I don’t think would-be Kickstarter creators really grasp the tireless work that actually goes into effectively marketing a game. That’s why I invited Joseph Z Chen to talk about his experience marketing Fantastic Factories. Joseph and his team are doing exactly what new creators should be doing to build their brand and give their projects the best shot at doing well in the future.
You can find out more about Fantastic Factories and learn about their next steps by checking out the Fantastic Factories Facebook page.
All Pistons Firing
It’s PAX West. My team and I just finished an exhausting 8 hours of nonstop demoing and talking. We were grabbing dinner at a local Steak ’n Shake. A girl spots the backside of one of our shirts. The backside of our shirts lists our mechanics, player count, and game duration.
She said, “Hey! What’s this game?”
It was a simple enough interaction. We were tired and hungry, so I just reached into my wallet and handed her a business card for Fantastic Factories.
The next day I received a message sent to the Fantastic Factories Facebook page. It was that same person from Steak ‘n Shake asking where she could find the game. She must have seen the Facebook page on the card I handed her. I directed her to the ACT Theater where we were doing demos during PAX. Later that weekend, I discovered that she had come by to play the demo, at which point we directed her to the Hyatt Olive 8 where she played a full game and signed up for our mailing list.
This is a perfect example of how we were trying to funnel people through one experience to the next and ultimately become fans of the game. We had always intended to direct people from our demo table to an area where they could play the full game, but I didn’t expect so many people to take us up on that offer. The walk between the ACT Theater and the Hyatt Olive 8 is 3.5 blocks, and neither location is part of the convention center, so it was great to see the cross-promotion working so efficiently.
The Rule of Seven
In my anecdote, the shirt may have been sufficient to catch someone’s attention, but the majority of the time a shirt with your branding on it won’t warrant a second look from anyone. In marketing, there’s a rule called the Rule of Seven. What the rule says is that someone must hear or see your marketing message at least seven times before they are willing to take action.
There’s no actual scientific research behind the exact number seven, but there is a truth that marketing is most effective when seen or heard multiple times. It’s even more useful when that marketing is presented through different channels.
Be everywhere all the time
Besides attending conventions and playtesting at local game shops, I also engage on Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. My game is available on Tabletop Simulator. I participate in local game meetups. I have business cards, buttons, and stickers. I write a blog. When you’re in enough places often enough, people will begin to notice. At PAX West, I’ve had people come up to me and tell me they’ve seen my game at PAX West last year, at ETX, or even at PAX South.
The first time someone sees your game or brand, it probably won’t even register. The second time will trigger some sense of familiarity. The third time may create a mental note. And eventually, curiosity will take over. When you see something come up time and time again, especially in different contexts, you can’t help but wonder what it’s all about.
Your efforts will compound over time as long as you are persistent and explore multiple channels. Why are numerous channels important? When you research a particular game, you like to get opinions from various people. Marketing works similarly. Often communities — especially smaller ones — will become echo chambers of ideas and opinions. The kind of topics and viewpoints you expect to see circulating on Facebook differ from those you hope to see on Reddit. If your game or brand has a presence across multiple channels that your target audience consumes, it increases its relevance and validity.
One drop within an ocean
I’ve been playtesting and demoing my game for a while now both at conventions and local game shops. Sometimes you feel like it’s a hopeless endeavor, and that you don’t see any traction. Did you know that there were more than 2,000 tabletop projects launched on Kickstarter in 2016? More than 1,000 of them failed to fund. It can be hard to make waves when you’re only a drop in the ocean. So how do you get noticed? How does someone go from spotting a t-shirt to becoming a fan?
In the end, there’s no real silver bullet. It takes a lot of hard work and determination to get your game out there and recognized. Luckily, the tabletop community is an excellent and friendly place. I’ve met a ton of cool people along the way. If you choose to do the marketing for your own game, I hope you have some fun while you do it because it’s a long road!