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If Your Marketing Is Brilliant, Does It Even Need to Fit Your Brand?

One of the most successful new video game properties a couple years ago was Dead Island, a zombie-themed role-playing game. Most gamers remember this game, not because of the gameplay and story itself, but because of a short film trailer that was created to promote the game.

Warning: the videos in this article are violent zombie videos so if that’s not your thing, you may want to skip them.

For those of us accustomed to video game violence (i.e. the game’s target market), the video above is a surprisingly touching story of how a family is affected by zombies. The video was a huge viral hit and was one of the main reasons for the success of the game.

But here’s the problem: the video had nothing to do with the game. The characters, the music and, critically, the overall tone were MIA when the game was actually released. The gameplay was good, but the story was barely passable--even by the video game standards of the time. The overall tone had more in common with cheesy 80s action movies than it did with its own thought-provoking trailer.

I’ll admit, the original title for this post was “Your Marketing Should Fit Your Brand”. My point was going to be that you set people up for disappointment if you market something that you’re not selling, even if the marketing creative is brilliant.

I’m sure most professional marketers would agree. But the example I chose seems to be a counterpoint. Dead Island wouldn’t have been nearly as successful if their marketing had fit the actual tone of the product would have just been another generic zombie game. So, given a generic zombie game, was it the wrong choice to choose to market it as a deep, emotionally-charged, personal reflection on life, death and fate?

Right or wrong, when it came time to market the next game in the series, the marketing team made the same decision and released the following trailer.

The second trailer failed to get the same viral traction as the first trailer, perhaps because by this time gamers actually knew what to expect from the game itself. Interestingly, the trailer they released for the newest game in the series changed to more closely match the tone of the actual games.

It seems like (at best) this strategy of brilliant creative at the cost of accuracy only works in the short term. Once consumers know that your product doesn’t match the sales pitch, the effect of even the most amazing campaign is greatly diminished.

If you’re ever in the position where what you want to say about your company or product doesn’t match the reality, you have more than one option. You could, of course, change your messaging to better represent your product. However, a more interesting approach is to see if you can improve your product in a way that’s informed by your marketing.

A year after the Dead Island trailer was released, the developers of the The Walking Dead video game took the tone from the Dead Island trailers to heart (perhaps unintentionally) and developed a thought-provoking and emotional zombie game. The game won over 80 Game of the Year awards and was wildly successful.

Filed Under: advertising

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