Building a Gaming social brand

It’s gaming mega-franchise launch season with Halo 4 released this week, and Call of Duty Black Ops II set to explode onto the scene on November 13th. As these top gaming titles continue to cement their status as the biggest entertainment franchises out there, the stakes for marketers in the sector get higher and higher.

To provide our perspective on how gaming sector marketers can take full advantage of social media, and potentially reduce the huge launch budgets that now characterise the industry, we’ve produced the lovely whitepaper below. Enjoy, and do tell us what you think :)

Call of Duty: Black Ops Pre-Launch Social Media Strategy

In early 2010, Hollywood blockbuster Avatar took the title of biggest selling entertainment release of all time from Activision’s game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. With the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops [COD], the games publisher felt it was time to claim the title back.

The challenge for Activision was that traffic to official CallofDuty.com forums was decreasing while fan numbers on unofficial COD social sites was increasing. Activision needed to act quickly to stay part of the conversation.

In the four months before launch, we developed a social strategy with 3 core objectives:

  • Drive brand awareness
  • Generate pre-order sales
  • Reignite fans’ passion for COD across the EU

Brand Awareness Activity

Activity launched in August 2010 with a cross promotion campaign within the existing Modern Warfare 2 community to grow the COD fan base from it’s original level of 446,948.

We outreached to all influential COD sites, forums, and bloggers across Europe with compelling, interactive content, getting them ready for the launch of a lifetime. Our sister agency Five by Five designed and developed a bespoke Facebook landing tab to encourage users to like the page and get involved in the conversation. This page was supported by video and photo assets specially created for fans. Five by Five also created and produced the global pre-launch and European launch banner ad campaign for Call of Duty: Black Ops, which ran across 15 territories.

COD TV at Gamescom

We set up ‘COD TV’ at Gamescom, Europe’s biggest interactive games trade fair. COD TV was a live community interview with games developer Treyarch’s community manager Josh Olin and Black Ops’ military advisor Hank Kiersey. This activity was a first for Activision and the Call of Duty franchise.

Using our social media monitoring dashboard that we manage and maintain for the global Call of Duty brand, we produced a landscape of influencers across the EU with whom we seeded content to encourage fan participation and publicise the live interview. We also engaged the community with geo-targeted posts, encouraging fans to submit questions via a bespoke Facebook application that allowed them to vote for their favourite questions.

The live interview was broadcast on Facebook via a bespoke COD TV tab in partnership with uStream.  This tab comprised of a dedicated Facebook chat forum alongside the video player that we moderated.

Pre-Order Drive

We developed a social commerce initiative featuring pre-order messages used as conversation starters on the Facebook wall and a bespoke tab, which took users to retail partner sites.

We carried out ad hoc geo-targeted posts in-line with our editorial calendar, to engage with the community.  We uploaded videos and re-designed and developed the Facebook tabs to build a strong Facebook community

COD: Black Ops Launch

Working in partnership with Xbox who developed a bespoke launch event Facebook tab, and using our existing COD TV uStream tab, we executed a 5 hour long broadcast of the UK launch event at Battersea Power Station in London on November 9.

The live broadcast featured performances by celebrity Call of Duty players and a gig from up-and-coming artist Tinie Tempah. Throughout the broadcast we moderated the real-time conversation stream in social channels and fed questions to the roaming presenters at the event. We managed the official Call of Duty: Black Ops Facebook page throughout the event, moderating the live social stream alongside the live video and carried out community management activity.

The end result; a huge increase in fans engaging with Activision content (almost 8.8 million fans to date) and, of course, the title of ‘biggest selling entertainment release of all time’.

Play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for charity? Yes please!

OK, so hands up who’s heard of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2?  You know the biggest entertainment launch in history… bigger than Harry Potter – yep that’s the one!  Well, our entire agency has been buzzing over the last few weeks as we have been working with Activision for the launch of Modern Warfare 2.  Did you know that our partner agency Five by Five created all the digital media across Europe and heavily influenced the global strategy?  Well they did, and because we at Headstream work closely with Activision too on their social media strategy we were called up for social media duty on the GAME for Good campaign.

To give you the back story, GAME for Good was a partnership between Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and GAME stores with the objective of raising money for the awesome charity War Child. The donation, to be made by Activation was up to a cool £250,000 and this was based on the number of unique UK players who play MW2 on Xbox Live between midnight Saturday 5th December to midnight on Sunday 6th December.  So essentially, all those with Xbox LIVE and a copy of Modern Warfare 2 had the excuse to play for 48 hours guilt free knowing that they were doing it all for charity.

To help spread the good word, we delivered a social media campaign that leveraged Facebook and Twitter platforms and included outreach activity amongst influential online forums, blogs and communities.

The Facebook brand outpost was the launch pad for all event activity and was restricted to 18+ audiences.  Within the page, fans could network and were encouraged to share their gamertag with others.  This community over the duration of the campaign grew in excess of 16,000 fans and engagement was phenomenal!  Check it out for yourself at: www.facebook.com/gameforgood

We also designed and developed bespoke Facebook tabs and a dedicated GAME for Good facebook application. This application encouraged fans to form a clan by enlisting their friends to play MW2 in multiplayer mode on Xbox LIVE at a specific time on the 5th – 6th December.  Once enlisted, the application automatically posted a live Facebook status update of the event which can be seen by the participant’s friends helping to increase word-of-mouth activity.  The app automatically added a banner to the side of the user’s wall too which displayed their gamertag and the time they were playing online so that any other friends could join in too.

In support of the Facebook page, a dedicated Twitter profile was set up @gameforgood to engage with MW2 fans.  Fans were encouraged to add a GAME for Good Twibbon to their profile helping raise awareness and increase buzz amongst the many game and tech communities on Twitter.

So how did the campaign do?  Well this post by War Child taken from the GAME for Good Facebook page tells all: “More than 1 million Xbox owners in the UK took part in our GAME for Good weekend last weekend – raising us £250,000. That money will transform the lives of children living in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones. THANK YOU everyone who took part.“ 

It was our pleasure!

Engaging the gamer

Gamers are among some of the more tech savvy, so it’s no surprise that their ranks were among the early adopters of sites such as Twitter. But, typically they are a poorly targeted bunch, with adverts often relying on busty females to sell products.

However, companies such as Infinity Ward and Activision are keen to reach out to gamers, and join the conversations about their products with transparent, authentic voices.

Infinity Ward developer Robert Bowling, a developer at Infinity Ward and a self professed gamer has been actively engaging his Twitter gamer followers with sneak peeks of new releases and updates about patches. This has proved enormously successful with certain trailer teasers amassing huge numbers of hits on YouTube in a short period of time.

This is the kind of approach that we encourage with our clients, talking to customers on their own level, breaking down the typical sales person vs. customer barriers and fostering conversations that are mutually beneficial. Bowling has shown how successful engaging users can be, with almost 40,000 people listening to his every word.

Experiential marketing and social media

Here at Headstream festival fever has been prolonged as we are incredibly excited to be working with Activision and Guitar Hero supporting their experiential marketing at the 2009 Leeds Festival.

We have developed a social media strategy placing emphasis on brand activation that will support Guitar Hero’s offline event.  By using digital we will further extend the investment Guitar Hero has already made in its festival appearances.

Guitar Hero’s hands-on brand interaction at UK festivals is an incredibly engaging off-line experience, and social media presents a fantastic opportunity to extend this experience.

The strategy has taken into account amplifying Guitar Hero’s presence at Leeds festival with planned activity pre / during and post event. 

Pre-event we will be working with brand ambassadors and their own blogs and social networks to create buzz.

During the event itself Headstream will be creating content that will be optimised for social media so that it can be distributed as far and wide through the social networks of MySpace, Facebook and Flickr as well as Twitter.  At the same time we will be encouraging festival go-ers to produce their own social currency to share with their own social networks.

Post-event we will continue the engagement with more content and conversations – Rock On!

Guitar Hero, Isle of Wight Festival and Twitter

Guitar Hero at Isle of Wight Festival

Headstream has been rocking out recently with Activision to help promote Guitar Hero World Tour. We have been on MySpace, getting to know the fans, and helping them get to know Guitar Hero. We’ve also been tweeting away on Twitter, letting everyone know about the latest happenings in the Guitar Hero universe, and reminding twitterers to rock out every once in a while too!

And what better way to rock out than rocking out in front of a huge crowd? Activision is giving fans the chance to actually become a Guitar Hero this weekend at the Isle of Wight Festival. Friends can challenge each other, and the best performers get to live the dream and play live on stage!

Speaking of the Isle of Wight, we’ve also been all a twitter with Red Funnel, helping them by tweeting everything from offers and news, to latest updates about the Red Hot Talent Contest.

If you are interested in all things Guitar Hero you can follow the updates @ghwt and if you want to keep a top of all things ferry, you can follow @red_funnel too.
Oh and while you are there, why not give @headstream a follow to?

Whats crack-a-lacking?

The headstream office has had to ‘move it’ recently since work began on not one, but two projects for the second instalment from DreamWorks Animation, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.

Our first task was to work with Activision to promote the release of the video game which hit stores on November 28. We secured coverage on a large number of sites, with activity ranging from game reviews to publicity and promotional activity.

Thanks to Paramount Pictures we were also lucky enough to work on the release of the film, in cinemas this week (December 5), setting up promotions on sites which effectively reach and engage the target audience.

With each campaign we secured a number of partners who were happy to associate themselves with such a ‘crack-a-lacking’ title including The Rainforest Café and Longleat Safari Park.

Our love of the crazy crew from New York Zoo made these projects highly enjoyable and we recommend the film to all ages! For a Madagascan experience of your own pick up the game from all good retailers, and check it out at cinemas nationwide.