David Wharton, head of online marketing for Nintendo America. Their ambition is to help explain products that might not be intuitive to the user immediately. To help promote the game Animal Crossing, they created a closed environment of game players called the Pioneers Program, and gave the Pioneers the game and the tools to write about their experiences. Following this closed release, Nintendo gave the press access to the journals and allowed the press to write about the experiences of users. These elements gave a great launch to the game. Success of Animal Crossing led them to approach a new game (Nintendogs) in the same way. Nintendo created the Kennel Club program. Kennel Club was a carefully chosen group of 300+ people who got the game and access to a special community that is blogesque. Nintendo doesn’t edit the content in the community and is open to the negative feedback from users. They also work with Intelliseek to monitor the sentiment of the larger Web community. The public site will roll out on Monday when the game comes out. Site will allow users to create blogs for their dogs.
David then segways into the campaign to promote Metroid Prime 2 : Echoes. Created a character and website around the character. Followed something similar to the Cloudmakers game that was used to promote the movie AI.
All of this was interesting, but not particularly useful for most businesses as they don’t have the marketing and development budget to do some of these things. Obviously setting up a blog, etc. can be done by anyone, but they are able to mount a full court press in all digital media. Overall, the lesson is to give people access to your products and let them talk about it in an unfiltered environment.
John Cass now has the floor to talk about Buzz Marketing in general. Blogs are going to be very important to companies for a variety of reasons, but primarily because of their attractiveness to search engines. Customers are using search to research products and services. These searches often lead them to other customers and allow people to amass a tremendous amount of information about a product or company. This has led to a kind of blogging economy as people are able to create content online and share their experiences. Those experiences are then picked up by other people as they do searches. This is changing the way people make their decisions. There are some good notes on case studies in the slides for his presentation (warning .pdf).
Buzz Bruggeman is up now. He says that blogs have levelled the playing field between small and large companies. As Steven Levy wrote in Newsweek, the new crystal ball is, “in blogs and chat rooms,” meaning that you need not use focus groups anymore since all the customer information you need is being offered openly in online communities. As a result, ActiveWords is prioritizing the bloggers it wants to talk to. Since blogs are effectively intelligence agents about new products and services, and all blogs are equally discoverable. (I don’t know about totally equally discoverable, but the point is nonetheless valid.) Buzz got a request for his product from a missionary in Mongolia who heard about it by listening to a podcast that Buzz was on with two guys in Sydney Australia who called Buzz using Skype. The result is that in creating a product, companies need to take great care since one determined detractor can create a large negative buzz (cf. Jarvis/Dell). There is no longer a valid notion that mistakes will blow over. Having a blog allowed ActiveWords to respond to a woman who had written to the company that the program had broken her computer. This wasn’t the case, but Buzz wrote about the situation on his blog and asked if anyone else had encountered the same issues as this woman. The net result was a huge uplift for the company as customers wrote both about the problems, how to fix them and the quality of the company and product in general.