Marketing to Whales

In the gaming business, a Whale is defined as the 2nd or 3rd sigma of spenders.  This means the 95th (or 99th) Percentile of your spenders.  Depending on the game, this might represent a very significant portion of your total revenue (in a Whale dominate game).  Therefor, “marketing to whales” is a very important task/challenge.  My good friend Bart Bohn at AuManil have developed algorithms that help identify and monitor the Whales in your game… but the key question I have is, how do you EFFECTIVELY market to these whales?

The Whale challenges are:

  1. How do we Identify Whales (AuManil has this solved! -Thanks! :))
  2. How do we get ATTRACT new Whales to play our game? (Acquisition)
  3. How do we get Whales who play to STAY in the game longer?  (Retention)
  4. How do we get Whales who play to SPEND more? (Monetization)
  5. How do we get Whales who have left to COME BACK?  (Re-acquisition)
I don’t have all the answers, sadly.  Each of these are very hard…  I do have some ideas, and am constantly testing these ideas while running Marketing in the real game Dungeon Overlord.  Obviously, I can’t share data or any big secrets, but I would love to hear from my friends/readers if they have any ideas on how to solve these problems.
Focusing on ATTRACTING new Whales; Facebook has some new “target” groups that let you supposedly target Whales with your ads.  Has anyone tried this yet?  I hope to try it out soon.
Targeting players of other similar games seems to work fairly well, but I wonder if “Bids” for ads effect weather or not we reach Whale players?
Any ideas for the other Whale challenges?

Is Zynga Marketing Dumb?

The short answer is yes.  The longer answer is yes… but it’s complicated!  A good friend of mine recently blogged that he thinks Zynga Marketing is failing because they don’t adjust pricing in a failing game.  I disagree with this statement, although he is on to something (but the problem is bigger).  Pricing is extremely complicated in social games and is based on strategy: so changing pricing at the whims of players is bad.  That said, there is a problem at Zynga with their marketing, and I’ll tell you what it is.

I’ve been in Social Network marketing since 2008, running my own business Karmaback, and recently joined venture form Creeris Ventures where I have been (and still am) consulting by running Marketing at Night Owl Games (Dungeon Overlord is the free game I run).  Anyways, in my experience in social games, the key to marketing is: 1.) know your target customer. and then 2.) MEASURE everything.

So what is Zynga doing wrong?  I’m not sure, I don’t have their data… but I think I know what is going on.  They are doing a classic mistake with branding: “Line Extensions”.  So many executives think that “we can leverage the brand we built by doing a new kind of thing with the brand.”  This is flawed thinking.  Re-using the brand to target the same customers with almost the same thing is usually fine and good.. but using the brand for a NEW product/game/service/model/target customer is bound to fail.  Colgate frozen dinners anyone?

With Zynga, their problem is not making a Pay-to-Play game and sticking to it… their problem is trying to extend the Zynga brand into pay-to-play.  The need to create a new company/brand that caters to “hardcore” gamers or gamers that are willing to pay more to play more type… Then the new brand can focus on games like that.

So, Zynga, get a clue.  Stick Zynga in your brand closet and keep it for “Ville” type games.  You need to build a NEW brand if you want to make different kinds of games for new markets and players.

Referral Marketing and League of Legends

First, if you love PC games… or even just like them… you HAVE to try this Free downloadable game: League of Legends.  It is really an amazing game, and it’s free.  How easy is that.  Best of all, if you use MY track-able link:  then, I get bonuses for you joining and could even earn the right to “design my own character”!

What was that?  A perfect example of referral marketing in action.  In truth, I do love the free game league of legends, and I do want you to try the game!  Here is that link again in case you missed it: .   Why do I care?  Because IF people use my referral link (which is easily track-able and associated with my account), THEN I get stuff.  Some of it REALLY cool!  

Referral Marketing works.  It worked “before” Facebook.  It works “after” Facebook.  

Before Facebook:  People got paid to get their friends to buy stuff (Tupperware Party), and they could get a discount if they brought a friend, and they could get real hard cash if they referred somebody to somebody else…  

During Facebook: Everybody got crazy about this “Free” system that seemed to do referrals for free… but there was a cost: it was called SPAM.  And Facebook couldn’t afford to pay that cost any more.

Now After Facebook (because they virtually removed the SPAM capabilities of viral apps): Referral systems STILL work.

If you are NOT giving rewards for referrals for your business… I ask, why not?  Isn’t that cheaper than advertising?

Karmaback has actually built a FULLY track-able Online Referral system…. but we shut down the project once our Sweepstakes began to take off in popularity.

Any interest in us restarting the referral SaaS tool?

Video Games need more “bosses”.

Do you remember the old Nintendo Days.  Finally fighting Ganon in Zelda?  All the “mini-bosses” in Metroid? Or the countless other timeless boss encounters? Or on PC, the “Doom” Demon Bosses?  Probably you remember the feeling of excitement, accomplishment, dread, and relief that was part of the encounter.  Where have all the boss encounters gone? Recently I have enjoyed playing Mass Effect 2 a ton… mostly because it has some decent Boss encounters here and there… but not as many as the old days!  To me a Boss encounter means that the Boss is actually bigger and more powerful than you could EVER be…  and to kill him, you must learn his trick/secret/weakness.  And that makes for some serious fun gaming!

What does this have to do with Marketing you ask?  Well, there are two lessons here:

  1. Marketing isn’t just promotion (how many times a day do I say that…).  The most important service Marketing can do is to give product guidance.  In this case, there is a target market that craves Boss encounters because the feeling of excitement, accomplishment, etc.
  2. Your target market might be hungry for Nostalgia!  If you can feed them something they used to love… you could make serious cash!

Google+ Will Fail and Why.

Many of you know I’m in the business of Marketing; specifically social marketing.  I’ve been playing with Google+ lately and have come to several opinions about the service that I thought I’d share.  In general, I think the service will die, and die quickly.  Here are the 5 observations why I think this is so:

  1. Google+ has no cachet… it’s not really that cool to be on Google+… there is no reason to right now (as opposed to just being on Facebook).  Google tried to make some buzz with the “fake” limits on user growth, but those in the know, know that was contrived.
  2. Google + doesn’t help companies (yet).  I expect Google will get around to it, and when that happens, companies will rush to setup their pages… but soon they will realize: it’s EXPENSIVE to maintain Google+, Facebook, and Twitter: then they’ll say, gee, we’ve invested in Facebook; we’re staying.
  3. Games will kill it.  Games on Google+ are coming, and when they do, let the spam wars begin.  Google has a TON of work, trial, and error to do, to keep up with Facebook on this delicate balance of fun and non-annoyance.
  4. Google+ doesn’t “give me more” of anything over Facebook.  It’s just not superior in any way; so what’s the point?
  5. Google Adwords is too expensive; and Google+ may “dilute” prices over time for adwords (which Google WILL NOT LIKE).  Hence, the quick, fast, and early demise of Google+.  
Google.  Stick to search!  It’s making you rich!