Millennials Make Mattress Brands Rethink Their Marketing

Mattress companies are increasingly shunning showrooms and are instead trying to capture millennials—who are likely looking to make their first big-ticket purchase in the category—by marketing with whimsical social-and-digital-first content.

Thanks to mattress-happy investors of years past that led an industry renaissance and prominence to e-commerce, the crowded, new-generation room now features the likes of Casper, Leesa, Purple, Tuft & Needle and Nest Bedding, among others.

According to IBISWorld, the mattresses market is a $14 billion a year industry. A figure that fat is nothing to sleep on, so brands in the space have been experiencing considerable share of voice by creating disruptive, out-of-the-box content and building digital-centric marketing to tap into a group looking for a good snooze—and some entertainment. It’s even created somewhat of a ripple effect to sister industries like linen, which have gone to such lengths like starting subscription-style bedding programs.

Joe Alexander, CEO and founder of Nest Bedding, a direct bed-in-a-box brand founded in 2012, told AListDaily that millennials are spurning traditional brands by buying from whichever company that the internet declares as “good.”

“To ignore millennials is to ignore the present and the future. These buyers are brand loyal—and they are fiercely loyal,” Alexander said. “We focus a lot of attention on brand building in social media. We call it ‘personality branding’ in that we have found that millennials love to see the human side of a brand. We create fun content while also communicating one-on-one with our base.”

To show that they’re a group of people just like them, Nest Bedding has marketed to millennials with a “professional napper” contest, set up a sleep line to have grandpa read bedtime stories and used influencers like model Lindsay Pelas and Silicon Valley actor Jimmy O. Yang to create quirky videos.

“It gives us a fun force to interact with our base, and a familiar face to lead our brand online . . . This is much more credible than, say, paying a Kardashian to stand in front of your mattress box,” Alexander said. “Consumers want to be entertained. I think more brands are understanding that the new consumer is looking for experiences—not just products—and taking your products and making them experiences then communicating that experience is where you win in the new market.”

“Being genuine and in tune with your customer base is key. Shareable entertainment is a great and effective brand lure.” —Joe Alexander, CEO and founder of Nest Bedding

Earlier this month, Casper, which raised $170 million in June with plans to I.P.O., launched Woolly, a 96-page digital and print publication dedicated to sleep content. For $12 an issue, you can brush up on content relating to comfort, wellness and modern life in the McSweeney’s-made magazine. The caveat? There are no ads for Casper in the quarterly editions.

“A mattress company launching a print magazine isn’t the weirdest thing that’s happened in 2017, but it may be the most comfortable,” Casper wrote in its announcement.

Before that, Casper, which officially made its way to Target stores this year, maintained another form of content marketing with the sleep-focused, standalone online publication Van Winkle. Continuing its history of whimsical social marketing, the brand also tested “Staycation Story Hacks” this summer by encouraging brand loyalists to share experiences on Instagram or Snapchat Stories.

“Innovation has always been our catalyst for growth,” Philip Krim, CEO and co-founder of Casper, said at the time of their Series C funding. “As we look ahead to Casper’s next chapter, we see the future of sleep driven by unparalleled research and development, and an evolved consumer experience.”

Clever marketing is a different way to bring consumers into the brand without overtly saying “buy my product” and potentially driving people away.

Kerri Homsher, external communications specialist for Ikea, told AListDaily that since consumers are smarter than ever, the product and marketing efforts should be just as canny. That was the Danish retailer’s marketing strategy for the back-to-school season earlier this fall.

“In today’s digital media landscape and with how people consume content, understand the importance of giving people a reason to stop the thumb and engage—and then share,” Homsher said. “Consumers are much more likely to engage with a brand if they saw a recommendation from a friend, and many look to influencers as trustworthy sources, just like their friends.”

Since caring for biological needs for the sake of maintaining metabolic homeostasis is all the rage, and a shift in consciousness is collectively being made, the mattress market has evolved from a state of stagnation to one that is innovative. One thing remains clear—the tussle to own the conversation by way of marketing en route to monetization has no creative limits.

In October, Mattress Firm, a 30-year-old brand that’s previously had social media tussles with upstarts like Tuft & Needle, got in bed with a new agency to revamp its image and handle its $250 million advertising budget to reach the rapidly changing consumer.

“As the media landscape continues to evolve, it’s important we uncover new ways to introduce and reinforce our brand to millions of Americans,” said Sicily Dickenson, chief marketing officer for Mattress Firm, per AdWeek.

Alexander has plans of expanding Nest Bedding into Canada and Europe and wants to establish the company as a home brand—not just a bedding one. It intends to do that by introducing a furniture-in-a-box model and products like a branded pajamas line. As for remaining competitive from a marketing standpoint, creating unique content and media like music videos with a distinct message will be key to continuing to attract millennials, he says.

“Being genuine and in tune with your customer base is key,” Alexander said. “Shareable entertainment is a great and effective brand lure.”

Marketers Are Ignoring Mobile Ad Fraud, Attribution Providers Aren’t Helping

Mobile marketers are asleep at the wheel when it comes to ad fraud, a new report by Singular indicates. While the industry is stepping up efforts to combat false web impressions, little is being done to fight click fraud on mobile platforms.

“Amid all the noise in the analytics ecosystem that data science, machine learning and performance optimization can defeat fraud, the mobile industry still suffers from persistently high fraud costs each year as the majority of marketers fail to implement active fraud prevention in their mobile marketing systems,” said Gadi Eliashiv, Singular’s founder and CEO.

According to a report made available to AListDaily, 63 percent of marketers don’t use any mobile fraud prevention techniques at all, becoming easy prey for even the most easily preventable attacks.

The blame for this troubling statistic doesn’t fall fully on marketers’ shoulders, however. “Part of the blame lies with the analytics industry. Many analytics providers treat fraud prevention as a luxury, offering it to marketers as an add-on or ‘premium’ feature,” the report reads. “Rather, fraud prevention should be deeply embedded into every attribution platform, effective out of the box and free of charge.”

By putting so much of the burden to catch fraudsters on marketers themselves, attribution providers end up hurting their own clients and themselves in the process.

According to Singular’s data, the most preventable type of click fraud is attribution manipulation, where fraudsters steal credit for app installs from legitimate sources. Seventy percent of all attacks blocked by security measures counted as attribution manipulation, meaning that many marketers can easily stop a major source of wasted ad spend.

Another, more pernicious type of fraud are fake user agents, which can take a number of forms that make them especially difficult to root out. Fake user agents, either through malware, bots or real human workers, simulate engagement on many devices to scam advertisers.

These common types of fraud are only the tip of the iceberg, the report warns. Marketers only know the full extent of scams after they’ve been detected, meaning that any number of more insidious attacks can be happening under their noses at any time.

“Ad fraud is a game where losing can actually look like winning,” the report claims. Even once a company stops one kind of scam, it’s important to stay ever vigilant. “In reality, you’re only preventing dumb attacks, with no sense of the fraud you’re actually missing,” the report reads. “Under the radar, fraudulent sources are stealing credit for your organic users.”

Adobe Launches Programmatic-Only Campaign For Ad-Buying Platform

Adobe is putting its money where its mouth is with Advertising Cloud, its programmatic ad-buying platform. The company launched a new multichannel ad campaign that will entirely be bought programmatically.

The “Experience Business” campaign will target C-suite executives, especially chief marketing, chief technology and chief information officers, and will be placed entirely using Adobe’s proprietary programmatic platforms.

“Today’s most successful brands focus their energy on delivering a consistent, unified experience through many different channels,” said Alex Amado, vice president of experience marketing at Adobe. “We’re using this all-programmatic approach because we can now effectively target this audience by analyzing their behaviors and actions online to deliver a more relevant, personalized experience across every touchpoint.”

Adobe will partner with the likes T-Mobile, Pandora and the Sydney Opera House to provide imagery for the campaign, which features everyday objects along with the tagline “Make Experience Your Business.” The campaign seeks to convey how companies must think beyond products and focus on providing a better product experience.

The messaging will use all facets of Adobe’s Advertising Cloud platform, from its media-investment planner to Adobe’s private digital ad marketplace, and will take advantage of both real-time bidding and direct buys.

This further marks effort by Adobe to educate marketers on the potential in high-end martech investment. Adobe released a report last week finding that three-in-four marketing executives don’t “get” their consumers, and programmatic ad buys dropped by 2 percent this year due in large part to brand safety concerns.

If Adobe can prove that programmatic works by advertising directly to CMOs, we may well see the trend turn around in 2018.

Once Promising Tech, Brands Are Now Backing Off Chatbots

Chatbots were all the rage last year, but 2017 didn’t become the automated paradise marketers may have imagined. Despite a mad dash to embrace the new technology, marketers and consumers alike have been slow to adopt chatbots as a go-to source of engagement. Now, many brands are backing off, or at the very least, don’t know where to begin.

In a recent study conducted by LiveWorld, 60 percent of marketers said they hadn’t used chatbots to interact with customers. When asked why they didn’t use the technology more frequently, 58 percent said it simply wasn’t enough of a priority and 43 percent said they lacked a strategy. Just 40 percent expect their chatbot usage to increase.

“Trying to do too much too soon risks creating confusing and inauthentic interactions with customers,” Matt Valle, senior vice president of consumer products and services at Magid, told AListDaily. “More complex give-and-take interactions will take much longer to develop and will require human intervention for the foreseeable future, negating much of the promised benefit.”

For hospitality brand Marriott, chatbots are still an important part of their engagement strategy and have been for some time. Toni Stoeckl, global brand leader and vice president of Marriott’s Distinctive Select portfolio, told AListDaily that the brand found success through trial and error.

“We sort of have to [give ourselves] permission to try new things. It’s okay to have it not work out and move on to the next thing,” said Stoeckl. “The fun part of emerging technology is that it’s always emerging and always changing. What may have been perceived as the value of chatbots in the past and what they would be used for has evolved. That’s why we do a lot of fast testing and proof of concepts to learn how it could actually impact marketing or provide value to our guests and travelers.”

Marriott’s Distinctive Select brands include Moxy, Aloft and AC hotel chains, which are catered to the younger, more tech-savvy traveler. Stoeckl said that Aloft is often used as an incubator for new tech, including keyless entry and a robot that delivers items to guest rooms.

The brand just rolled out ChatBotlr (pronounced “chat butler”) to all of its Aloft hotels. The chatbot allows guests to ask questions, request services, connect with the front desk or listen to an Aloft Live playlist on Spotify—all through their smartphones. Early research showed that two-out-of-three Aloft guests interact with and make requests through ChatBotlr.

As with any new technology, marketers may gradually adopt chatbots when trailblazers work out the kinks. Forrester predicts that in 2018, 20 percent of companies will use artificial intelligence to make business decisions while offering customer service and sales support through automated communications. While it’s true some marketers are hesitant to invest in chatbots, some of the world’s biggest brands are diving right in.

Capital One launched “Eno” earlier this year—a text-based AI assistant infused with a witty, human-like personality. In addition to providing information like credit balances and assisting with bill payments, users could ask Eno about itself and communicate with emoji. Toyota became the first brand bot for Messenger to debut a Super Bowl ad this year. The car company used NiroBot as a Q&A tool to have consumers familiarized with its newest crossover model, the Niro Hybrid. Sephora has seen an 11 percent increase in booking rates through the Sephora Reservation Assistant, according to David Marcus, Facebook’s vice president of messaging products. During the company’s F8 conference, Marcus indicated that over 100,000 chatbots were in use through Facebook Messenger.

A new study by 3Cinteractive found that 40 percent of millennials interact with a bot on a daily basis. However, 71 percent of survey respondents said a chatbot couldn’t answer a question or help them.

Stoeckl said a chatbot’s worth can be measured by the value of its answers. ChatBotlr is pre-loaded with information about the hotel, the surrounding area and frequently asked questions, then uses machine learning to expand its knowledge with each interaction. For brands hesitant to enter the chatbot arena, Stoeckl said that’s okay.

“Don’t do it for the sake of technology,” he said. “Do it if it makes sense for a particular use case, and if it actually services your consumers, then totally go for it. If it’s a gimmick or if you haven’t found that use case yet, then it’s okay not to do it.”

Brands Discover Feelings Make Recommendation Engines Work

Recommendation-engine technology is reshaping the entire digital consumer experience from entertainment to online shopping. To make a lasting impression, experts recommend focusing recommendation engines not only on user activity but the emotions driving those decisions.

For cable and entertainment providers, recommendation engines infuse algorithms with emotional connection data to create recommendations based on similar benefits, drivers and emotions that consumers are looking for in a show.

“If the consumer is given recommendations that are not relevant, do not resonate with them and do not seem to match their tastes, that will lead to a lack of trust,” Jill Rosengard Hill, executive vice president of Magid, told AListDaily.

Magid, a research-based consultancy for television and entertainment industries, curates “emotional DNA,” a database of consumer-rated emotions and attributes associated with TV prime time and network programming.

“We believe that those emotional drivers and connections that consumers have to content will make recommendations more relevant and more appealing than the current matching algorithms being used to make suggestions,” said Hill. “So much of [recommendation engines is] based on a matching algorithm. ‘Do you like this drama? Here are three other dramas you’ll like.’ That is somewhat obvious and it doesn’t necessarily surprise and delight consumers.”

Hill described how matching emotional attributes of a movie or TV show such as “adrenalin” and “fun” hones in on the reason a user chose that content as opposed to simply recommending the same format or genre.

This sentiment echoes a statement made by Todd Yellin, vice president of product innovation at Netflix. In a recent interview, he said that around 80 percent of subscribers trust and follow the recommendations of the Netflix algorithm.

“Personalization is about creating the right connection between a viewer and their content,” Yellin told MobileSyrup. “To do that, we have to understand everything there is to know about the content. It’s important we present the right content to the right member at the right time.”

Recommendation engines are commonly used for online retail and entertainment but are also used in other industries where emotions lead the buying process. When it comes to travel, recommendations become a source of inspiration.

“We know from our research and data that travel is a considered and time-consuming purchase, and the booking path is complex,” Lisa Lindberg, vice president of product management at Expedia Media Solutions, told AListDaily. “Expedia doesn’t use a traditional recommendation engine, as you may find on other e-commerce platforms because we’re a different form of retail. Travelers are visiting our sites to dream and be inspired, as well as purchase, so we have a different level of insights, including data on what consumers are actually viewing versus booking.”

Expedia websites recommend content to aid in research and planning. Once a purchase has been made, additional recommendations are provided to help build itinerary such as special deals on flights, hotels and attractions.

“Informative content is a strong influence on consumers—they’re open to inspiration and can be influenced when planning a trip,” said Lindberg. “Ultimately, recommendations should be relevant and provide valuable information to consumers, whether they are coming from a traditional recommendation engine or as a result of sophisticated audience targeting and relevant product offerings.”

Gartner predicts that by 2020, smart personalization engines used to recognize customer intent will enable digital businesses to increase their profits by up to 15 percent.

Someday, an entire consumer experience may be powered directly by emotions. For guests at Walt Disney Resorts, that day may soon be here. Disney filed the patent “Sensing and Managing Vehicle Behavior Based on Occupant Awareness” that reads guest emotions or pre-determined interests to customize ride experiences.

That means someone looking bored may cause the ride to speed up, or a child might see a charming fairyland while another sees a spooky graveyard. The patent also states it may be able to sense passenger comfort levels such as temperature and alter the air-conditioning of the ride to make it more pleasant.

“You look as if the ride made you really happy.”

“Would you like to buy a souvenir?”

Zynga Pushes ‘Words With Friends 2’ With Social Angles

Since its launch in 2009, Words With Friends has grown into one of the most prominent mobile word games around, boasting over 57 million active game sessions going on at any given moment. However, Zynga sees it as more than a word game and describes it as a “catalyst” that connects players with their friends and family. It is this social element that the developer and publisher is using to drive the launch of the sequel Words With Friends 2.

The new installment enhances the Scrabble-like, word-game formula with a series of player-centric upgrades. This means a single-player mode so that wordsmiths aren’t stuck waiting for others to take their turns when they have just a few minutes to play. That’s in addition to a revamped multiplayer mode that simultaneously supports high-speed matches between several players.

Gurpeet Singh, the game’s director of product at Zynga, personally visited the homes of players in Denver, Phoenix, St. Louis and other cities throughout the year to watch them play Words With Friends and get their input. It was part of the San Francisco-based company’s approach to audience engagement that went a step further than social media and online interactions to build the sequel. The company also had a number of soft launches in different regions for greater feedback.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCTp9EW4tyE

It doesn’t hurt that Words With Friends is an incredibly well-known game, which gives the sequel a significant advantage when marketing in the crowded mobile market. Singh said its popularity alleviates having to establish brand awareness and a call to action to download.

“In this case, people already have a notion of what Words With Friends is and have very fond memories of the game,” Singh told AListDaily. “From our research, nobody left the game because they were upset, and when we asked them if they wanted to play again, they said ‘absolutely.’”

There’s positive sentiment associated with Words With Friends, and oftentimes, all it takes is a small nudge by emphasizing the gameplay improvements to get players back in the saddle for potentially another eight years.

Singh said the first Words With Friends was somewhat of daily ritual for many of its players who would turn to it in the morning then wait for in-game boosters to return. The key was to make sure their routines were not disrupted, which is the reason why the company decided to release a sequel instead of overhauling the original game. That way, they can choose to adopt the new title instead of having it being forced upon them.

When players download the new version, in addition to new modes, all statistics, progress and connections will carry over and they won’t have to create new accounts.

Although Zynga hopes that these incentives will get players to switch over to the sequel, it will continue to support the original game for the foreseeable future. Singh said that prior to the sequel’s release, the company relied heavily on its soft launches and in-game communications channels to build messaging around different versions of the game. Zynga also teased the game on social media and other external channels to drive awareness, but it mostly saved promotion for the November 8 launch day to preserve excitement.

But even a popular eight-year-old IP like Words With Friends still needs to attract new players. Singh confirmed that Zynga is keeping three types of players in mind with the launch of the new game—dedicated hardcore players, lapsed players eager to return and take advantage of new features and a new generation of casual players.

“When we did our testing, we looked at different segments to make sure the game is universally appealing to a broad set of players,” said Singh.

Maintaining long-term interest with Words With Friends starts with the players who enjoy the core experience and are unique in the mobile gaming space, Singh said. Another aspect is how the live-services team is constantly staying in tune with what players are saying and continually meeting with them throughout the year to improve the game.

Beyond that, maintaining long-term user interest comes down to delivering on the game’s daily diet of mentally challenges obstacles.

Singh reiterates that the true “X-factor” is the social experience, which allows players to make new friends and stay connected for years whenever playing.

“We’ve been able to enhance and improve the experience over the years to make sure that the game continues to feel fresh,” said Singh. “The new version will give fans both old and new cool things to think about and experience so that they can continue to give us feedback. I’m excited because I really do think it’s the best one we’ve launched to date.”

Fashion Marketing Caters To Digital Natives With Mobile Strategies

Fashion may be a $2.4 trillion industry, but it is not immune to the effects of a “buy now” culture. In order to survive, fashion brands are rising to meet digital natives where they spend the most time—their phones.

Young consumers want to be able to shop for the styles they like—when they see it—whether that be online or in a magazine or worn by a model or celebrity. This type of customer journey has given birth to innovation in how a smartphone can be used to turn discovery into fashion purchases.

See It, Love It, Buy It

Google analyzed its search data and discovered that 90 percent of smartphone users begin shopping without knowing which brand they want to buy from.  Marketing fashion has not only become more mobile but discovery-focused—helping consumers explore ideas based on criteria like colors, styles and patterns.

ScreenShop is a new app for iOS and Android beta that converts screenshots into a mobile store. Users take a screenshot of the fashions they like, import it to the app and the technology generates shopping results for the same or similar clothing.

Kim Kardashian West, an advisor for ScreenShop and minority shareholder, told Vogue that the company is looking for more retail partners and that it wants to expand into children’s fashion.

Social shopping site LiketoKnow.it launched its own app earlier this year that also turns mobile screenshots into links to buy.

A staggering 87 percent of Pinterest users have purchased something they found while using the platform. The Pinterest Lens and Shop the Look features allow users to track down and even buy products they see inside fashion and home decor Pins.

Virtual Runways

Through augmented and virtual reality, fashion marketing is immersing consumers in the latest styles. Mobile apps are now available that allow users to try on items like shoes and make-up.

Designer Rebecca Minkoff had her 2015 fall runway show filmed in VR and introduced her own version of Google Cardboard—a branded cardboard headset that (together with a mobile phone) provides enhanced content for fans. The $25 headsets provided an intimate view of Rebecca Minkoff’s runway shows, from the models to the photographers and members of the audience.

Fashion Marketing: The Game

Dress-up games go back generations from paper dolls to mobile apps. To reach today’s mobile fashionistas, brands are partnering with fashion games to transform make-believe dress-up into grown-up purchases.

Covet Fashion is an app by CrowdStar that allows users to create outfits and enter their wardrobe choices into contests judged by the app community. Unlike dress-up games designed for young girls, Covet Fashion features e-commerce links to bring the wardrobe home. The brand recently teamed up with The Zoe Report Box of Style to cross-promote items from its fall collection.

More than 175 brands have partnered with Covet Fashion to have their fashions appear as virtual wardrobe options, which in turn can be purchased for real-life wear through an e-commerce portal.

The game’s call to action is a natural evolution of other apps like Glu Mobile’s Kendall & Kylie that aim for brand awareness by dressing up avatars in real fashions. The PacSun Kendall and Kylie’s Spring 2016 collection was integrated into the free-to-play game before the clothing was released in stores.

“When players are granted access to interact with a brand’s product, even virtually, it allows for more of an intimate connection,” Niccolo de Masi, the executive chairman and former CEO of Glu Mobile, told AListDaily.

Twenty-nine percent of fashion executives see digitization and e-commerce as the biggest opportunities of the year, according to the McKinsey & Company’s 2017 State of Fashion report. The consulting firm predicts that e-commerce luxury fashion sales will increase fourfold by the year 2020.

Beyond History, ‘Call Of Duty: WWII’ Marketing Emphasizes Squad Culture

Call of Duty: WWII takes the franchise back to its roots not only in setting but several game mechanics as well. In fact, history is the major theme of Activision’s Call of Duty: WWII marketing—honoring historical fact, rekindling history among friends and celebrating the history of the franchise.

Brotherhood Of Heroes

This may be Call of Duty’s third visit to World War II, but developer Sledgehammer Games didn’t skimp on recreating the details, spirit and stories of this dramatic time in human history.

“Brotherhood of Heroes” is a documentary that details some of the key locations of the war and the stories behind them, as they relate to the Call of Duty: WWII single-player campaign.

“There is this respect and honor you have to pay to not only the people but to the places,” said Glen Schofield, co-founder and studio head at Sledgehammer Games in the documentary.

In addition to consulting historians, Activision invited WWII veterans to the studio to share their stories.

Call of Duty: WWII launches just before Veteran’s Day, which is a good excuse to remind players about Activision’s Call of Duty Endowment. This program raises money to help train and place veterans in quality jobs.

Boots On The Ground

First released in 2003, Call of Duty took players to the battlefields of World War II. The game’s new take on AI-controlled allies forced players to think like a squad rather than operate as a “lone wolf.” From that point on, Call of Duty spawned a culture of squad play among friends—a theme that resonates in Activision’s marketing efforts for WWII.

Three spots were released called “Reassemble Your Squad,” in which Call of Duty players reunite from wherever life has taken them to play once more.

https://youtu.be/QEtVoVAF1Uw

Gameplay mechanics have returned to more traditional movements—removing unlimited sprint, double jumps, wall running and sliding on the ground. Sledgehammer Games refers to this as a return to the series’ “boots on the ground” play style.

With the launch of Call of Duty: WWII, the road to Call of Duty World League begins. MLG GameBattles will host regional ladders for teams in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific regions.

Call of Duty World League begins in December, with a $4.2 million prize pool—the largest ever for a Call of Duty tournament.

Having Fun With History

WWII is serious business, but video games are still about having fun. Activision partnered with Spotify to hide a set of cryptic audio messages inside the Call of Duty: WWII beta. Those able to decipher the codes were rewarded with special “calling cards” when the game launched on November 3. This was the first brand activation to use Spotify codes by incorporating code-breaking both inside and outside of a game.

“We’re always looking for new ways to innovate in our digital marketing, especially on popular platforms and with partners that we know our community will love,” an Activision spokesperson told AListDaily. “Once we knew the team was conducting a beta, we wanted to tease our campaign content and characters in new and interesting ways. When we saw what Spotify was doing with their new codes, we felt like it was a perfect fit for our fans.” 

The undead returns to Call of Duty: WWII, and players will be able to battle hordes of Nazi zombies in an alternate history that is separate from the campaign. Sledgehammer Games revealed the Nazi Zombies mode during a panel at San Diego Comic-Con, along with an official trailer.

On the opening day of E3, two groups of World War II-era planes flew over the Los Angeles Convention Center, setting the tone before fans got their first look at the new game.

“Historical authenticity is a central tenet in Sledgehammer Games’ development philosophy for Call of Duty: WWII and a cornerstone of our marketing efforts,” Todd Harvey, SVP of marketing at Activision told AListDaily. “The activation was a great way add impact to the show while celebrating the history of World War II aviation.”

As always, influencer marketing plays a major role in Activision’s Call of Duty marketing battle plan. The publisher partnered with a number of athletes to promote the game, including NBA star and celebrity spokesperson Karl-Anthony Towns, who made appearances at Activision’s E3 booth. Later activations featured wrestler Chris Jericho, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey and Pittsburg Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell.

While the football players received personalized footlockers with consoles and copies of the game, Chris Jericho had to endure a whole lot of hot wings on a sponsored episode of “First We Feast.” Livestreams and giveaways from PlayStation and Activision offered fans their own branded footlocker, PS4 Pro consoles and more.

According to Activision Blizzard’s Q3 earnings call on Thursday, digital pre-orders for Call of Duty: WWII have exceeded prior Call of Duty titles.

BlizzCon Rages On As Activision Blizzard Enjoys Record Q3 Earnings

Activision Blizzard earnings for the third quarter of 2017 were higher than expected, with a record $1.62 billion in net revenue. The video game publishing giant attributes this success to its ability to engage hundreds of millions of players worldwide.

Whether a gamer is casual or hardcore, Activision Blizzard seems to have cornered the market across platforms and genres. The publisher also treats its games as a service, continually updating its games through DLC, in-game add-ons and esports competitions.

Experiential Engagement

BlizzCon is poised to host over 30,000 attendees and millions more via livestream this weekend. For the first time, digital ticket holders will be able to view the happenings from every content stage and not just the main stage, as in previous years. In addition, virtual ticket holders will receive exclusive virtual goods for all of Blizzard’s games.

One of the big announcements at BlizzCon was the addition of an Overwatch map called Blizzard World—an amusement park that celebrates the worlds of Starcraft, Warcraft and Diablo. The map acts as a tribute for existing Blizzard fans and cross-promotion for other franchises.

With a record 42 million MAUsB, Blizzard had the biggest third quarter online player community in its history. According to Activision Blizzard, this is the fourth quarter in a row that Blizzard drove quarterly record MAUsB.

Franchise Favorites Return

Destiny 2 is the best-selling console game year to date in the US and broke the record for the fastest-selling digital console game in a given launch month. In its report, Activision Blizzard said Destiny 2 has exceeded its predecessor in terms of consumer spend. Digital mix was over 50 percent of console full game sell-through, a new record for the company.

Releasing the game on PC through the Battle.net portal opened the franchise to new global audiences and future growth opportunities, the company said.

Digital pre-orders for Call of Duty: WWII have exceeded prior Call of Duty titles. As a whole, the franchise experienced record monthly active users for the third quarter. Activision had the biggest third-quarter online player community in its history, with a record 49 million MAUsB.

Expansions Expand Earnings

The Hearthstone: Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion resulted in players spending more time with the digital card game. Activision Blizzard reports double-digit percentage growth in time spent year-over-year for the franchise.

Seasonal events in Overwatch—Summer Games in August and Halloween Terror in October—both continued to drive strong engagement and participation in customization items, the company reported.

Destiny 2 is “well ahead” of its predecessor in terms of attach rate to the Expansion Pass, according to Activision Blizzard.

Esports Excitement

The new season of Activision’s Call of Duty World League will begin in December. At $4.2 million, players will compete for the largest prize pool in the franchise’s history.

The inaugural season of the Overwatch League is set to begin at the Blizzard Arena Los Angeles, on January 10. Ahead of the earnings call, Blizzard announced Overwatch League sponsorship deals with HP and Intel.

Mobile Motivation

King had 293 million MAUsB for the third quarter and, according to the earnings report, has had two of the top-10 highest-grossing titles in the US mobile app stores for sixteen quarters in a row. Candy Crush Saga returned to the number one grossing position in US  mobile app stores for the third quarter just in time to celebrate its fifth anniversary.

‘Magic: The Gathering Arena’ Aims For More Engaging Digital Card Game Experience

Christopher Clay, game director at Wizards of the Coast

Launched in 1994, Magic: The Gathering is credited as the collectible card game (CCG) that started them all. Even after 24 years, the tabletop card game maintains an enthusiastic fan base as it continues to issue new cards and adjust the rules for tournaments.

But at the same time, the classic franchise is suffering from a unique problem. Despite its popularity as a physical card game, it has yet to effectively break into the digital space where games such as Hearthstone—which are thought to be derived from Magic—dominate.

It’s not for lack of trying, either. Wizards of the Coast released several different video games based on the franchise, including the free-to-play Magic Duels and Magic Online, both of which are still in operation. However, they have not been able to fully elevate the Magic experience in the digital space, and some attribute this problem to a variety of reasons ranging from the game’s complexity to how its tabletop design isn’t as much fun to watch as purely digital card games.

Wizards is taking on the issue by developing Magic: The Gathering Arena, a game that aims to make Magic easier for new players to understand and more fun to watch on livestreams, but keeps the gameplay depth that makes MTG appealing.

“We’re enhancing Magic by providing an intuitive digital interface that focuses on providing players with meaningful actions and eliminating needless clicks,” Christopher Clay, game director at Wizards of the Coast, told AListDaily.

Arena was inspired by the team’s shared love of Magic as they look to bring new life to the game. The game is being developed with “full transparency,” which means that the game is being made for and in front of fans, according to Clay.

Wizards has been hosting weekly Twitch streams to grow awareness of the game and engage directly with the community while demonstrating Arena’s gameplay and watchability. Stress testing for the game will run from November 3 to 29, followed by a closed beta that may start as early as November 30.

Clay said that Arena is being designed to appeal to all types of Magic players, from those who are completely new to hardcore fans. He said that the reason Magic is played by tens of millions of fans worldwide is because it’s the deepest card game in the genre. Despite that, it hasn’t been a leader in the digital space.

“We believe that if we can take what is core to what makes Magic fun, keep it authentic and make gameplay smooth and fun to watch, we will have a uniquely compelling experience, said Clay. “That’s our starting line with the closed beta. From there, we’ll deliver new features that will give gamers more freedom, more experimentation and more mastery than they’ve seen before in a digital card game.”

Wizards of the Coast has made it clear that Arena will have no impact on the operation of Magic Online, as the game serves a slightly different audience. Clay explained that Arena will focus specifically on the newest cards and game modes while Magic Online has almost every card printed in the game’s entire history.

“We want the combination of both games to offer any Magic player the digital experience they crave,” said Clay, affirming that development on Magic Online will continue with new card sets, updates and ongoing tournaments.

While Magic Online might be more attractive to longtime fans, Wizards hopes that a new game might bring new players to the longstanding CCG. The game may also evolve into a larger service someday, as Clay explained that Arena will integrate modern online services that create dynamic experiences. Those experiences could someday integrate with other aspects of a player’s in-game life.

MTG has been a featured part of events such as Hascon, a new public event hosted by Hasbro (Wizards of the Coasts’ parent company) that kicked off in September. The physical game has also been at the center of numerous high-profile tournaments. But success in the physical world doesn’t necessarily mean that audiences will quickly regard Arena as an esport the way Hearthstone was.

Although Clay could not reveal specific details at this time, he says that the team recognizes the importance of esports as an aspect of modern competitive gaming.

“We’ve been a major proponent of esports since our first broadcast of the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour on ESPN in the ‘90s,” said Clay. “We’ve been pioneers in the esports space in tabletop, and we’re excited to share how we will put that expertise to work for a game like MTG Arena.”

Clay, who began playing MTG back when it first started in 1994, always found his way back to the game.

“The common thread that has kept me coming back for more is the possibility space of the game and the social connections it provides,” he said, musing on how the game has become an enduring brand.

“At every game company I’ve worked at there’s been a MTG-sealed league, and it’s always been a great way to meet and interact with co-workers from parts of the company I might not normally work with.”