Column: What Is This EVOLVE Theme All About?

This year the theme for the second annual [a] list summit is EVOLVE. Without elaboration this may seem a little nebulous. Let me see if I can help put this in context.

At last year’s summit we were honored to have Mister Jordan Weisman lead off the discussions with a talk about providing entertainment in our marketing communication. It was his opinion that in order to stand out marketers need to add value to their communication. He argued that for a game consumer there is no better value proposition than entertainment.

Our consumers are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of advertising directed to them. Everywhere they look some company is touting their product. Traditional approaches are falling flat. Just five years ago a flash banner ad was commanding near a one percent  click through rate. Now that same flash ad is lucky to get a .1 percent. TV viewership is in steep decline, print is dead and no one is spending any time on our beautiful flash websites anymore. How do we get our consumers to pay attention?

We must EVOLVE our message. Jordan was on to something. With web 2.0 consumers define your brand whether you like it or not. There are a mass of niches on the web. So many people in so many places talking about your brand you can’t possibly reach them all directly. How can we have influence over these discussions so that more of them are positive than negative?

The assertion is that by providing value in your message your consumer will become more receptive to it. If you entertain your consumer with a hilarious two minute viral video then that little pre-order message at the end is a bit easier to accept. If you give a core fan five exclusive screenshots for sharing your new trailer with his friends you can empower his word of mouth.

This is the theme we will apply to each and every talk, panel and discussion topic at this year s [a] list summit. We have some of the most respected professionals in our business assembled together to discuss marketing executions (i.e. broadcast, online, viral etc) and how to add value to those executions.

EVOLVE to us is exciting because it opens up a whole new way to think about advertising. We can get much more creative in our approach. No longer does the formulaic approach of, do your print ad, shoot your TV spot build your banner campaign cut the mustard anymore. Today we are challenged to build compelling, entertaining campaigns that don’t simply tout the three core features of your new shooter, we tell stories, incentivize pass along, make people laugh or just amaze. I for one would have it no other way.

So I hope this year while you’re sipping that Zin or Cab at the event you re also inspired by our speakers. They re thinking about this EVOLUTION going on in our business and are willing to let you in on their successes and their failures. Together we can all share best practices and hopefully continue to fuel the tremendous growth this industry has enjoyed for many years to come.

Look forward to talking with you all.

Hasbro Future Tied To Virtual Worlds


Hasbro's Digital Future -- Littlest Pet Shop

Hasbro’s Digital Future — Littlest Pet Shop

The first Transformers movie netted Hasbro, creator of the action figures tied to the movie, over $500 million at retail.  The company is also very pleased with how sales are going tied to the second Transformers movie and the upcoming G.I. Joe movie.

But it’s looking at virtual worlds for its future growth.  From Virtual Worlds News:

“Being able to experience our brands in the online world is critical as the category is growing by about 19 percent a year and is expected to be a $2.5 billion category in 2011,” [Hasbro] CEO [Brian] Goldner said in [a recent earnings] conference call. “This includes virtual worlds and online gaming for both kids and adults.”

Hasbro touts its partnership with EA through Club Pogo and its Monopoly and Boggle brands as a hint of its future goals, and is positioning Littlest Pet Shop as a potential flagship for girl consumers.

The hunch that Hasbro looks at popular toy-and-website company Webkinz as a model isn’t farfetched.  Sources tied to Webkinz estimate that company’s earnings at $750 million, and the kids-focused virtual world Club Penguin sold to Disney in 2006 for $700 million.

[More on Hasbro’s future at Virtual Worlds News] {link no longer active}

Comic-Con 2009 Preview

San Diego Comic Con kicks off July 23

San Diego Comic Con kicks off July 23

Video games have had an increasing presence at the ever-growing San Diego Comic-Con, and 2009 is no different, with several high profile publishers and developers showing their wares to thousands of fans in this three-day event.  A couple of things to keep an eye on:

Pushing Original IP

Video games will continue its push of original IP with the masses, knowing that one great hit (Assassin’s Creed) can make up for a few sales misses (Mirror’s Edge).

Games like Dante’s Inferno (God of War clone) and Brutal Legend (a genuinely funny game by influential developer Tim Schafer) are natural fits for the Comic-Con audience, and you can expect massive crowds around these two new IPs that are scheduled for 2009 release.

Sexy librarian/sex godess Bayonetta is also garnering some pre-show buzz.  Her sultry look combined with the warm place Sega has in many geek hearts (myself included) should make this an easy win.

Hollywood Dominates… Again

Hollywood has seen massive benefit from getting close with comic book fans, and the dividends have paid off with last summer’s huge Iron Man and The Dark Knight box office takes (let’s not talk about Watchmen, okay?).

This year is even more exciting as James Cameron has promised to show the first scenes from Avatar, a movie that has tremendous buzz as much for its 12 years in production as its potential to break new ground in the 3D arena.

And where there is a blockbuster, there is an average video game waiting to take advantage.  Look for Avatar: The Video Game and G.I. Joe to occupy a few minutes time on the show floor.

We’re Jealous

If you’re attending the show, it doesn’t have to be just about watching movie clips, playing video games and, oh yeah, reading comic books.

Publishers have a few choice happenings to indulge your geek appetite, from limited edition lithograph giveways (EA booth, any day, from 11 a.m. to noon) to game-related panels (try the Assassin’s Creed II Hollywood panel on Thursday, 1:45 p.m., Room 6A).

While you do that, don’t mind us – we’ll be ogling the real-life Bayonetta Thursday and Friday and Sega’s booth.  Game of the show!

[More on Comic-Con 2009 Video Game Preview at GameDaily] {link no longer active}

Bow Down To Pocket God

Pocket God looks to share some iPhone knowledge

Pocket God looks to share some iPhone knowledge

The idea is simple: you are God, the iPhone is your window into your world, and you can do with it what you wish. Help the little caveman-like creatures or feed them to the sharks, make it a cool and starry night or a tumultuous storm, it’s all up to you.

It’s cute and engaging.

And it’s 99 cents.

And it has free updates that come out every couple of weeks.

While we know these elements should combine to a perfect storm of success in Apple’s ever-crowded app world, we couldn’t confirm that until a recent VerticalWire discussion with Bolt Creative.

The team at Bolt Creative even provided a chart showing how spikes in sales corresponded to their free updates, which are delivered to new and existing users on an episodic basis.

From VerticalWire:

“The iPhone’s low barrier to entry is great for small teams and small budgets, but its explosive popularity also translates into a daunting level of competition that can be hard to confront,” said Dave Castelnuovo of Bolt Creative. “We’ve found success by creating an engaged and enthusiastic community, and releasing an onslaught of free updates. We thought it was important to share what we’ve learned.”

Learn more about their success at VerticalWire {link no longer active}, and download the game today by clicking over to iTunes {link no longer active}.