Tuesday 6 April 2021

The five ways COVID has changed marketing (part 4)

By now, you should have a pretty good idea of how marketing in the post-COVID world looks. Last week we looked at why digital is king, and today we're going to address another key dependency of a great post-COVID marketing campaign: a premium brand experience. 

#4: A Premium Brand Experience

But Steven, I hear you asking, my brand is already a premium brand! No, it's not. It may have been premium in the old world, but in the post-COVID world there are things people expect that were simply non-issues in the past. Cleanliness, is an issue that customers are, understandably, very concerned about these days, and shedding any conceptions they may have about your company not having the absolute highest standards of hygiene is so important. Messaging that shows off your COVID-safe policies at a factory, ensuring that any customer-facing roles upheld strict hygiene standards (masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing), or simply a rebranding of packaging to give your customers the impression that your product is cleaner than any competitor.

On that last point, messaging that shows you will really go above and beyond your competition is crucial these days. Like I talked about in part 1, online shopping is the new normal, and it's much easier for a customer to simply browse on over to a competitor's site if they're not satisfied. Offering those premium experiences that used to only be available in-stores, but online, is a surefire way to achieve this. As an example, a client of mine wanted to bring an exclusively in-store experience; setting up a customer's new device, online. I worked with the client to build a "Digital Onboarding" experience, where customers could get extensive help setting up their phone from the comfort of their home.

Think about the things your organization does well, and how you can emphasize those things to create a truly unique-in-the-market premium experience.

We're almost at the end of this journey, so join me next week for #5: Do More With Less

Wednesday 24 March 2021

The five ways COVID has changed marketing (part 3)

Okay, so you've got your digital storefront set up. You've penned some marketing messaging with a focus on the working-from-home revolution. Now, how do you actually deliver that message? This one should seem pretty obvious, but digital marketing should be your first, second, and last port of call in the post-COVID world.

#3: Digital First, Second, and Last

What's the first thing you check on your phone in the morning when you wake up? Maybe the weather? Possibly your text messages? In the US, 25% of people will check their email as their first app. In Europe and Asia, that number is even higher. Email has this reputation as being antiquated, ineffective and "not sexy". A fancy TV commercial is sexy. Handing out free samples in stores is sexy. A big flashy billboard downtown is sexy. Sending out an email is not sexy. 

But that reputation couldn't be further from the truth (except, I will maybe concede on the sexiness factor). Time and time again data has shown that email is one of the most effective channels out there in getting your customers to exchange. It's something everyone has, everyone checks regularly, and in the post-COVID world, when people are staying in more and going out less, it's the most efficient way of getting your message out to your customers.

A client I worked for exclusively used in-app notifications and in-store marketing materials as it's CRM. I had to fight tooth and nail to convince them that email was the way to go, but kept getting pushback. "People don't use email in this country. You're not from here, you don't understand". But I was persistent, and when we finally launched our email channel, we saw open rates soar from 3% to 25%, click-through penetration rates spike, and overall engagement balloon.

Check in next week for #4: A Premium Brand Experience

Thursday 18 March 2021

The five ways COVID has changed marketing (part 2)

Last week, I talked about how having a flawless digital storefront was the bare minimum marketing requirement in the post-COVID age. So now that your webstore is up to scratch... how do you actually market to people? The first thing to consider is the working from home revolution that happened behind the scenes last year.

#2: Appeal to the Working from Home revolution

Even before COVID hit, working from home was slowly, steadily, becoming more and more accepted. Most corporate jobs allowed senior members, particularly those who didn't actually need to be in the office every day, to WFH a few days a week. Then COVID hit and every single workplace in Australia was dragged kicking and screaming into the reality that everyone who can feasibly do their job at home, must stay at home.

Suddenly, there are a whole bunch of people stuck at home that usually aren't, and that's going to have a massive impact on consumer spending habits. Take the ultimate Melbourne office worker's staple for example: coffee. If you're not going into the office, you're not picking up a take-away coffee on your way to work. But you still want coffee, so maybe you'll be thinking about investing in a nice espresso machine to keep at home. And you'll want some good quality beans to go with that. Maybe as a marketer you want to run campaigns on how people can use your products to make café-quality cappuccino's at home?

Of course, now we are out of lockdown and are slowly (and safely) returning to the office, but it will never be at the same capacity as pre-COVID. The genie is out of the bottle, and now that so many workers know that they can work from home, they will demand it, and some form of WFH will become the new normal for many people.

With that in mind, you need to think about how you can market your message to appeal to the newly-minted working-from-homers.

Friday 12 March 2021

The five ways COVID has changed marketing (Part 1)

COVID-19 has had tremendous, dramatic impacts on virtually every industry across the planet, and marketing has been no exception. As all of us Communications Specialists, Content Managers, and Marketers can testify, the old way of doing things just isn’t cutting it in the post-COVID world. Even with the vaccine underway, and the world slowly heading towards the fabled “new normal”, the pandemic has changed consumer behaviour permanently. Customers are more cautious and less trusting, and if you want your marketing campaign to succeed, you’ll have to heed these five learnings - that we all had to learn the hard way during lockdowns, panic buying, and mass paranoia.

#1: Your digital storefront has to be perfect

Working with a large retail client, they told me that customers used to tolerate their flawed online shopping experience because they were able to consistently beat competitors on price. Post-COVID, when the switch from retail to online hit every industry in full force, that was no longer the case, and they suddenly found themselves needing to hastily overhaul their entire digital storefront.

If you’re selling any kind of product, especially if it’s a product that competitors also sell, your online experience not only has to be flawless, but also has to go above and beyond. It’s not enough to simply have everything work, but customers should be able to easily manipulate their shopping cart, search for specific items, navigate sales and promotions, and easily understand shipping (preferably free, and baked into the cost somewhere else) and other potential fees. Unlike shopping at a retail store, where there is quite a large barrier to physically emptying your shopping cart and trying to find the product elsewhere, when your customers are online, your competitor is literally a click away.

Don’t bother running any kind of digital marketing promotion until you get this step done. If you send customers to a poor experience, all you’re going to do is turn them away at best, and at worst, send them right to your competitor! It’s no longer acceptable to outsource a less-than-reputable offshore IT team to slap together a barely-functional online storefront. Take the time, and the resources, to build something properly.

Check in next week for #2: Appeal to the Working from Home revolution

Sunday 15 October 2017

Hyper Magazine

Hey everyone! Got a bit of news for followers of Steve's Game Blog.

I recently wrote a couple of feature articles on commission for Hyper Magazine. The edition (268) is now currently on sale! Pick it up if you're still one of those physical magazine reading types. The articles I wrote are "Battlegrounds of Eternity: The Best Maps of All Time" and "The Rise and Fall of Team Fortress 2".

Wednesday 30 August 2017

Hearthstone's Druid Power Level: IT'S OVER 9000!!!

Right now in Hearthstone, the Druid class is absurdly powerful, and it's actually a very bad thing for the health of the game. It's not just a single deck either, as both Token Druid and Jade Druid are equally strong. Unlike other decks that have stabilized over time, as new strategies and counters have arisen, the Druid problem is so severe that it's actually effecting the meta. Unconventional decks like Exodia mage, which were fun gimmicky decks, have actually become viable in the meta because they are so effective at beating druid. We've really got a whole "Grim Patron" situation on our hands now: every single deck is either A) Druid, or B) deck that is specifically good against Druid, and that's bad because it limits creativity, and lessens the impact of a lot of cool cards and archetypes.

Blizzard should not take a "wait and see" approach to this problem. The time for wait and see has passed, especially when you consider that 41% of all games being played are against Druids. They need to act right now.

How did Druid get so powerful?

Druid has always been a popular, powerful class in Hearthstone, but the latest patch has given it the exact tools it needed to propel it into the unstoppable monster it is right now. Specifically: Spreading Plague and Ultimate Infestation. To understand why these cards are so powerful, you first need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the class.

Ramp it up

Ramp effects let you cheat out mana ahead of the usual curve, allowing you to play bigger minion and spells earlier in the game. They are countered by the fact that they cost a card, and have minimal effect on the board state. Playing Wild Growth on turn 2 means that you have one less card and no two drop on the board. Ramping has always been a gamble because it leaves you vulnerable, but Ultimate Infestation negates all of those negatives.

A Druid player can spend the first four turns ramping up (Wild Growth, Jade Blossom, Nourish), and then just innervate out an Ultimate Infestation. He now likely controls the board, has healed, has replenished all the cards he spent ramping, and is a full six mana ahead of you. Just watch this clip to understand how stupid this combination is.

Wall of Scarabs

Traditionally, Druid's weakness has been big boards. It lacks the hard removal of Rogue and Priest, and the AOE removal of Mage and Warlock. The best way to play against a Druid is to put down multiple, high health creatures. Once the board has been flooded, its quite hard for them to regain control. This is a natural counter to both Jade/Ramp Druid AND Token Druid. Against Jade/Ramp Druid, it stops them from being too greedy. They have to play minions and fight for board control or they will be overwhelmed. Against Token Druid, it helps control their own waves of minions it tries to flood the board with.

But here comes Spreading Plague, which a lot of the time reads: 5 Mana - Summon 7 1/5 Scarabs With Taunt. Not only does this card negate Druid's most major weakness by cockblocking the whole board, it also combos exceedingly well with cards like Power of The Wild, Mark of The Lotus and the new Bolster Bear. It's not uncommon for those 1/5's to become 2/6's, or even 3/7's within the same turn. Imagine a card that read: 6 Mana - Summon Seven 2/6 Scarabs with Taunt. Discard a card.

Innervation Intervention

All of these new tools circle back to Innervate, a card that has been a part of the core Druid kit since the beginning, and limits card design space more and more the longer it remains a part of the game. Again, Innervate is a card that was limited by the fact that it cost you a card. Yeah, you could cheat out a big drop on an early turn, but then you were down a card, and could get fucked over by hard removal. Now, Druids can use Innervate to cheat out Ultimate Infestation, which instantly replenishes their hand, negating its detrimental effect. Reynad made a strong case on the removal of Innervate from Standard, which is a possible solution to the Druid problem.

What's the solution?

Whatever Blizzard decides on doing, it needs to happen now, before we have another Grim Patron/Undertaker Hunter situation on our hand. Shifting Innervate to Standard is a good solution, but I honestly believe that the two most offensive cards: Spreading Plague and Ultimate Infestation need to additionally be directly nerfed. Possible solutions:
Related image

  • Ultimate Infestation: 8 Mana - Deal 5 Damage, Summon a 5/5 Ghoul, Gain 5 Armor - This completely removes the card draw from the card, but still keeps it as a decent card, considering that Firelands portal is basically "Deal 5 Damage, Summon a 5/5", and is considered a good card for 7 mana. 
  • Ultimate Infestation: 10 Mana. Deal 4 Damage, Summon a 4/4 Ghoul, Gain 4 Armor, Draw 4 Cards - This keeps the card draw but reduces all of the effects by 1. Honestly, I think it needs to go even further and reduce card draw to 3, but that would be a bit of overkill.
  • Spreading Plague: 5 Mana. Summon a 1/5 Scarab with Taunt. If your Opponent Has More Minions, Repeat up to Two Times - This caps out the number of Scarabs that can be summoned at 3, which still provides a tool for defensive druid decks, but doesn't become absurdly powerful when combo'd with board buff spells.
  • Spreading Plague: 4 Mana. Summon a 1/2 Scarab with Taunt for each enemy minion - Sound familiar? This is basically Protect the King, a Warrior card that never saw play. 1/1 Tokens are pretty terrible, so buffing them up to 1/2 means that they can't just be whirlwinded away, but still die to big AOE effects like Flamestrike or Holy Nova (as they should).