4 Digital Marketing Campaigns People Watched In 2017

With ad blocking on the rise and ad viewability an ever-increasing concern, brands are on the hook to produce digital campaigns consumers are willing to seek out, and not just sit through.

Swiss Army Man: Meet Your Best Friend Manny

The marketing campaign for A24’s Swiss Army Man took movie fans on as much of a journey as its marooned protagonist.

Featuring an AI chatbot, a ragdoll-tossing interactive website, unorthodox influencer activations, a user-generated blog, a real-life scavenger hunt and, for obvious reasons, free pizza, the campaign aligned not just with the movie’s tone, but displayed a fundamental understanding of its themes and message as well.

The campaign got so much traction that it even ended up interrupting Daniel Radcliffe with a text in the middle of rehearsal for a different movie. Like Manny in the movie, the digital marketing campaign was a real multi-purpose . . . tool . . . guy.

Heineken: Worlds Apart

Where A24’s digital campaign impressed with its sheer number of spinning plates, Heineken’s “Worlds Apart” activation’s strength comes from its simplicity.

Described by Fast Company as “the antidote to that Pepsi Kendall Jenner ad,” the video demonstrated the power of respectful, measured treatment of social issues, and racked up close to 15 million views in the process during a time of which some brands can’t get out of their own tone-deaf ways.

The video works in part because it keeps the brand in the back seat—both in the video itself, and its underlying message. Heineken never implies that its beer is the tool that can bridge ideological gaps, and it lets the strangers in its ad do almost all of the talking. At the very least, it proves the uniting power of furniture assembly.


Ted Baker: Keeping Up With The Bakers

Part of the problem with shopping for clothes online is the difficulty in getting a picture of how well the clothes might fit, and part of the problem with video advertising is the lack of opportunity to impulse-buy. Ted Baker solved both these issues in one fell swoop, producing a shoppable 360-degree VR experience, letting potential customers get up close and personal to the clothing and directly purchase anything that strikes their fancy.

Framing the video as a ’50s sitcom, Ted Baker used its social channels to promote the promotion as well, creating limited-time Instagram Stories for five different “channels,” drawing consumers back on a daily basis to, well, keep up with the Bakers.

Casper: Staycation Hacks

When it comes to producing exciting content, mattress companies have a bit of a tougher time of things than other lifestyle brands.

Casper leaned into this challenge, giving up on making laziness sound shareable but acknowledging that many people are going to stay in bed anyway. With its Staycation Story Hacks website, those who are fans of staying indoors don’t have to miss out on the social media attention that vacationers get.

The campaign fits with Casper’s values, gave them free press and social media attention, and most importantly was simple enough that their marketing team didn’t have to stay up too late.

‘Games As A Service’ Drives Video Game Growth In 2017, But Stumbles Along The Way

Both console and PC gaming saw growth this year, as video games continue to be treated as live services, bringing in revenues that rival or surpass those of the initial game purchase. However, monetization strategies for retail games, particularly related to “loot boxes,” hit some bumps, prompting controversy among the gaming community.

Other highlights include the fast growth of esports, marked by several major partnerships from traditional sports. Accompanying that is the increased emphasis on video content such as livestreaming, which helped lift games such as Rocket League and Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds to incredible heights.

Then there’s the highly successful Nintendo Switch in the spring, which was bookended by the release of the Xbox One X in the fall. The latter gaming system, which emphasized its computational power and high-end graphical capabilities, capped off the trend of “mid-cycle” consoles that began with the PlayStation 4 Pro in 2016—where more powerful game consoles came out before the lifecycles of their predecessors officially ended.

“Games As A Service” And Esports Drive Growth

According to Elena Fedina, senior analyst at SuperData Research, the console market grew by 12 percent and the PC gaming market similarly grew by 11 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. This was largely led by major franchises like FIFA and Call of Duty shifting more toward digital distribution and developers adopting the “games as a service” model by creating additional content that extends their games’ lifecycles.

Tom Wijman, market consultant at Newzoo, agrees that having games transition to live services has been the largest revenue driver for 2017, since the system makes games profitable beyond their initial purchase. But he also notes that PC gaming has had a particularly strong year, rivaling consoles with breakout hits such as Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds. The popularity of esports was one of the main drivers of growth, leading to a rise in broader competitive play.

“Looking at individual game titles on console and PC, it is clear that competitive gaming involving team play, rankings and livestreaming is claiming a growing share of overall game time,” said Wijman.

Esports had some major highlights in 2017 that will play out in 2018, including how luxury car brands such as Mercedes-Benz and McLaren entering the space. But the chief trend comes from how Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch and Riot Games’ League of Legends are building franchised leagues. Similarly, the NBA and Take-Two Interactive partnered to create the NBA 2K League, which puts the marketing strength of basketball teams such as the Dallas Mavericks behind esports teams, players and brands.

This kind of crossover will continue, as the NFL and MLB franchises have also begun stepping over into esports. There has even been talk about officially including esports as events in the 2024 Olympic Games.

The competitive gaming trend is also driven by the growth of livestreamed content. SuperData named Game Video Content (GVC) as a rising star when it comes to audience engagement, predicting that the number of worldwide viewers will reach 665 million this year, generating $4.6 billion in revenue. Livestreaming isn’t just critical to esports titles, but it has also benefited non-competitive single-players games such as Stardew Valley.

“Generally speaking, gaming is an active, ‘lean forward’ activity,” said Wijman, explaining the phenomenon. “A gaming session can be quite intense, even if it’s not a competitive game. Livestreaming has added a relaxing option for people to enjoy the content of a game in a ‘lean back’ manner.”

The year of gaming trends ended with a bit of controversy, as Star Wars: Battlefront II became the center of a debate regarding how systems such as loot boxes—which offer random rewards—are used to monetize games after their initial purchase. This has prompted some governing bodies to look more closely at certain games, likening them to gambling. However, both analysts agree that the issue was a natural stumbling block as developers and publishers experiment with games as a service.

“It was inevitable that there would be a clash between gamers and publishers, to say the least,” said Wijman. “We can’t say for certain that rising development costs are enough to justify adding these new monetization models, but we can say for certain that this switch to continuous monetization was always going to happen after mobile gaming paved the way.”

“Discussions of loot boxes as gambling is not new to games,” Fedina explained. “In Asia, developers were forced by law to disclose the chances of getting items from loot boxes to inform players earlier this year.”

But Fedina said not all titles that follow the games as a service path need to use loot boxes, citing League of Legends as an example. The free-to-play game makes the majority of its revenue by selling different characters and aesthetic skins, and will garner $22B in microtransaction revenue this year. Fedina also warns that developers need to be cautious with how they approach monetization.

Wijman said that it’s important to keep in mind that although the loot box controversy came from a vocal minority of gamers, it is this passionate group of gamers that publishers want to engage.

“I fully expect that we’ll see many more examples of publishers missing the mark looking for new ways to monetize the games,” he said, “but given the reported revenues, I don’t expect the overall trend to change.”

Nintendo Switch And Mid-Cycle Console Launches

This year’s big surprise came from Nintendo, which managed to turn around its years of declining revenues in just a few months with the release of the Switch. The console ended up outselling all others this year by relying almost completely on signature games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which received near universal acclaim from both players and critics.

“We estimate the console to sell 13M units by the end of 2017,” said Fedina. “Switch is skewed greatly towards physical distribution when it comes to big games like Zelda, but as more games come out on the platform we expect it to affect the digital space more.”

It’s too early to tell how well the Xbox One X has been doing in comparison, but Fedina is confident that the high-powered console will be popular this holiday season.

Wijman thinks the console has had an unremarkable release. “The potential power of the hardware is interesting for those dedicated to console gaming,” he said, “but the release missed a truly spectacular game release to accompany it that made full use of the raw power of the console.”

Whether or not players take to the Xbox One X may speak to how well they’ve accepted the mid-cycle upgrade trend. Last year’s Xbox One S console did remarkably well, but the console has a significantly lower price point, so it might not be an indicator of the Xbox One X’s potential success.

“Mid-cycle consoles are a new thing, and there are both enthusiastic supporters of this move as well as vocal opponents,” said Fedina. “However, these debates are often held on thematic gaming websites, and general consumers who are ultimately making the purchase aren’t always aware of these debates. We’ll have to wait and see how Christmas goes to be able to speak to actual numbers without speculation.”

Wijman said that enthusiasm for both the PlayStation 4 Pro and Microsoft’s new console has been limited, but maybe that was to be expected.

“By releasing an upgraded, ‘elite’ version of an existing console, Microsoft and Sony were never likely to draw a huge new crowd,” he said. “The release was mostly geared towards core console gamers looking to get the most out of their experience.”


Virtual Reality Finding Its Way Out Of ‘Trough Of Disillusionment’

In its second year on the consumer market, virtual reality has been challenged with getting out of the “trough of disillusionment”—a phase of disappointment that follows any heavily hyped technology trend—as it seeks acceptance and mass appeal.

Here’s a quick recap:

  • Hardware makers, content developers and tech giants like Facebook and Google remain committed to helping the industry grow, and this year alone saw Hollywood further embrace the technology to create memorable movie promotions, leading more celebrities to become involved with VR.
  • HTC and Oculus cut their hardware prices, with the latter launching a large-scale campaign over the summer to grow adoption while IMAX debuted its first VR arcades in the US.
  • Sony reported that over 2 million PlayStation VR headsets and 12.2 million VR games were sold worldwide, in addition to 70.6 million PlayStation 4 consoles.
  • Intel launched its VR esports initiative.
  • Both Apple and Google are bringing support to augmented reality.
  • Microsoft is partnering with hardware companies to make mixed reality headsets, while HTC and Oculus both announced wireless headsets for next year.

But people are still optimistic about the technology. While Stephanie Llamas, SuperData’s VP of research and strategy, says the industry isn’t growing as quickly as many expected, VR still grew 24 percent year-over-year—from $1.8B to $2.2B—as a result of steady headset sales and higher content demand.

While Tony Parisi, Unity Technologies’ global head of VR/AR strategy, agrees that hardware adoption has been slower than predicted, he said that there has been significant uptick in other areas of VR.

“Overall, we’re seeing increased VR adoption across the enterprise, with more organizations moving from proof-of-concept to real-world deployment,” he said. “We’re also seeing VR applications across medical, film and entertainment and creative, proving that the wide-scale opportunity for VR is real.”

Parisi also pointed out that VR investments jumped 79 percent in the second half of 2017, indicating that industries are doubling down on the technology. That’s in addition to how over a million headsets were shipped in Q3 due to price cuts and growing consumer awareness. “All in all, it’s been a bit of an up-and-down year for VR, but there are positive signs that VR is nearing the end of the ‘gap of disappointment,’” he said.

Frank Azor, VP and GM at Alienware, Gaming and XPS at Dell, thinks high expectations led to disappointment, but sees the sale of 3 million VR headsets this year as success. “[It would be] a monumental success for any one-to-three products to sell that many units, so I don’t get how that’s regarded as a failure,” he said. “[VR has done] better than the first or second year of the first Windows tablet, and [has been] more successful than the first notebooks and gaming consoles in their first and second years. Plus, there were 2 million sold last year, which means there were at least 5 million headsets sold.”

Azor isn’t alone in his optimism.

“Every major tech company has a VR strategy and their own headsets,” said Baobab Studios CEO Maureen Fan. “There are so many more opportunities for creators now. VR is also becoming more social. However, we still need a lot more high-quality content for VR to become mainstream. We also need more universally appealing content that draw new audiences into VR.”

Baobab and Hollywood studios have been focused on creating content that appeals to broad audiences through VR experiences such as Invasion!, Asteroids! and Rainbow Crow featuring musician John Legend. Invasion! won an Emmy in 2017, and Baobab announced that it is partnering with Roth Kirschenbaum Films (Maleficent; Alice in Wonderland) to adapt the VR short to traditional 2D screens.

“Distributors have released data that shows that VR experiences and films rival games in views,” Fan explained. “For example, Invasion! beat out games when it launched. We think they complement each other and rising tides lifts all boats. VR experiences and films bring in new audiences to VR and are crucial to increasing VR adoption.”

“The public puts a high premium on celebrity-endorsed goods and content,” Llamas added. “Having someone like John Legend doing Rainbow Crow or Obama in an Emmy-winning 360 video legitimizes the tech in the eyes of mainstream consumers. It’s hard for them to get access to headsets and make their own opinions about it, so trendsetters like celebrities help pique people’s curiosity and consumption.”

Parisi noted that quite a few high-profile Hollywood studios have become involved with VR, with the technology being an immersive extension to storytelling and film. As examples, he highlights CocoVR, Blade Runner 2049: Memory Lab, in addition to Unity’s partnership with Lionsgate this year to debut Virtual Room advertisement for Jigsaw—demonstrating the opportunities VR provides for brand marketing.

“What we found is VR ad experiences elicit greater emotional response, and massively higher engagement rates than any other platform,” Parisi said. “They show that people are more immersed with the brand. For example, the Jigsaw Virtual Room ad saw 6X the video completion rates of skippable video. We hope to see this type of brand marketing continue in 2018 and help push the widespread consumer adoption of VR.”

But even as VR content diversifies, Fan admits that she is often asked if Baobab is making games or films due to their interactivity. So, it should be of little surprise that video games are getting a tremendous amount of attention, with Bethesda launching VR adaptations of its hit games Skyrim, Fallout 4 and Doom, and CCP launching a virtual sport called Sparc while Oculus partnered with Intel and Alienware to bring VR to esports.

Azor said that VR and esports was a fascinating combination because it fully brings together the athleticism of traditional sports with the limitless potential of video game environments.

“To us, what VR and esports fuse the best of those two things and creates a new level of competition and athleticism that I don’t think we’ve ever seen before,” said Azor. “We think that’s a cool opportunity, even though we don’t know entirely where it goes. It’s something that we see bubbling up and emerging, and we’re trying to help feed it and kick it off. That’s why we created the Alienware VR Cup, partnering with Oculus and Nvidia.”

Although VR seems to be finding its stride, it’s hard to overlook how both Google and Apple are showing strong support for augmented reality. Devices such as the iPhone X appear to be driving enthusiasm, but Fan asserts that—while AR platforms are promising—they will probably experience the same cycle VR is going through.

“AR is an exciting new area for creators to engage with a new audience that have yet to try VR,” said Fan. “For both AR and VR platforms, it comes down to creating great content. AR through your phone is immediately accessible, just like 360 VR videos  are immediately accessible. However, it’s all about the quality of the content. AR goggles will still take time and will go through the natural tech cycle that VR and other tech goes through.”

“AR and VR offer different experiences for consumers,” Parisi added. “What we are seeing now with AR is that there is a real and tangible opportunity to reach more consumers. This is largely due to the fact that AR is no longer the future—it’s available today and it will be available on more than 1 billion devices in the marketplace by the end of 2018.”

Llamas agreed that VR and AR are fundamentally different technologies, with different use cases and experiences. She said that, “2018 will be about realigning expectations and helping consumers and the industry alike understand the important differences between the two so they understand they are not mutually exclusive, and we can be excited about both!”

8 Industry Leaders On What Mattered In 2017

AListDaily digs back into its archive of exclusive interviews and feature stories from 2017 across the gamut of marketing beats it reports on and aggregates some of the most interesting marketing quotes executives had to share with us.


—The Most Influential Brands For Marketers In 2017
—Executives Share Marketing Lessons Learned In 2017
—Marketing Executives Tell Us How They’re Championing Diversity
—Marketing Trends Brands Are Monitoring For 2018
—Executives Tell Us Which Holiday Marketing Trends To Watch

“There’s a constant drumbeat 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 anytime 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.”
—Lauren Sallata, Panasonic USA’s chief marketing officer and senior vice president

“Amazon is basically trying to become the one-stop-shop for everyone and remove brand value. They’re trying to disintegrate into different areas by saying ‘the brand is separate from the product.’ Relevance is a very big aspect of that . . . How you really connect with consumers, both as brands and retailers, in an omnireality world is the next question that marketers need to start answering. Start thinking, preparing and integrating for that world a little bit more, not just waiting to see who’s going to do it next.”
—Lokesh Ohri, a principal at Deloitte emphasizing in omnichannel retail, digital and supply chain strategy

“Our research indicates that millennials are looking to make an emotional purchase . . . Millennials want to be different and make decisions on their own. They don’t want to follow the status quo—but they do like a status symbol.”
—Katie Inderelst, head of Alfa Romeo marketing and communication

“If you become data-obsessed, then your videos will quickly deteriorate and lose their appeal. In social and digital platforms, data is important, but it’s also ephemeral, so basing everything on the data of last month can have devastating effects on the long run.”
—JP Polo, director of social and digital video content for National Geographic

“In my mind, the thing that should change [about video is] the value of digital video advertising, and I think it will. There’s a death grip on legacy advertising formats. Pre-roll has been a part of the equation for some time, but obviously, there are a number of other platforms—particularly on the social side of things—that are emerging faster than ad formats can be created. But that’s the way it works. Monetization will come eventually, so we’re focusing on creating great programming to accentuate each platform and on building an audience—the fun stuff.
—RJ Bentler, Pitchfork’s vice president of video programming

“As voice itself evolves, along with the technology platform evolution, we will evolve with it because this isn’t just a nifty gimmick. The thought of interacting with voice is something that will become part of our everyday lives . . . There’s no question in my mind that when done right, voice makes everything easier. I think it’s unquestionable that it’s here to stay. It’s going to get exponentially better and faster. The fat fingers will go away, and we can have a natural conversation with whatever platform it is.”
—Lee Applbaum, Patrón’s global chief marketing officer

“I think that mobile gaming is the fastest growing entertainment medium. It’s actually bigger than the movie business right now. So, if you own a brand or IP, thinking about what you’re going to do with it from a mobile gaming perspective is one of the first thoughts that will come to your mind.”
—Chris DeWolfe, Jam City CEO and co-founder

“Today’s consumer, this generation, has been spammed with advertisements since the inception. They have access to every device known to mankind, and just the consumption of esports and video game content as a whole has gotten easier because it’s everywhere and it can be in your hand and on your laptop—it can be whenever you want it. What I’ve seen in the content that has reached and connected is there has to be an authenticity there. A genuine desire to engage and participate, not just talk to and dictate. When you see a consumer come online and spend their quality hours—which a lot of them do two to three hours on end when they sit down to game—that has a core authentic background to them.”
—Rick Fox, owner of esports team Echo Fox and three-time NBA champion

Overcoming The Challenge Of Mobile Game Discovery And Retention

Mobile gaming grew at a phenomenal rate in 2017, with highlights that include increased support for augmented reality from both Apple and Google, Google’s transition to using only Universal App Campaigns for network-wide mobile promotions, greater reliance on influencer marketing, and longstanding games such as Candy Crush continuing to dominate in the space while Clash Royale maker Supercell is named as the highest earning mobile publisher for this year.

But as the mobile game market continues to evolve, app discovery and user retention remain prevalent issues. So marketers are adopting new channels to both acquire and keep players.

In the spring, Apple redesigned its App Store to give smaller apps a better chance to compete against longstanding titles if they are unique and interesting enough. Changes included the removal of the “Top Grossing” chart, which analysts and media previously used to track the most profitable games, thereby shifting the focus to the “Top Free” and “Top Paid” charts, which are determined by the number of downloads games get.

“The metric of success has shifted to those games with strong downloads in the Top Free category and success in the paid app spectrum,” said SuperData senior data analyst Alec Nezin. “New highlights on the App Store, such as ‘Games We Love,’ ‘Best New Updates’ and ‘Games You Might Like’ bring a more qualitative focus to their definition of success.”

While Nezin said that the retirement of the Top Grossing chart gave Apple more control over what apps succeed, Kooistra said that it was mostly a cosmetic change, given how it is still possible to dig up the top revenue information if you know where to look.

“These changes haven’t affected app store analytics firms or their results,” said Jelle Kooistra, Newzoo’s head of mobile. “Less than five percent of mobile game revenues today come from paid games, making it very difficult for these games to reach the top grossing charts, with Minecraft and Monument Valley being notable exceptions.”

Cosmetic or not, the shift has been felt by game developers and publishers. “Most rank-based charts in any segment, are extremely polarizing,” Nezin explained, “with almost 30 percent of all downloads concentrating in the top 10 apps. Here, the snowball effect is quite evident.”

That’s almost certainly why mobile game companies such as Zynga still strive to rise to the top of the Top Free list.

“We absolutely want to win in the Top Free charts, and it’s an honor to have your game rank as a Top Free game,” said Bernard Kim, Zynga’s president of publishing. “When you’re at the top of the charts, it’s an indication that something exciting is happening in your game and it’s resonating with players in a meaningful way. A high ranking helps with organics and brings more players into your game, and it also serves as a sign of the quality of your product.”

Kooistra agrees that a high ranking on the Top Free charts leads to better discovery because players don’t have to actively search for these games, but he also said that there is a potential downside in that these users are less likely to monetize well.

“Since finding long-term users with strong monetization is the key, I would say catering to your active players is more important than making sure you reach the top rankings in either category,” Kooistra said.

Even with the App Store redesign, discoverability remains a key issue for mobile games on both the iOS and Android platforms, and the issue will continue to grow as the market does. Although store placement remains one of the best ways to get noticed, companies are turning to other channels to get the word out about their games. Nezin predicts that, “As time goes on, mobile developers will lean more and more on traditional forms of advertising to promote their product.”

“To win over the long-term, companies need to have a full stack publishing team and capabilities to break through,” said Kim. “Not all games respond to app store featuring the same, so you need to fire on all cylinders and have multiple channels where you’re promoting your game. For Zynga, app store placement is important as it creates an entertainment ‘moment in time’ and amplifies our fully integrated marketing campaigns designed to elevate our games and strike a chord with players.”


Kim pointed to the launch of Words With Friends 2, which he said married brand marketing, user acquisition, partner relations and PR. The game was featured on both Apple and Google’s app stores, which was complemented by integrated campaigns that included the franchise’s first TV commercials.

Nexon M general manager Lawrence Koh said that Nexon M saw the increased use of high-profile brands to help with app store discoverability, which is a trend that is likely to increase. Publishers and developers will need to allocate higher marketing budgets before the launch of a new game to drive awareness, meaning that the table stakes to launch a new game will become significantly higher.

According to Kooistra, publishers that don’t necessarily have a strong relationship with Apple and Google are already using a variety of ways to promote their games. The mobile game market is still in rapid development, with pop culture icons such as Star Wars, South Park, Stranger Things and Rick and Morty growing their brands by partnering to create mobile game adaptations.

“Publishers have been looking more into relatively new tools for marketing, such as influencer marketing and basing games on popular franchises from pop culture,” said Kooistra. “Additionally, organic growth from word-of-mouth remains a strong tool, especially from games within a specific niche.”

After acquiring users, the next biggest issue is retention, with Nezin pointing out, “As time has gone on, the average mobile user has played more games on average each month, but average conversion and spending has not come close to matching this pace. This means that players now tend to play more games than in the past, but still only commit to the one or two that stand out to them most.”

Nezin further explains that average players are tasters by nature, and because of that, retention in the first day of a mobile game’s lifecycle is “truly abysmal.”

“While a game may have millions of downloads, that does not necessarily convert to meaningful engagement or revenue nowadays,” said Nezin. “Developers will need to aggressively adapt to keep their players engaged month over month.”

That means treating free-to-play mobile games as ongoing products. Nexon M looks ahead by having a 10-year service plan for each of its mobile games, and Kim said that Zynga has prioritized growing existing live service franchises such as Zynga Poker, Words With Friends and others, expanding and innovating them to inspire more in-game engagement.

According to Koh, “All parties involved in supporting a new mobile game need to be aligned on supporting the game as a live services product. This means that publishers will not only need to think of the launch marketing efforts but also have a plan in place to engage with users months and years out after launch.”

“As the industry matures, players will have more amazing games to choose from, raising the bar for every mobile game company to innovate and deliver across the board,” said Kooistra. “This process will definitely make it more difficult to retain users for a very long time.”

Brand Executives Talk Marketing Trends They’re Watching In 2018

To stay ahead of the proverbial curve with their consumers, marketers must consistently tweak and craft strategies to complement their evolving missions.

AListDaily polled a group of executives to learn about the marketing trends each is monitoring and exploring for their brands in 2018. 


—The Most Influential Brands For Marketers In 2017
—Executives Share Marketing Lessons Learned In 2017
—Marketing Executives Tell Us How They’re Championing Diversity
—Executives Tell Us Which Holiday Marketing Trends To Watch

“The beauty of being a marketer today is that you have to keep your finger on the pulse and be willing and ready to change. Trends are changing every day, as well as the way people are being touched. We’re seeing a shift from retail to online. For me, it’s always trying to be open and listen to what’s happening. I have to be a responsive marketer and move as the trends and times do.”
Patrick Buchanan, global marketing director at K-Swiss

“Digital is changing every day, and it’s definitely the hardest part of the business to keep up with—how to most efficiently use all of the tools that should make it easier to develop one-to-one relationships with customers [with personalized advertising]. Consumers should not see the same ad in the digital space. Marketers know a lot about people, and we should be serving something that’s personal and important to consumers.

“That’s a huge challenge because that not only means tech for ‘how do we mine the information about consumers’ but also the tech that develops hundreds and thousands of iterations for those ads cost effectively. That space is evolving so quickly, and it’s happening so fast. For marketers, that’s the most interest thing to [look forward to.]”
Brian Bolain, corporate manager for Lexus product marketing and marketing communications

“I’m focused on integrating customers into our brand experience at the most personal level. Media fragmentation is nothing new, but I think we’ll see brands continuing to prioritize personalization and curation at every touchpoint. For me, it’s about creating content and opportunities that really bring value to our audience. Expect to see a big push around publishing, cause-based partnerships and loyalty programs.

“Marketing automation is also top of mind. With an increased emphasis on long-term customer engagement tactics, brands have to concurrently work smarter and consolidate organizational resources, letting data and AI-technologies lead wherever possible.”
Michael Cammarata, co-founder & CEO of Schmidt’s Naturals

“I’m excited to see how brands take experiential events to the next level in 2018 as millennials prioritize experiences over most everything else. We’ll be closely monitoring the marketing tactics that rise from focusing on the experiential aspects of marketing. Experiences are the priority for us and our target market. Pop-ups and events aren’t new, but brands seem to be integrating themselves in people’s environments in more focused, unique and snapable ways.

“We’re also excited to see what marketing tactics rise from VR and AR, specifically looking at what might develop that has more substance and utility than simply filters and animated characters on the street.
Rip Pruisken, co-founder of Rip Van Wafels

“The role a brand plays in creating entertainment as a producer or film financier is going to be something to look for. Brands can have a role in creating what’s in culture, and not just being an advertiser of culture. As the studio model only continues to fund things with built-in audiences, established IP, sequels or superhero [films], there are still a lot of stories that need to be told. In many ways brands have an opportunity to step in and help to make sure stories are told in a current system and set-up that’s not designed to finance them.”
Nathan Tan, associate director of brand partnerships and experiences for Cadillac

“The Asics brand still has a long way to go. We just launched our first major marketing campaign in the last two decades. First and foremost, my eye is on digital, and especially with what we can do that’s interesting and disruptive on social channels. Our focus and investment going into 2018 is really on unique and interactive content that begins to immerse our consumers.

“Everything around digital and interactivity will be key for us. We will continue to redefine what relevant partnerships and sponsorships look like for us as a brand in 2018. A lot of our competitors have previously done activations in the music space, so we really want to make sure what we’re doing in the space is very ownable for us, and comes back to who we are as a brand and resonates with what our ethos is.”
Sarah Bishop, vice president of marketing for Asics

“The best thing about marketing is being able to track and analyze to see if we’re reaching the right consumer. A lot of the tactical and addressable, and having a better understanding of our approach, is something of a trend to test and follow to see how it helps us specifically reach consumers, versus just throwing a blanket approach.”
Katie Inderelst, head of Alfa Romeo marketing and communications

“I cannot see what’s coming, because the rate of innovation is so fast that my best guess is we have no idea what we could potentially be exploring in just a few short months. Because of that, we try and keep a significant portion of our digital innovation budget unallocated to be able to respond to emerging technologies and trends and can move very quickly once we’ve found the right partners to help us implement our vision with excellence.”
Lee Applbaum, Patrón’s global chief marketing officer

‘Sword Art Online’ Lays Out Strategy To Grow US Franchise

Having made a name for itself in Japan, the Sword Art Online (SAO) franchise—which includes novels, comics, games and an anime TV series—is ready to grow its fandom in the US. All companies that work with the SAO license are coming together in a unified effort to promote the brand as a whole.

Earlier this year, Bandai Namco launched Sword Art Online: Memory Defrag, the first mobile game based on the franchise, in coordination with the launch of the animated film Sword Art Online The Movie – Ordinal Scale. The co-launch with the movie and tie-ins may satisfy existing fans, but its long-term goal is to bring in new audiences. Product manager Haruki Watanabe, who spoke to AListDaily through a translator, explained that the side-scrolling role-playing games are designed to appeal to casual gaming audiences to introduce them to the IP, as it features scenes lifted from both the movie and the TV series.

“The game came out at the same time as the movie, so people who watched the film can come to this game and enjoy the anime stories too,” said Watanabe. “This could be people’s first experience with the anime and then go watch the show.”


To promote the game, Bandai Namco coordinated its marketing with Aniplex, which holds the SAO license. Aniplex is also part of the Anime Consortium Japan, which Bandai Namco bought out in March for 2.1 billion yen ($18.5 million US). Watanabe explained that Aniplex promoted the game whenever it made new announcements concerning new movies or the third season of the show, mostly cross promoting on Facebook and other social media channels.

“There isn’t really a big difference in doing the promotion between the US and Japan, but there are little differences,” said Watanabe. “Our creatives on Facebook are a little different. In Japan, our text emphasizes what players get when they sign up, but we don’t do it as much in the US, relying mostly on the picture.”

“The strategy is that we’re not trying sell each business by business—having each company sell whatever they have,” said Wataru Nakasuji, Sword Art Online: Memory Defrag’s promotional manager for US and Europe. “Our strategy is to sell Sword Art Online, and we’re doing business with the IP. All companies that are working under SAO are helping each other. So, we’re doing the promotion for the movies and they (Aniplex) are doing promotion for the games—we’re cross-promoting with each other to maximize SAO’s IP value.”

In addition to cross promotion across social channels, Bandai Namco is putting increased focus on attending public events such as the New York Comic Con last October to engage with fans directly and grow SAO’s audience.

“We’re going to have a new anime season next spring, which will be huge,” said Watanabe. “So, we’re going to have offline events, meaning that we’ll host fully dedicated events to promote both the anime and the game. That’s when we’ll engage with new fans in the US. There also might be a new movie coming out next year, so we’ll come up with promotional ideas to engage with fans around that if it happens.”

“The entire SAO community is tied together in the media mix—the figurines, the comics, novels and anime are all intertwined so that they do the marketing together,” added Nakasuji. “That’s the strength SAO has compared to other IPs because they’re all doing it as one big push.”

The main driver for the game will be existing fans of the anime series, but Nakasuji reiterated that the game is just one aspect that will grow the entire franchise.

“At the end of the day, we’re promoting the IP as a whole,” said Nakasuji. “So, even if you don’t know the SAO brand or its content, if you’re enjoying the game, it becomes a gateway to the other products in the IP.”

Watanabe added that even if players aren’t familiar with the IP, they may be attracted to the game’s graphics and action, making the mobile title a kind of introduction to its complex universe—the same way other types of media and products will introduce audiences to the game. Ultimately, if the IP doesn’t help the game stand out on the mobile market, then it’s casual gameplay might.

Data Marketing Strategy For 2018: Prepare For A Flood

Artificial intelligence and chatbot tools generate data. A lot of data. Coping with the massive flood of data from these tools is challenging, but offers insights that are otherwise hard to obtain.

The digital economy of 2018 is fueled by data, and the challenge of turning raw data into facts, trends, and projections. This shift is a boon to external vendors who offer dashboards with multi-channel capabilities that slice and dice all sorts of data so marketing, sales and social media teams can make use of them. However, it’s a bit more challenging for those teams.

These teams, whether they work at businesses, government agencies, or non-profits, are all building their own analytic arsenals from in-house data they accumulate through chatbots, social media, website interactions, and other sources. These huge collections of data can be used for acquiring new customers, planning organization strategy, and much more.

Erick Harlow of Forensic IT, a data analytics firm, recommends a three-part plan to making sense of user data from disparate sources.

“No matter how many devices or marketing vehicles are involved, we always ask three questions,” Harlow says. “1. What do we know? Such as, sales are down. 2. What do we need to know? Have people stopped buying this product all together, or just our product? 3. How do we analyze and fix the problem? It is important to know which data will help in answering the question and which can be discarded.”

Data Warehouses, Data Lakes And Data Reservoirs

This is where terminology kicks in. Depending on what kind of data an organization is saving, they are building up either data warehouses, data lakes or data reservoirs. Knowing how your organization is accumulating data is a crucial part of building in-house strategy.

Data warehouses are huge, organized stores of information from multiple sources which are used for long-term analytics using historic data.

Data lakes are a bit different. While data warehouses are largely organized and collated into a common format, data lakes consist of huge stores of unorganized data accumulated by an organization. They’re a bit harder to work with for business intelligence and analytics purposes.

Then there are data reservoirs, which are the backbone of large-scale machine learning and big data projects. Popularized by research firm Gartner, data reservoirs are architectures to make sense of large stores of structured and unstructured data.

Customer visits to websites, Alexa skills, mobile apps, chatbots, and downloadable software all generate a ton of data—but this data is often formatted in very different, hard-to-combine ways. It’s crucial to have an organizational strategy for making sense of those different data formats.

AI, Bots & The Data Crush

In the late 2010s, brands are as likely to interact with customers through Alexa skills, chatbots, and mobile apps as they are on the phone or in person. Chatbots and apps generate lots of data, but making sense of that data can sometimes be difficult.

Audrey Wu of Convrg, a Los Angeles-based chatbot design firm, says that it’s crucial for companies to understand how chatbots work and what kind of data they generate. For instance, chatbots generate different data for organizations depending on whether they operate via SMS text message based, Facebook Messenger, or Kik Messenger.

“Think about how to make a flow to keep users engaged,” Wu suggests. Interactions users have with chatbots generate logs which can also be mixed with additional data. For instance, Facebook Messenger bot interactions were formerly linked to users’ Facebook IDs. Kik’s platform, meanwhile, tends to attract a young demographic which is already familiar with chatbot etiquette.

Convrg uses an analytics dashboard called Dashbot to gain insight from their chatbots; there are also other dashboards on the market such as Google’s Chatbase.

Alexa skills also generate huge amounts of data for brands to utilize. Although Alexa analytics are still in their infancy, Amazon has been rolling out new features for skill/app developers to better understand how users interact with their Echo or Tap speaker. Brands can gain insights through Alexa’s API into metrics—like how often their skills are used, how many people use them, and how successful users’ interactions with the skills are.

Big Data, Bigger Data, Biggest Data

There’s no shortage of analytics platforms, business intelligence solutions, and data visualization tools for every conceivable need. The digital analytics industry includes everything from mass-market players like Google Analytics and Tableau to niche tools, and of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

Figuring out the best pathway for making sense of data from chatbots, apps, and smart home skills ultimately depends on your organization’s needs. It also means keeping careful track of platforms—in tech terms, both Facebook Messenger and Amazon Alexa are in their infancy as customer interaction platforms.

A successful data strategy depends on understanding how your customers are interacting with you, your organization’s goals, and what your budget and timeframe is for finding insights. But the good news is that chatbots and AIs are more than just an easy way to reach out for customers—they’re a valuable analytics tool as well.

Sega Turns Parkour Gym Into Real-Life ‘Sonic Forces’ Level

Platformer video games like Sonic Forces are designed to inspire virtual adrenaline, but Sega decided to see how players would fare in a real-life platformer environment, so they created Sonic Forces Academy—dropping influencers into a freerunning and parkour gym.

Matthew Patrick (MatPat), Jirard Khalil (The Completionist) and Tom Cassell (Syndicate) gathered at the Tempest Freerunning Academy in California to try their hand at running and jumping in the activation, which was made to look like the iconic Green Hill Zone—a recurring level that appears across the Sonic franchise. When sections of the course became too difficult for them, expert athletes took over.

Sega’s activation—which will remain open after this launch for public access—is designed to promote Sonic Forces, its latest game launched in November.

“We were looking for a fun activation that could travel beyond core Sonic fans,” said Ivo Gerscovich, Sega chief brand officer. “We all liked the idea of giving high-profile YouTube influencers and gamers everywhere the opportunity to see what it would be like to try some of Sonic’s trademark moves in real life.”

Matt, Jirard and Tom were challenged with recreating such moves as wall run, spring jump, hoop dash, grappling hook and tag-team run. Much like the course itself, planning an activation of this nature took a considerable amount of effort and coordination.

“Sega’s marketing team spent months working with our agency, Ayzenberg,* to get the right folks involved and making sure the activation was accurate to the game,” said Nathan Shabazi, Sega associate brand manager. “This included providing lots of b-roll footage, 3D hi-res assets, and looking for some of the coolest moves in the game. After seeing the parkour and gaming influencers’ excitement upon using it, we knew we had something special.”

“We came together with Sega to put together an awesome celebration of Sonic and drive awareness of Sonic Forces going into the holiday,” Francesca Forgach, ION‘s VP of client services, told AListDaily. “We wanted to really establish a cohesive program that had multiple communication touch points across channels, promoted by influencers, driving excitement with their fans. We want fans to get hyped and excited, and want to participate in the custom parkour experience.”

Beyond the ideal timing of the activation, which allows consumers to keep Sonic Forces top of mind through the holidays, Sega’s social media manager, Aaron Webber expects Sonic fans will resonate strongly with the living game experience and the “join the uprising” tagline.

“We expect fans will be thrilled with the activation and the chance to experience part of Sonic’s world in our own,” said Webber. “In a day and age where we often find ourselves sitting in a single spot for hours at a time, it’s great to get up and get active.”

Hardcore fans who try out the parkour course will also appreciate its difficulty, which is on brand for a Sonic level.

“The reality is that we tried parts of the Tempest Green Hill Zone parkour course ourselves,” added Webber. “Not only were they even harder than they looked, but we now have an even greater appreciation for our blue blur.”

*Editor’s note: AListDaily is the publishing arm of Ayzenberg.

CORRECTION: Sega quotes were all previously attributed to Aaron Webber. Attributions have been updated to their respective sources.

Untethered VR Is Here, But Wires Aren’t The Problem

A number of untethered VR headsets have been unveiled this year with the hope of stimulating consumer adoption. Mobile and untethered VR may be the next step in the technology’s evolution, but experts agree that tethered isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“VR is definitely going in the direction of untethered, more than mobile,” Stephanie Llamas, VP of research and strategy at SuperData, told AListDaily. “However, on the gaming end, there will be continued potential for tethered devices for some time. Gamers will be more likely to want to add VR as an accessory to their gaming devices, but mainstream consumers will want to consume VR on standalone devices, looking at them as entertainment hardware rather than accessories.

“It will be a long time before untethered VR devices can render to the level of gamers’ expectations and contain enough content to give them replay value. So until that time, untethered devices will be most popular among those looking for entertainment that doesn’t require so much processing power,” said Llamas.

Mobile VR lacks the processing power and interactivity of VR powered by a desktop computer. To find the “sweet spot” between price and power, 2017 has seen the announcement of untethered VR headsets like Oculus Go, Vive Focus and Pico Goblin.

“Aside from the usual suspects making untethered [VR headsets] such as Oculus and HTC Vive, there are companies that are finding interesting ways to skirt tethering without actually removing it,” added Llamas. “With their recent product reveal, Magic Leap is notable in that the headset is tethered to a small, portable base, so it’s almost as ordinary as wearing headphones attached to a cell phone. Another company is TPCast, which has been available as a wireless solution for the Vive [in China] for more than a year.”

AfterNow founder and industry veteran Philippe Lewicki told AListDaily that the future of VR will eventually be untethered, but position tracking is more important than removing wires.

“The future is six degrees of freedom (6Dof),” explained Lewicki, with “degrees of freedom” referring to position tracking and the number of ways an object—such as a VR headset—can move within a 3D space. “Tethered headsets give a great VR experience because they are 6Dof, [while] the current mobile and untethered headsets only give you three degrees of freedom (3Dof). That’s a significant downgrade and is not the future.”

Much of today’s VR offerings simulate experiences in 3Dof—changing the camera view as users move their heads side to side or up and down. VR with 6Dof means that a user’s position is not only tracked by where they are looking, but how they are moving, including up and down and side to side—creating a more lifelike experience.

“It will take a bit of time, but 6Dof will arrive on mobile,” said Lewicki, who noted that Oculus and HTC will be releasing their 6Dof headsets at a competitive price point.

In the upcoming year, Lewicki predicts more interactive experiences for VR that are real-time and location-based.

“We are anticipating better screen quality, 3D room scanning and low network latency for real-time experiences,” he said. “It’s going to be an incremental improvement for VR. Its likely that AR will steal the show for a bit with Magic Leap and Hololens.”