One of the most common questions we get asked as PR professionals is ‘when should I start a PR campaign for my game? Anyone in video game PR can likely tell you numerous stories of developers trying to do PR only weeks before they launch their game. For the experienced, these harrowing moments showcase both misinformation and a lack of an in-depth understanding of public relations and marketing.
Another commonly misunderstood subject is brand building. Brand building is one of those marketing terms that is thrown around often but rarely understood. Most people don’t know brand building or they think it’s for triple-A publishers with the money and resources of a small moon. Due to that core lack of understanding, that it is something not required for success at any level, it can severely damage your game and company.
So just what is brand building? There are a variety of pretentious ways to describe and explain it, but it is essentially all about establishing awareness of a company and their product. This is not to be confused with branding which is the creation of an image. Always view it like this, branding is the schematic for a wall and brand building is the process of building the wall. It sounds simple and straightforward, but the act of successful brand building is art and science mixed together. Brands are mental constructs. Good brand-building taps into the mind of consumers and they invest part of themselves into the brand such as an emotion, aspiration or trait. This turns a faceless company into a tangible idea for consumers that if the brand reputation is cared for, it becomes an asset that does not depreciate.
From a marketing perspective, brand building is the foundation of any long-term success for a company. Without it, companies struggle to acquire lifetime customers and goodwill which can directly affect sales, new customer acquisition and much more.
If you look at any big brand inside or outside the games industry, from EA to NIKE, they have brand building for everything they do. Company reputation, new product lines, the list goes on. Big brands know the power of brand building, of being in the mind of your customers, and how long-term brand loyalty is a highly valued trait in multiple ways.
So why are we in the games industry seemingly deciding, if unintentionally, to disregard core principles of marketing such as brand building? For indies, budgets are tight and schedules are even tighter. But it’s a mistake to not budget for a sustained marketing campaign. That is easier said than done, even for larger companies, but it’s important to understand the value of brand building.
Without effective marketing and PR, whether it be through an agency or doing it yourself, you stand to set your game up to fail. If you were a jeweler and created the finest diamond ring of your career, you wouldn’t then not put it in the display case. Yet, many developers are creating great games but not displaying them. In a market where more and more games are releasing on a daily basis, without awareness, you are creating a product to fail. The sad truth is that making a good game is not enough anymore, not when you are contending with over a dozen releases each day.
Brand building goes further and doesn’t just help set products up to succeed but your company too. When you thought of Command & Conquer, you thought of Westwood Studios. When you think of the Divinity franchise, you think of Larian Studios. Your company is just as important as the games you make. By investing in brand building, you are investing in your long-term company health. By becoming a brand yourself, you are acquiring loyal customers who will purchase product after product based on your name alone. Brand building can also be a great way to improve your company equity and attract investors.
Without investing in your company, your brand, your message, and your products, you’re gambling with your future. Remember, brand building can be done in small ways and big ways. You can sometimes have a big PR campaign, but brand building can be done day to day in the small things, like customer service or how you respond on social media. Be your own brand ambassador every day and remember the importance of marketing yourself and the games you make.