All posts by TheBlackFin

Chief Marketing Officer, Agency at Epsilon & Principal at Blackfin360, LLC.

The Halo 3 Marketing Machine

While flying to New York today I was reading an industry magazine and came across a Halo 3 cross-promotional ad that caught my attention. Outside of this ad featuring Halo 3 & 7-11, the teams at Bungie and Microsoft are collaborating with a number of brands and agencies, including the same team that brought you 7-11’s transformed into Kwik-E-Marts, to kick off a Halo 3 go-to-market campaign that will be assaulting mainstream audiences faster than Master Chief can blast a covenant elite with a dual-wielded mauler.

It looks as though Halo 3 inspired Mountain Dew will be flying into 7-11 sometime in August. This promotion will also see Halo 3 Slurpee cups and Master Chief emblazoned bags of Doritos. The Doritos campaign will be tied to a voice cameo contest for the upcoming Ensemble Studios Halo Wars title. I have been very impressed with 7-11’s strategy over the past year. You would not think that a convenience store would have this type of marketing prowess but the proof is in the tie-in’s… Spider Man, the Simpsons, and Halo. And this only accounts for campaigns launched in 2007.

Regarding Halo’s GTM strategy, other brands will also leverage Master Chief to help cross-promote their offerings. Pontiac, Burger King and even a Halo 3 sponsorship for an upcoming music tour featuring acts like Linkin Park are just a few of the publicly available elements of the upcoming campaign. All of this does not include the Microsoft centric items such as Halo 3 branded Xbox 360’s, controllers and Zunes.

What this tells me is that the point is no longer to just make a game that entertains. The main goal now is to develop something that can transcend a niche genre and break through to the mainstream. It happened with Pac Man in the 80’s, it has happened with the Electronic Arts Madden franchise which is the best selling franchise of all time and now Halo is primed to cross into the mainstream by following the road taken by many a Hollywood blockbuster… meaning directly into kids meals at Burger King and on the bag of chips you eat in your living room… while playing Halo 3. Who says marketing doesn’t work?

MasterChief

2008 & Beyond

Strategic planning, execution and constant measurement are the key factors in taking an organization from good to great. Currently each member of the Telligent leadership team is drafting a business plan for their respective areas of the business. That means I had the privilege to prepare 3 (Product Sales, Services Sales, & Marketing). The focus of the documents are to review goals to close out FY07, but more importantly to define a roadmap of where we expect to be and how we expect to get there in 3 years.

This exercise is key as with any organization that handles the amount of business that we do you can get caught up in the day-to-day activities and not necessarily keep a razor sharp focus on where we need to go. We have outlined aggressive but achievable revenue goals and expectations and it is a great exercise to pause and take a macro view of the organization to ensure that all teams are working towards the same objectives.

I look forward to the presentations on Monday and more importantly the specific action items that will result from the meeting. This is a very exciting time as 2008 looks to be another phenomenal year across all areas of the organization.

20,000 Points

It is finally official. I have reached the 20,000K gamerscore mark!!! I have expressed in the past that I am an avid gamer and I enjoy the work that we do with various gaming studios such as Electronic Arts.

One thing about me is that I am very competitive and focused on results. I like to set goals and subsequently achieve them. This coincides very well with the Xbox 360 achievement system as you get a very measurable ROI metric out of your gaming experience.

Gaming is a lot like marketing in that you select a specific vertical that you want to target. For example, I like to focus on sports and retro titles. Then I formulate a plan based on the market segment that I have selected. I review the achievements that are available with each game prior to playing to predetermine ratios around potential time spent on pursuit of the goal vs. actualization of the achievement and then move towards the execution phase of the plan. Once the plan is put into motion it is very easy to then determine success of the strategy. And it is just a lot of fun to have the achievement pop-up on my screen once I have earned the achievement.

So is a 20K gamerscore required to be a good marketer? Not at all… All it shows is that you spend a lot of time looking at a screen. Speaking of which I have to thank my wife and children for allowing me the “small” amounts of time that I spend on…. market research. I also would like to thank the guys at EA for giving me the hookup on the best EA titles.

Thanks again! On to 30K!!!

Did You Know?

Taking from an old ESPN Sportscenter segment, I thought it would be an appropriate title for this discussion. With more and more people plugging in to social networking sites like MySpace it is becoming a tool used by organizations to scout potential interview candidates prior to ever meeting them in person.

Normally it is the individual who is being interviewed that researches the organization and if available the bio of the person who will be conducting the interview. But with the flood of personal information that is now available it is the employer who is researching the potential candidate.

A hiring decision is one that requires a significant investment in an individual and a one hour meeting here and there does not always allow you as a decision maker to have all of the information necessary to make a hiring decision. Most candidates put their best foot forward and are actively trying to make a good impression. It is interesting to read blogs of potential candidates and how they interact with others. As I have stated before a resume is a foot in the door, but it is how you will fit within the culture of the organization that is also very important. And that is difficult to determine within the limited amount of time allocated to the recruiting process.

So my word of advice is to be mindful of what you make publicly available as it is just that publicly available. It is not only your peers that read what you have to say. Prospective employers are very interested as well.

Top Daug

We arrived in Orlando on Monday to meet with our client teams at Disney and EA’s Tiburon division. The Tiburon group owns the EA Sports titles that we have all come to know and love. NCAA, Madden, Tiger, Nascar… It all happens here. Being in Orlando reminds me of the first time I was here back in 1996. For those of you that don’t know, I am an alumni of the University of Oklahoma. I bleed crimson and cream and I have an insane amount of loyalty to my university and it showed.

While I was a student at OU, I was the mascot for the University of Oklahoma men’s basketball team, Top Daug. I did this from the spring of 1994 to the start of the 1998 season. Yes you are probably wondering why OU would have a dog for a mascot? Don’t you have a big wagon or something? Yes, but the wagon did not play nicely with the wooden floors of Lloyd Noble Arena. Back in the mid 80’s the coach was Billy Tubbs and he proclaimed that OU would be the Top Dog of the then Big 8 conference and thus Top Daug was born. Unfortunately Top Daug was recently retired in order to make way for Boomer and Sooner, they were to become the mascots for the university athletics across the board and Top Daug is no more.

It was a very fun and rewarding job. You have the ability to walk up to virtually anyone and for some reason they are very comfortable with you. Little kids would either love you or run away in sheer terror. The best part of the job was having some impact on the game by getting the crowd into the game. There was a lot of dancing, skits and half court shots, which I did make my share… there is video somewhere. There were costumes and stunts and one instance of being lowered down from the top of the arena to the floor below while losing my shorts when taking off the harness. Luckily I was in full fur.

We did not have the best postseason record while I was the mascot, but I did get to travel to the Big 8 then Big XII tournaments in Kemper Arena in Kansas City and to whatever location we would land at in the NCAA tournament. We went to Memphis to play the Manhatten Jaspers. Yes those mighty Jaspers slayed the Sooners that day and we were out in the first round of the tournament. We played Stanford and let’s just say I had fun with the Stanford tree. You may get the idea…. Dog + tree =…. But in 1996 we were matched up with the Temple Owls and the game site was in Orlando. It was great! We received passes to Disney World and spent time just wandering around the park like big kids. Of course we did lose to Temple the next day but I did hit my half-court shot during half time. Orlando was a great city to visit and now that we work with the Parks & Resorts team at Disney and also my kids have been to Disney World, but it will always remind me of my time with the Sooners.

Announcing Social Networking

Starting August 29th Telligent will host a monthly breakfast at our office in Dallas as an interest group for Social Networking and Communities.

What is it?

It’s not going to be technical. Visual Studio won’t get opened. What it will be is a fun conversation with like-minded people about topics related to social networking and communities all centered around how these concepts and technologies can be applied successfully for organizations.

Where is it?

We’ll have the first meeting at our office in Dallas, TX, but we’re going to video-cast (not live) too. If it takes off we may even do a small road-show.

Who is it for?

It’s for anyone that is interested in these topics. It’s going to be more about “how do I make this stuff work for me” and less about “how does the technology work”. For example, our first topic is going to be Blogging in your Business. We’ll talk about how tools such as blogs promote transparency and really open some news ways for you to talk to customers or employees.

What is the format?

8:00 – 8:30 – Light breakfast (coffee, bagels, etc.)

8:30 – 9:30 – Blogging in your business, Rob Howard

9:30 – 10:00 – Open discussion

Microsoft + Electronic Arts = In-game Advertising?

Coming to you live from Oklahoma City. Wi-Fi in a hospital room, who would have thought it was possible? No I am not in the hospital just blogging from one. So Microsoft and Electronic Arts have partnered together to sign the largest in-game advertising deal to date. Initially the campaign will be rolled out to the Sports titles like Madden, Nascar, Tiger Woods and Skate.

The reason this is possible now is how connected most gamers are. Think about some of the current titles in your library. You can get up to the minute ESPN feeds and updates now when the game fires up in NBA Live 07 and other EA titles. These feeds are a precursor of what’s to come. In reviewing research for this post it turns out that there are 4.4 million connected gaming console households. With 46 million game consoles in homes and another 148 million people with access to gaming consoles these numbers will continue to increase. So needless to say it is very appealing to advertisers to want to reach this segment of the population as this is a key demographic for positioning products and services.

All of the major consoles now have an online presence with Xbox leading the way online and the Wii attracting scores of new gamers. The industry is definitely in for additional growth online. So this all leads to the million dollar question… er the $600 million dollar question (market projection in 3 years)… Do you want ads in your games? It is nice to see the Dodge ads on the billboards in Crackdown and it does add to the realism in games, but how would you respond to something that interupts game play?

Personally, I like the subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) product placement approach in most films. It is about characters interacting with name brand products but not about the product itself. This to me has more impact and would make me more likely to remember the reference than stopping in the middle to see a pop-up or ticker during game play.

So whether you are a fan or not, In-game advertising is coming and in a big way. There are too many dollars and distractions these days to not take this medium seriously. What do you think? Are you for, opposed or just in-different to in-game advertising? In the end it will be your dollars that do the talking.

EA Skate Round 2

For most of this week I will be in Vancouver, British Columbia. Today I was on-site at Electronic Arts Blackbox location. This is the studio responsible for the upcoming Skate release. If you recall back in June I posted about my first experience with the alpha build of Skate. Today I played one of the latest builds and all I can say is WOW.

The realism of the game is incredible. The movements are based on physics vs. animation so it gives the skater a natural flow that is not common in most of the current titles. The “flickit” controls are clean and really allow the user to have complete control but also gives you almost an unlimited ability to pull and sequence tricks.

The most impressive aspect of the game though was the ability to capture and manipulate in-game video footage from within the game. The game will cache the last 20 or so seconds of your run. If you pull off a wicked combo you can simply go to the replay option and begin adjusting camera angles, speed of replay, and apply different effects to your clip. Then the clip will upload to the soon to be launched Skate video gallery that is powered by community server. You will be able to share your clips with friends or for all of the skate community to see. You can also view some of the top clips from within the game.

The beta should drop on August 21st via the Xbox Live Marketplace. Definitely give it a go. You will be able to save video from the demo and it will carry over to when the game releases in September.

$44 Billion Really?

I just flew in from Denver and boy are my arms tired… Seriously though, I enjoyed attending the 2007 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference last week. I was even quoted in the Denver Post about being a Microsoft partner. It is always interesting to get an inside look at Microsoft as I have been consulting with this organization for the past 8 years. It has been intriging to watch the transformation from a decentralized, maverick organization to one that is applying more traditional business controls such as a focus around procurement, to their ability to quickly adapt in an ever-changing marketplace.

What really impressed me is the partner ecosystem that Microsoft has been able to develop. With 10,000+ attendees at this conference representing 120 countries it is no wonder that 96% of it’s $44 billion in revenue 2006 came from Partners. With their ability to not only provide outstanding software products, Microsoft really focuses on establishing platforms that can be extended, defining industry standards and ensuring interoperability with their offerings. This makes it very easy for organizations to partner with them.

It was very evident that many start-up organizations can benefit from niche offerings around Microsoft products as they are very open to partnering with early adopters. The focus on partners is a key element to their continued success. As I stated before in Software + Services there will always be the customer segment that lives in the now and is focused on the best solution that meets their needs today vs. the trendy offering of tomorrow.

Here at Telligent we have deep roots with Microsoft from Rob Howards time with the ASP.NET team, to 2 Regional Directors, multiple MVP’s and a focus on Microsoft technologies in our products such as Community Server. We look forward to continuing to build out our own partner ecosystem. We focus on providing software platforms that can be extended vs. single applications as well. So why wouldn’t we follow in the footsteps of Microsoft. $44 billion can’t be wrong.

Software + Services

There has been a lot of hype around Software as a Service of late. A number of people in the know say this is the future of business. If we have learned anything over the past few years it is customers want a choice.

You will always have the innovators and early adopters setting the pace for technology adoption. But when you hit the early majority you will have to understand that the latest and greatest is not always what is needed or wanted. Therefore as a solution provider in order to gain a true competitive advantage you need to have a blended offering.

From a software perspective that means in order to maximize your potential you need to offer products that meet the needs of both sides of the spectrum. From an on-premise implementation that allows enterprise level players to have the ultimate control and integration that they desire to the mid-size organization that does not want the responsibility of maintaining the infrastructure associated with the offering.

We at Telligent are very aware of this and one of our biggest advantages is our ability to tailor our solutions to adhere to both scenarios. We are as hand’s on as our clients need us to be. We can provide a fully managed solution including customization of the Community Server platform, professional services and creative, or we can offer just licensing, software assurance and support. This has enabled us to be on the forefront of online collaborative solutions and work with some of the biggest names and brands across multiple verticals.