Civilization (the turn-based strategy games from Fixaris Games) might be an odd brand to bring up in a discussion such as this. Indeed, most of you reading this (unless you’re into gaming) have probably never heard of the brand. What’s so special about it, then?
Civilization has been around since 1991, and has since then enjoyed cult success as a heavyweight of the turn-based strategy genre. Fixaris’ latest offering, Civilization V, launches next month. Great news for strategy fans, and not a big deal for everyone else, I’m guessing. Bear with me.
Sid Meier, the “legendary game designer” behind the series, brought out a lighter version of Civilization’s rather full-on formula, for more casual players, in 2008. He called it Civilization Revolution. The game was released to a warm reception, prompting a 2009 iOS release. It’s a good, if not further chopped-down version of the original Civilization Revolution, that cost somewhere in the region of £5.
Last week, as a promotion through FreeAppADay.com, for one day, the iOS game was free to download, and since then has been selling for the paltry sum of £1.79. That still sounds like a lot, especially when you consider you could have acquired it for free, but it’s a massively different price point. Still, I’m sure people will be further enticed towards making a purchase by all the new, lovely reviews from people who downloaded the app for free.
I’ll admit, I’m not a huge Civilization fan. Or at least I wasn’t. Before my Civilization Revolution download, I specifically remember my last experience with the series was playing Civilization II at a friend’s house while I was in primary school. Still, being reintroduced to the Civilization has had a massive effect on me. It’s just so addictive. As a result, I’ll be sure to pick up Civilization V next month when it’s released.
Fixaris, and 2K Games, its publisher, don’t seem to have done a great deal of promotion for Civilization V, other than the standard, very pretty official website. It’s a long call from the brilliant, tongue-in-cheek campaign they used to launch Civilization IV, depicting a mock help service for Civilization addicts. They also produced some brilliant advertisements for this, which you should really take a look at. They did, however, use Civilization Revolution to promote the brand as a whole, in a very non-direct way.
So, what can we learn from this? People like free stuff, for starters, and are willing to download anything of (monetary) value if it’s given away for free. What some might see as money lost in app revenues, Fixaris/2K probably see as introducing people (getting them addicted) to the Civilization franchise. It worked on me, for sure.
It’s not often that companies give you something to say, “Oh, hello, here’s something we did a year ago, for free!” I’m sure many took their free game and let that be that. However, Fixaris/2K implicitly gestured, “If you liked that, there’s more where that came from next month!” This is fantastic, especially since they didn’t shove this in anyone’s face. Nowhere on the game’s AppStore listing is there any reference to Civilization V. Indeed, the promotion is put down to a ‘birthday celebration’.
Lesson two, then, is that people don’t like being shouted at. Games and advertisements are (or should be) two different things entirely. People download Civilization Revolution to play, not to be preached at. People are clever, and more than capable of doing their own research. In fact, I felt quite privileged when I figured out, all by myself, that a new Civilization game is being released soon.
All in all, this whole strategy is a great way of driving adoption of a small, cult-like (niche?) product, like a turn-based strategy game. Everyone knows that people don’t know what they like. If you show them something neat, which they might not have explored before, and they can obtain at no inconvenience to them, you might just be pleasantly surprised. Just be nice about it.
I’ve recently returned home to London for a round of familial birthdays, culminating with my mother’s birthday yesterday. It just so happened that the day before, I took my sister into town to see Avatar in 3D. While there, I decided to stop off at Covent Garden to peruse the shops and market stalls there, to see if I could find a last minute present suitable for mummy dearest. I circled Covent Garden a couple of times, before visiting Lush, as out of all of the shops there, it was by far the most inviting.
I’ve never ‘been to’ a Lush store before, at least never with the intention of buying anything. I’d heard from a fellow vegan that they stock vegan conditioner, which is elusive, to say the least, so I decided to pay them a visit on the off-chance that I’d also find something for my mum. I was right. It was certainly an experience, and it was a wonderful demonstration of how retailers can go about creating value to entice customers, and get them excited about shopping, which is something I think they do brilliantly.
As I’m sure many of us are aware, Lush is a smelly shop. As much of their wares aren’t packaged, their smells are free to waft in and around their shops. This is primarily what makes Lush more enticing than other retailers, as I say above. At this particular store, there was actually an exhaust vent below the window outside, which was blowing out fragrant, fruity, soapy-smelling air. I’m sure this turns a lot of heads, and certainly attracts many to investigate the source of these lovely smells. As a result, when you enter a Lush store, it’s more than likely you’ll be in a good mood, as you’ll be smelling what Lush want you to smell. It’s a veritable onslaught on your senses, which is something you don’t really see (or smell!) anywhere outside of department stores.
Once I was inside, I went about searching for this vegan conditioner I had in mind. When I found the section for haircare, I was approached by a bubbly lass who asked if I needed any help. I stress that she was bubbly. She was smiling, and seemed as if she was genuinely enjoying being at work, much like the other staff I saw. This is brilliant. A glum demeanour is infectious, and is a sure-fire way to put people off shopping. On the other hand, smiles are also infectious, and put people at ease. Combined with the incensed smells circulating the shop, this adds greatly to the ‘chill-out’ factor, and almost changes the motivation of each visit from a shopping trip, to an adventure. Together, I explored the various shampoos and conditioners with the sales assistant, who was rather enthusiastic for me to sample (smell) each individual product. More than this, she seemed to possess a great deal of product knowledge on all the products in-store, knowing instantly what shampoo to recommend for my thick, frizzy hair. It came about that this was because our assistant had a great many Lush products at home. I don’t know if Lush operate a policy of handing out samples to their staff, so they can get a feel of the products they’re selling, but it’s definitely a good idea. She also knew off-hand which of the products on display were vegan, which was a great relief, in saving me the trouble of scanning lists of ingredients. In the end, I settled on a shampoo ‘bar’ (which I’m still excited about) and a sample of conditioner, which was given to me for free.
After this, when asked if we would like help with anything else, my sister and I revealed our true purpose. As soon as it was discovered that my mum has a penchant for hand cream, we were whisked away, by the same assistant, to another part of the shop. She even got someone else to cover her ‘station’, so she could accompany us, which was lovely of her. We then went through the same routine of sampling, and smelling individual hand creams, which again we were ensured were vegan. On asking for a moisturising cream, our needs were also suitably catered for. I’m no good at shopping, as was made clear by my sister, who soon decided on a cream made in Gurugu, Ghana. We were soon on our way to the cash register. All in all, a streamlined, pleasant shopping experience.
The process of paying was in itself, also a pleasant experience, which might seem a little ironic. The bubbly, beaming girl at the till seemed to possess the expert product knowledge of her colleague, as while ringing up my purchases, she informed me that the sample of conditioner I was given was perhaps a little too thin for my hair. She suggested another conditioner I try out on my next visit.
Suffice to say, I left the shop with a smile. Ultimately, it was a very pleasant experience, and I’m sure to go back there in the future. The products are great (I’ve probably used the hand cream more than my mother) and the overall shopping experience was generally enthusing. On leaving, I commented to my sister that everyone working in the store was ‘very kind’, and she replied that it must be a lot of fun to work there. I suppose she’s right. It was apparent that it was a pleasant place in which to work, and I think this is essential if you want to get shoppers to enjoy shopping with you. It’s not just a shopping trip, it’s an experience as well, to boot. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure if I want to go back there to buy conditioner, or to be ‘nursed’ back into a good mood. That’s good marketing.
I re-read yesterday’s blog, and I must admit, I used the word ‘love’ far too much in the first paragraph. Take from it what you will.
I’m not sure if I like the new direction this blog is taking, but it’s rather therapeutic, nonetheless. So, here’s more ‘me’:
Today was a better day than yesterday. Having said that, I hope that tomorrow is an even better day than today. Every day that passes, I seem to get a better hold of things that bother me, and how they’re affecting me. Things are still dire, in some cases, but at least I’ve admitted this to myself. It at least gives me something to work upon.
One of the many things bothering me at this point in time, is my course. It’s not that my course is necessarily bad, it’s just made me think hard about whether or not I really want to still go into marketing. I like marketing, or at least I think I do, or did. I like to think I liked what I think is, or was, marketing. I love people. All people. Even the smelly ones, and even the annoying ones. I generally love people. I like hugs, and smiling, and being nice. I also like nice people. I decided from an early age that when I grow up, I’m going to make people happy, and my life thus far has been a progression towards that goal. So, I don’t know where I’m headed, exactly, but I know what I’m going to do when I get there.
I established pretty early on that I love communicating. One of my first ever phrases was “READ IT”, which I used to bark at my parents whenever I wanted them to read me a story, which was often. I couldn’t yet read, but was eager and hungry for knowledge. So, I learnt to read, and I learnt to regulate my voice (somewhat), and then learned to listen. I was very quiet, when I was younger. Well, I think that I was, at least. I’ve always liked listening to people, and their stories, perhaps more than I enjoy talking. My later teenage years were spent as a sounding board, listening to the teenage woes of my friends. Listening to tales of first loves, first kisses, first break-ups, and that sort of thing. My dad used to refer to me as the ‘father confessor’. It was around this time that I decided that I might like to be a counsellor, before I realised that I’d get much too personally involved in the worries of my patients. It’s certainly a skill, to become involved in someone’s life, and still keep from getting attached, but it’s something I don’t think that I could do.
As well as listening, I’ve always loved speaking, and performing. I’ve been lucky enough to act a lot, in my time. I remember the first play I was in was called ‘Barney’, in Year Two. I played Mr Gruber, an irate organist, who was constantly rattled by the efforts of a mouse, Barney, who lived inside his organ, and kept muffling the sound coming out of it. It’s okay, they ended up being friends. Originally, I was meant to narrate the play, but on being cast as such, I voiced my concerns to my mum. I had been cast as a narrator since the Nativity play in Nursery, I believe, and I was fed up. So, I complained to my mum, and my mum complained to my teacher, Mrs Philips, who re-cast me as this Mr Gruber type. I was so happy, and proud. I remember I was so excited that I learnt all of my lines in one sitting. That hasn’t happened since, even though I’ve carried on acting.
It’s not just acting I love. No. I even had a brief singing career, believe it or not. I started to learn to play the guitar in Year Three. One of the first songs I learnt was Elvis’ ‘Hound Dog’. I have very vivid memories of performing to family, and friends, whenever they’d come to my house for dinner. I used to have a thick denim jacket, which was far too big for me, and some big, dark sunglasses, which I used to don whenever I’d perform. I’d pretend I was cool, like Elvis, which I blatantly was, and I’d sing my heart out.
It didn’t stop there, but I feel I’m getting my point across sufficiently. Whatever it was, whether public speaking (I used to absolutely adore English ‘speaking and listening’ assessments in secondary school), reciting poetry, stand-up, and now magic, I’d take the greatest pleasure in standing up in front of groups of people, and putting on a show.
I’d genuinely say that discourse is a hobby of mine, then. This is what pushed me towards marketing. The thought that I’d be listening to, and talking to people. Finding out what they’re like, what they want, and what they need, then giving it to them. I wish that marketing was less about numbers, and less about averages, and more about actually talking to people and getting their opinions on things. I’m not a huge fan of market research. As a person myself, I find it annoying, irritating, and quite often, if I’m being completely honest, I only complete market research surveys because of the incentive offered for doing so. I also don’t really complete the things to the best of my ability, either. Indeed, sometimes picking out certain options only means more questions, and more time spent taking an irritating, and somewhat irrelevant survey. If I’ve specified that I mostly drink one brand of beer, or chew one type of chewing gum, I don’t appreciate a thousand other questions about another brand of beer, or gum. One of the few lessons I remember from college, was the GIGO theory I learnt in ICT. It’s another wonderful acronym (marketing is unfortunately plagued by acronyms) which stands for Garbage In, Garbage Out, and sums up how computers work quite well. Computers are great tools if you know how to use them, but fill them with a load of rubbish, or a load of unreliable information, and you’re going to get nothing other than a load of rubbish. Why, then, do marketers insist on relying on these dated forms of information gathering? More than that, since when do you get a precise, accurate response, when you ask someone directly of their opinion on something?
I’ve been taught that marketing is changing more now than ever before. It’s a revolution! Marketing is transforming from traditional ‘push’, to ‘pull’ models, etcetera, etcetera! Indeed, the impact of digital on the marketing sphere has certainly mixed things up, and cannot be ignored. However, with great change, comes great responsibility. Walls of silence have been broken down, and have redefined what an organisation is. These ‘walls of silence’ once impeded people from talking to organisations, and stopped organisations communicating with people. It’s sort of paradoxical, I think, seeing as organisations are simply large groups of people, trying to communicate concepts to other people. It’s great that people can now see that organisations are simply other people, just like them, and I think that this can be of great benefit to both parties, if we can even define them as two differing entities.
I saw a very interesting video today. You can see it here: http://www.researchtalk.co.uk/rt/2009/07/06/faris-yakob-be-nice-or-leave/.
Faris Yakob, on the odd chance that you’re reading this, I love your hair. Also, thank you. For those of you who haven’t looked already, you really should, especially if you’re into marketing, or being human. Before I saw this video, I was going through a crisis. I was unsure as to whether I’d lost all faith in marketing. This video has inspired me, however, that there still is room for nice people in the marketing industry. People who don’t have to wear suits, at least not all the time. Sometimes they make me feel a bit like James Bond. I have terrible trouble finding suit trousers that are of the correct length, that fit me, however. Hips don’t lie, apparently.
Returning to my original dilemma, I wasn’t quite sure, as of late, whether I was barking up the wrong tree, with this whole marketing gig. I like being a nice person, and I like talking to people. We’re all social creatures; some more than most. As such, I can’t dream of being stuck in a standard 9-5 job, being confined to a desk, and made to type things all day, like letters, and numbers. Who knows, maybe some day I’ll be allowed to write letters about numbers. I really don’t want to end up there, and I’ve surprisingly only given a great amount of thought to it recently, with the prospect of applying for many ‘standard’ marketing jobs. I’m not saying that I’m a slacker. I know that work needs to be worked on, but I see no reason why work can’t be fun. If work is fun, doesn’t the natural order of things dictate that the people the ‘work’ is designed for will enjoy it more? Cast your minds back to any innovative, amazing adverts you’ve seen. For me, I’ll always remember the old Malibu TV adverts, set in the Caribbean. Seriously easy going. Those ones. Imagine how much fun they must have been to make. I just want to know how Malibu lost their way, resigning themselves to promoting a club night in Wandsworth continuously through Spotify. I hear that ad at least five times a day, and if anything, it’s really put me off the brand. They’re just plain irritating, and the frequency with which they’re played is just frustrating. If you’ve heard it once, and don’t profess an interest in the club night being advertised, then what sense does it make to assume that bombarding that same person with hundreds more advertisements is going to change their mind? It’s irritating, and just goes to show what can happen when you don’t listen to people.
For my final, and most contentious point, you’ve probably picked up that I’ve intentionally been using the word ‘people’ instead of ‘consumer’ or ‘customer’. Sure, they’re called customers because ideally, at the end of the day, a transaction of some kind takes place between them and an ‘organisation’, or, as I shall now refer to it, people collective. That makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is treating these people just as customers, or consumers. Defining them only by their function as people who buy things. Once we accept this, we start to forget about little Jimmy, or Tina, or Alfonso, or whoever, and start only recognising these people through what they buy and can buy from us. We assume that they are only a consumer; a leech, and that their only purpose is to buy, buy and buy. Being suitably duped, we then start only catering for the weapon of mass consumption (to use a term coined by Lily Allen) we see this person, or these people as being.
What I’m trying to say, despite taking so long to get here, is that people are people, and should be treated as such. Nothing more, and nothing less. It sounds so simple, and it’s so painfully obvious, staring back at it, but it seems so foreign amongst some of the marketing theories that have been thrown my way recently. It’s like I almost forgot who I was, for a bit.
I hope this has been an interesting read for you. It’s certainly been enlightening to write.
For the longest time, I’ve been trying to find some indisputable proof that things happen for a reason, and that there’s some purpose in everything we do. Maybe I just can’t comprehend, or want to justify the fact that in the past, I have known to be a lazy sod. I really used to believe in fate, though, and I still wish I did. Perhaps I still do, but am deluding myself, or perhaps I’m deluding myself that I’m deluding myself about fate. This is confusing. The way brains work scare me, in a way, especially my own brain. Suffice to say, I’m quite a Romantic; at least, I think I am, or I once was. Eh. I think I may need to reassess my life, a bit.
Today has been a strange day. I went to a lecture on ‘digital marketing’, which happened to be, in reality, a lecture on how Google AdWords can be used as a tool for market research. It was interesting nonetheless. After this, I returned home, and found another rejection e-mail waiting for me in my inbox, from another advertising agency. I think this is where the ‘fate’ thing comes in. I really think I’m trying to avoid the truth that really, I am a rather unemployable person. This exact same thing happened to me last year, with numerous rejections from numerous employers. I approached my applications with new vigour and insight this year, however. My applications last year were rather bland and generic, in a, “Give me a job, I have a degree from a good university, and have some extra-curricular experience,” kind of way. This year, then, I decided to give them the ‘real me’. I’m not sure how many of you have met the ‘real’ me, but he seems to manifest himself best in my writing, I believe. In fact, this actually may not be the ‘real’ me at all, but a persona I have manufactured of how I’d like to be perceived. Whatever the case, it seems that me, including the ‘real’ me, and what may or may not be the ‘real me’ isn’t all that employable either. Grumble.
After this, I received another e-mail informing me that my first ‘proper’ assignment, the one mentioned in my last blog post, had been marked and was ready for collection. I then went to pick it up, after toying with my option of picking it up today, or tomorrow, after my lecture. Being impatient, I chose to pick it up today. Now, I wish not for this blog to turn into a personal diatribe of my every move and thought, in fear of putting off what few readers I already have. Suffice to say, I barely passed. I met many of my peers outside the admin office as well, who were in a very similar position. I am taking this up with the management.
On my way back home, feeling slightly deflated, I ran into my old seminar tutor, for my ‘Writing the Novel’ course last year. You know, the one who really turned me into a writer. The one who told me my writing isn’t unfit for human consumption. Great guy. He seemed well. Again, the thought dawned on me that, very uncharacteristically of myself, I picked my current degree based on what seemed logical, and not what I’m passionate about. I made this man write my reference for my current degree. Before he did, he told me that he believes the world of business would push me even further towards my writing, as a form of escape. I think he was right.
It’s funny how things line up like they do. Maybe there is, and maybe there isn’t some sort of fate that controls everything in the universe. Then again, if these notions of fate drive us to do good things, and make us strive to better ourselves, is there any point debating its existence?
I don’t know, but I’m off to work on a story.
Today I had my last lecture for my ‘Introduction to Marketing’ module. I went into it having serious doubts about my choice of course, and came out feeling happy and enlightened. It was a four hour lecture, which seems to be the norm in the School of Management, but I actually really, really enjoyed it. It was one of those moments when everything suddenly fit into place, and things started making sense.
We talked a lot about branding, which I am very passionate about. We talked about how important brands are, as well as the perception of brands, in the eyes of a consumer. It’s fascinating how we all have an innate knowledge of big-name brands, thanks to the advertising we’re all indoctrinated with from a young age. If I was to, say, show you a curved tick, everyone would instantly think ‘Nike’. It’s almost a subconscious thing, and it’s sort of amazing, sort of galling how big a part of our lives advertising has actually become. More than that, what brands people use, and purchase, says an awful lot about them. Because of this, companies have to do their very best to cater to as wide a customer base as possible, perhaps through different product ranges (think of how many types of Ford car you can think of) as we’re all different, with different values, and different ideas about what true value is. I think it’s fascinating how this value system works, and how we’re constantly changing and refining these values, as we learn more and more about ourselves. As well as this, we talked about logos, and their importance. Did you know the BMW logo represents the image of a moving plane propeller? We touched ever so slightly on where logos come from, which was great, as I’d really like to get into logo design, and that sort of thing.
Another interesting thing that happened me today, was that I attended my first meeting of the ‘New Wave Feminist Society’. It was just a coincidence that the RAG meeting I was attending beforehand finished just as the meeting was starting, so I decided to stick around, as I recognised some friendly faces. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the content of the session. If I’m brutally honest, I was expecting some stereotypical ‘feminist’ ranting session, but they’re actually pretty liberal about it all. Today we were discussing an article written by some academic about student/teacher ‘lust’ in universities. Apparently, the article was written as a joke, although it was rather shameful, not only condoning sexual relationships between female students and their male lecturers, but encouraging them. The article also condoned adultery, promoting a ‘bit on the side’, which I thought was horrible. We talked about many things, from how stereotypes are enforced through a mostly female teaching staff in primary education, to how paternity leave, as it stands, is a joke. No, there was no bra burning here. They really didn’t seem to have any ‘beef’ beyond wanting equivalent treatment in terms of pay, and such, to men. Can’t say fairer than that, really. I think I might go back next week. They’re discussing fashion, and I think (well, hope) that my newfound knowledge of branding will come in useful.
One of the obligations of my illustrious field marketing job, is that I occasionally have to attend training days at various company offices. Today was one such day, where I visited Acer HQ in London to learn about one of their new laptop ranges that I’m meant to be demonstrating soon. There were presentations by Acer, Microsoft, and Intel. Without divulging too much information (I don’t want to break some sort of non-disclosure agreement I’m sure I’m bound by) there was a very interesting section of the Intel presentation that got my attention.
We were all talked through the various models of Intel processor (Atom, Celeron, Pentium, Centrino) and then a chart was brought up, which showed all of the different processor types. However, they were all grouped according to a newly devised ‘five star’ rating, to explain how powerful each processor was. The ‘five star’ category was deemed as “Best”, with the one star rating being referred to as “Good”. The floor was then opened, and we were asked what we thought of this new rating system, which I’m sure Intel are eager to promote.
The point came up that customers always want to buy what’s best on the market, even if it exceeds their needs. This is very true. I don’t like this five star rating system, and completely discourage Intel from using it. Firstly, I don’t like the way they rank processors against one another. Sure, some processors are more powerful than others, but you can’t really compare an Atom, which is made for netbooks, with a Core 2 Quad, and I think it’d detract from sales (not to mention being bad for their Atom line which was ‘one starred’) to compare processors in such a quantitative way. People talk, and think in words, not numbers. By telling them that a processor is only one out of five stars, you’re clearly going to put anyone off from buying it. Indeed, I can see that Intel tried to get around this by labelling their one star selection as ‘Good’ and not ‘Basic’, but I think words like this need to be avoided in marketing at all costs. In these hard times, you can’t afford to alienate your customers who are searching for a bargain by telling them that your entry level products aren’t great. Certainly, I’m sure they are great, they’re just built for different things. Instead of this method of ranking, why don’t we draw on human nature and label our products qualitatively instead. That is, to label them with words, instead of numbers. Intel, instead of presenting a chart with horizontal bars, representing their different ranks of processor, should instead turn that into a chart which presents the different processor types in vertical groups, to quell all notions of any superiority between processors (unless, of course, you’re looking at it from a consumer psychology angle, in which case either the left or right will have precedence, depending on what country you’re in). Instead of the rather garish and offputting five-star rating, why not simply label, say, an Atom processor as ‘Efficient’ or for ‘On the move’, and a Core 2 Quad as a ‘Performance’ processor? It makes a lot more sense, I think. People think words, so why not present things to them in a format they can easily understand?
Just something to think about.