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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Guerilla and Viral Advertising Tactics  (Read 3818 times)
J Tolson
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« on: November 28, 2007, 03:04:57 PM »

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2007, 04:14:25 PM »

Hi Joel,

We did discuss viral tactics 'way back in the first year of the Forge; it should be easy to find by looking at thread titles if you click on the oldest pages of this forum. Here are some of my conclusions from those discussions.

First, what are called viral techniques today seem to me like the primary techniques of promotion. Effectively, letting quality speak for itself via word of mouth, and making sure that your stuff is in the hands of people who are culturally active. So to think of them as new or alternative strikes me as backwards; what's "new," really, are the distributor-controlled, advertiser-controlled venues like magazines and TV. But those are what we think of as primary. When people started posting about viral marketing on the Forge, those of us who'd pioneered independent game promotion looked at each other and said, "Why bother with the stupid term? That's marketing, period; we've been doing that for years."

Arguably, almost all the marketing and promotion techniques that are practiced by publishers who spend a lot of time here are viral. But my argument is that's because they operate directly and fundamentally across a cottage industry, in which everyone is a customer, and creators/publishers are simply more community members.

Second, guerrilla techniques are best understood as defiant, undercutting, and arguably revolutionary practices within a system which is already exploitative, or all wrapped up by a few hegemons. In the music industry, promotion is so under the thumb of the money-guys that there really is no way for an artist to break into success simply by being good. In such circumstances, guerrilla techniques can be expected to proliferate; people pretty much have no choice.

In the current gaming market, there really isn't any such situation any more. There was; it effectively died in the middle or late 1990s, and then its staggering corpse finally stopped moving about three or four years ago. There isn't anything to be guerrilla against - I think I can speak with some authority on that score, as I was a primary guerrilla fighter. That's what the original Forge booth at GenCon was, for instance; now, it's a valued feature, given the collapse of what I was fighting against, and given that GenCon is under very different management now and the Forge/indie scene is recognized by them as major contributor, both financially and culturally.

Kevin Allen Jr. did some guerrilla promotion for his game Sweet Agatha at the last GenCon. I'd be curious to know what he thinks about whether it really functioned in the guerrilla way, or whether it was just more promotion period, or whether it worked at all.

Best, Ron
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2007, 06:17:10 PM »

Kevin's guerilla tactics appear to be ongoing:

http://www.myspace.com/sweetagatha

Paul
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J Tolson
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« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2007, 12:57:22 PM »

Thanks for the info Ron, I am looking over some of those old threads now (Guerilla Publishing, The New Distribution, Channel Conflict with Distribution-Retailers-Manufacturers, The Joys of Publicizing Your Game, and Viral Marketing
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2007, 02:24:47 PM »

Hi there,

Boy, it is tempting to enter into a discussion of the terms ... but probably not a good idea. Let's reserve it for beer time some day. Suffice to say that whatever label is involved, what you're describing is a worthy topic. And yes, you are right, it deserves a modern re-visiting. I definitely don't want to shut the topic down by referring to the older discussions.

Here's my chief concern with marketing of all kinds: efficacy. Let's take the example of the laptop thing. so that people who utilize your wireless will see your logo. That is clever for sure, and it also amuses me in a kind of social justice way. The question is, does it work? Do people who use my wireless in public spaces also constitute any sort of audience for my game? If they do, then is my interjection of my stuff in that way and in that time attractive to them, or annoying?

Here's a related point which is not intended to translate directly to role-playing, but rather to illustrate the basic question I'm after.

I know some guys in traditional advertising, who make up commercials and ad campaigns, and I've spoken with them at length. Here's the things they said that knocked me out.

1. When I asked, "Granted, advertisements can establish name-recognition, and they can put a brand name into common parlance, and they can even become a big part of pop culture references - but what data shows that more popular and better-placed advertisements make a product sell better than it would without them?" ... they admitted that there were in fact no data. Apparently if you put a big billboard up on the highway advertising something, then yes, more people will respond in polls that they recognize the name or that they saw the billboard. But given that the product is already being sold, and that retail outlets or whatever are already re-ordering them from you on the basis of sales ... the assumed link between putting up that billboard and seeing increased demand seems to be unverified.

2. When I asked, "What's the difference between products that are advertised in mass-market fashion and those that aren't?" ... they said they didn't know, and that it wasn't a question anyone in the business spent time considering. (Example: athletic shoes are advertised on TV. Trumpets and clarinets are not. Why? Cars are advertised on TV. Bicycles are not. Why?) I was pretty disappointed, because I'd hoped to learn more about whether role-playing was a candidate for this sort of advertising, and if not, why not.

3. There seems to be a difference between advertising that's assumed to create or to pump up demand, and advertising which is best understood as merely an announcement. If someone opens a martial arts studio, their big ad in the phone book and the commercial spot they buy for TV may be better understood as an announcement, guaranteed to be of interest to anyone already involved or about to be involved in that subculture. It's necessary because a lot of the people who are interested won't otherwise know about it at all. But apparently that's way different from advertising a beer in a TV commercial, and again, understanding that distinction doesn't get a whole lot of discussion among the people who do it. It's more a matter of personal intuition and institutional approaches.

I don't mean to shift the thread topic by talking about these conversations. The only thing I want to pull from them now is the observation that apparently, showing something around publicly is not actually the same thing as advertising. Contrary to what the infomercial people say, eyeballs aren't enough. Showing your thing to a bezillion people may be a total waste of time unless (a) the thing itself is suitable for being shown/sold that way, and (b) they're the right people, or at least include them. And how can we establish (a) and (b)? To use Goofy's word, "Gorsh"-  we don't know!

So I don't want to give the impression that I disfavor any or all of the tactics you're talking about on any grounds besides this one. On the contrary, if the tactic works, then holy shit, use it, and by all means, creative and (what do we call it?) lateral tactics are probably all around us, waiting to happen. What I'm saying is that advertising and marketing are effort - they take time and energy to make happen. I'm sort of a surgical striker when it comes to advertising for my games, and that's because I'm picky about exerting effort - I'd like to have a pretty clear idea of (a) and (b) at some level before I go that way.

Does that make any sense? I grant you, and in fact quite enthusiastically, that what you're talking about will bring the product or logo in front of lots of eyeballs. What sort of (a) and (b) is involved, if any? What are your thoughts on that?

Best, Ron
« Last Edit: November 29, 2007, 02:26:32 PM by Ron Edwards » Logged
Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2007, 02:03:04 AM »

What Ron's talking is a very big thing for me as well. The mechanics of making sales, that's what a salesman should be concerned about. There is this incidious tendency in our modern culture for magical thinking in many things, advertising among others. It comes, as I understand it, from a need to do something to control your own destiny, even when you don't have a believable model for your actions. The end-result is activity that is not modeled to achieve anything at all in any sensible and verifiable manner.

(Another example of this is in education; I participated in a seminar last Monday where I mostly just raved like a maniac about idiots who concern themselves with creating "experiences" for students without clear goals or any theory of learning to prove that they're actually doing anything useful. The magical thinking is the same, people acting just to appease their inner need for action.)

I work quite a bit with different kinds of advertising efforts, especially the generic ones shooting for brand recognition. (As opposed to specific product campaigns.) I would never suggest that it's a good idea for a car salesman or internet operator to print up hundreds of decks of cards with their logo as a promotional tool, but if they want to do it, I might as well make sure that the cards look good. I can't say that I've ever encountered convincing evidence for these projects actually having caused anything except enjoyment for the businessmen involved, for whom it is a matter of ego to have something of their company to give away to other businessmen as gifts.

That being said, my own roleplaying advertising work is always a matter of value received: instead of an advertisement I write an article and instead of flyers I distribute demonstrations. This is, as much as anything else, because I find advertising distasteful. I don't appreciate it myself when my cognitive space is assaulted by memetic professionals, so I do not work like that myself. Mere exposure interests me not.
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J Tolson
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« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2007, 10:06:28 AM »

Efficacy is a terribly important guiding concept for advertising, doubly so for small-time entrepreneurs like someone trying to promote their game. But might I propose that efficacy shouldn't be alone in one's considerations? Efficacy should be weighed against the cost of a particular action. Even if the efficacy of that action is low, a low cost to that action might then make the action recommendable.

To use the example of the wireless network advertising thing (which wasn't really meant as a serious means of advertising, but rather a "new" possibility), the cost of changing a wireless networks name should be weighed against the potential benefit. In this case, the potential benefit is incredibly small; it is unknown if marketing aimed at making your product recognizable will increase sales, it is unknown if the medium will even reach a potential market, and even if the medium reaches the potential market there is no indication that the market will recognize the product as valid. At the end of the day, this medium will probably net you absolutely no benefit, but there is the chance that it will.

The cost, on the other hand, is also terribly small. I could change my wireless network's name in about a minute and a half. Thus, is the vague possibility of the benefit worth the miniscule amount of resources that need to be devoted to it? If random people are already logging onto your wireless network, I'd say so. If not, probably not.

This is just to say, if the cost of advertising is low enough, even if the probability of benefit is also incredibly low, then efficacy be darned!

Remember, no data on the efficacy of marketing is not the same as negative data. It may or may not work; it is a gamble. But that gamble might be worth it.

One of the advantages of "lateral" tactics using the most modern innovations (it feels slightly silly to say that, compared to 2001, 2007 is "modern") is that the very market these tactics are geared towards is a market that unusually likely to try new things (if they weren't unusually likely to try new things, they probably wouldn't be exposed to the tactics in the first place). Pirating wireless networks might not be too innovative nowadays, but what about "toothing" (to steal the term and process, but not the use, from a 2004 hoax)? If the person knows what Bluetooth even is, they are already displaying a willingness to try new things. Granted, this would probably piss more people off than it would get interested in your game, but it is an example.

In contrast, if you only adopt advertising methods once they have become standardized and proven, then you will also only be advertising to the normal population and its normal levels of trying new things. This isn't a bad thing, not in the least, but you are missing out on potential.

These are, of course, just random ideas for "mere exposure" that I happened to pull off the top of my head; new technology can still be geared towards creating substantive promotions. Instead of having a "development blog" why not a development vlog? If you're going to playtest your game, why not capture it on a webcam and put it online (particularly useful for new players who want to see HOW your game is played)? At a convention trying to promote your game? Why not include a link to your FaceBook account (and encourage consumers of your product to do the same)? Need to take a break from thinking about promoting your game or designing it but still want to be productive in regards to it? Create an alternate reality site (or even "fanfiction"). Like to doodle but you realize you aren't good enough to draw the art for your game? Post comics to your website that concern the game.

Will any of these ideas work? Darned if I know, but some of them look appealing to me, from a potential cost/benefit perspective (and I came up with all of them as I typed). Take one of these ideas, or come up with your own, and go perform an experiment. If it works or doesn't, let us know (I'll do the same, when I reach a point were promotion is a consideration). You might come up empty but you might hit gold.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2007, 12:45:43 PM »

Hi,

I certainly don't disagree with your final point at all. I say, go for it, try it, and all of that. I don't agree with your point about effort, but that is such a personal call that my preference should not be considered any kind of recommendation. Effort is a personal thing.

So please, don't read anything of what I'm posting as a statement of disapproval. Everyone should be trying stuff. The issue of efficacy is, I think, important for people to consider individually, which is why I posted about it.

I'd also like to clarify that I'm not advocating traditional advertising, of which banner-clicking is a modern version. You probably saw that in the older threads. This discussion isn't about Ron the traditionalist vs. the new viralist. My position is best described as abandoning the philosophy of advertising in the first place, sticking to the announcement philosophy, and even that is considered a reinforcement of a more fundamental approach - that of communicating among fellow members of the community about stuff which can't be faked. It feels like going under advertising to the more straightforward and less flashy actual interactions that compose the hobby.

In line with that point, regarding the idea of filming play sessions, I and several others are already there. I think it's vitally important, in fact.

Best, Ron
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J Tolson
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« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2007, 03:11:35 PM »

Thank you for all your wonderful feedback.

I certainly agree that efficacy is an important issue; after all, most of us don't have excess resources to waste.

I would, however, disagree and say that you are
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2007, 06:10:08 PM »

We are in agreement on that point. The issue is the word "traditional," which I was using to indicate Madison Avenue, television, and other forms of mass-market saturation that are strongly associated with twentieth-century America, and also tightly connected to specific companies and locations. Your use of "traditional" in that post matches my use of "primary" in an earlier post.

Not much more to say except, again, I agree with you on that point.

Best, Ron
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