Marketing may not be an actual dark art, but it can certainly seem quite a cloudy business.
Like good front row play in rugby union, impressive results are obvious, but there’s some uncertainly about the rules, about whether or not there are any rules – and about exactly what techniques have been genuinely effective and which were just a waste of effort.
There’s also the problem of operating on the shifting sands of the public’s savvyness. Ads, slogans, campaigns and tactics from 20, 10 or even five years ago can seem incredibly clunky as new generations of consumers essentially grow up with an intuitive understanding of – and suspicion of – marketing argot.
And not only won’t they be talked down to; sometimes they won’t be talked to at all. It’s why, presumably, there is so much store set in having ‘a conversation’ with your audience. Dialogue has replaced didacticism.
Then there’s the nature of games themselves. They’re not cornflakes. You only need to pour milk on them once to work that out. Rather, we operate on the uplands between technology and entertainment. The proposition changes (mainly improves) rapidly and the selling points shift accordingly, which means the marketing must adapt.
Plus, the dynamic nature of the product has bequeathed an expanding audience. Games companies now are marketing to a very different (and much bigger) group of consumers to the one they were talking to five years ago.
Oh, and the media landscape, the marketing teams’ playground and toolbox, that’s probably changed more than anything.
You thought it was impossible to feel sorry for these guys? Well okay, there won’t be any TV appeals or Facebook campaigns anytime soon, but it’s not hard to see that these are challenging times for the team other departments call ‘that lot’.