me all my life—the best tables, the recognition, the red carpets—it all just started pouring in. I was the face of the campaign, but the brilliant kids that wrote the stuff changed TV advertising. We won every single award in the industry.”

Goldsmith worked on an annual contract with Dos Equis. And after years of portraying the character, he began hearing rumors that the brand was looking for somebody younger.

“We just thought it was a matter of time before I was replaced, but I didn’t think it was going to happen at the height of the success of the campaign,” Goldsmith said. “They were gaining double digits in sales every year. I can certainly understand changing a campaign, but why at its height? But then we heard that they had a deal with ESPN television, and rumors had it that some of these executives wanted to go younger because of that. So that was a choice that they made, and I thoroughly enjoyed those years. As far as the new fellow [Augustin Legrand] is concerned, I wish him nothing but good luck.”

Goldsmith has had his share of good luck, especially after taking a 10-year break from acting to score the role of the most interesting man in the world.

“After I was replaced on the Dos Equis campaign, some beer companies apparently had spoken to my manager,” Goldsmith said. “I don’t know how serious they were, and I had a non-compete clause anyway. But I’m in a wonderful position that I never experienced before in my entire life, in that I can pick and choose and get involved with those projects that make sense to me, and that I can feel some passion about. Tequila certainly is one.”