Thursday, May 13, 2010

Get Your Game On! Evolution of Game Marketing at Cisco

Game development is no longer limited to the gaming industry. Games are increasingly becoming a marketing tool for corporations. Once a company develops a game, it will need to figure out how to market it. Over the past few years, I have been involved in the development and marketing of several games created by Cisco's Service Provider Marketing group. We have learned many lessons.

When it comes to game marketing, here are 6 things we wish we had known or done sooner (many thanks to Melissa Mines of Cisco for her input):

1. Estimating the amount of time and effort it takes to sustain social media momentum months after introduction

2. Lining up team members dedicated to engaging in social media long term and splitting up workload among them. Making this part of somebody’s job responsibilities, hiring part-time and/or temporary help would help further

3. Requesting and securing budget for listening and monitoring to help automate sentiment tracking and monitoring, and selecting such tools during go-to-market campaign development

4. Establishing and nurturing a test community during development phase will not only help with bug fixes but it will also help create a sense of involvement, and therefore, will help with word-of-mouth (WoM) advertising

5. Engaging influencers as testers so that the WoM can come in the form of a review and a referral to the game

6. iPhone, Facebook etc versions could have come sooner as these are the preferred platforms for quick-play games like EdgeQuest 1 and 2 (myPlanNet is a different genre although we have received questions about doing a Facebook version of myPlanNet too)

And of course, if we had budget for some simple but addictive Facebook apps to complement our marketing efforts, we would love to experiment with those too!

If you're hungry for more lessons learned and want to see the evolution of game marketing at Cisco (from the Service Provider Marketing organization's perspective), check out these slides.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Localizing Your Marketing Tools in the Marketing 2.0 Era

If you work in a global marketing organization, you're probably often asked to localize your marketing assets. Often times I find that people think that localization is the same as translation and once the text is translated, you're done. But those of us who do localization on a regular basis understand that it's much more complex than just translating words. Especially today when many of our assets go beyond traditional white papers and "read only" documents, and include interactive features or videos.

So how should we go about localization in the "Marketing 2.0" era? I would categorize this process in 5 buckets: asset creation, preparation, translation, localization and integration.

1. Asset Creation:
It is best to build your deliverable with localization in mind. Here are some tips on how to do this. In the long run, these tips can help you save money and help speed up the process:
- If your video or assets contains on-screen text, make sure that you don't place the original text in the area that will need to be used for on-screen localized text.
- Our game is very "backend" and programming heavy. Since it's interactive, the commands you see on the screen are tied to codes in the backend. When programming your game or other interactive asset, make sure you leave enough space in the backend as well as on the screen to accommodate characters that take up more space than English.
- Use universal images, icons, references and terms, and avoid using slang in your piece as much as possible. For example, you may want to refer to "tax season" in general without using a date or name of a tax advisor.

2. Preparation:

This is the phase in which your finance department typically asks about your localization budget needs. In order to be able to get a good estimate, you will need to figure out to what extent you want to localize your asset and add up all the pieces. I'm going to use Cisco myPlanNet, a strategy "edugame" as an example.

2.A. Create a prioritized list of what exactly needs to be localized
Two key things here are identification and prioritization. Break down your project to identify the potential workflow. Prioritize which one is more important and/or will create the most value. Some of your priorities may be determined by your resource situation.

Cisco myPlanNet consists of 3 parts:
- Landing page which hosts the game, some copy, a few RSS feeds, a trailer video and a legal notice (terms and conditions)
- The game itself
- Backend of the game which includes server - client interaction, data capture in the backend, data feed back to the landing page (dynamic leader board)

2.B. Identify how you want to localize your asset(s)
The Cisco myPlanNet landing page has a trailer video. Do you just want to add subtitles to the video or do you want to integrate the translated text into the actual video? If your video has voiceover, you will need to decide whether or not you want to add on-screen subtitles or localized voiceover.

Your answer may depend on your budget and resources but unless you explore your options, you won't know what you can get for how much.

2.C. Identify area(s), if any, that will require localization
Some countries may or may not want to enable certain features, swap out certain copy or graphics that may not be applicable to them, have different legal requirements and/or may want to point people to a different location after performing a certain task. It is best to understand these requirements at the beginning of your localization project and add them to your list. This will help you more effectively estimate costs and timelines.

3. Translation:
This is the step that most people think of when they talk about localization. The recommendation here is that if you find a vendor you are happy with, work with them as much as you can because you may benefit from better pricing in the long run. Typically, agencies will charge you per word. And if you keep using the same words and work long enough with your localization agency, they will be able to build their vocabulary and in return, you may be able to get better long-term pricing.

If it is available to you, it is always a good idea to share the translated copy with a native speaker who resides in your target country and is a subject matter expert on the topic.

4. Localization:
In some ways, this can and will happen simultaneously with 3. Once you have identified the areas that require localization, you can start looking for appropriate visuals, update your Terms and Conditions, and so on.

If it is available to you, it is a good idea to include a local subject matter expert in this phase.

5. Integration:
Once your asset is translated and localized, you will need to "re-build" it. If your asset is more complicated, it is possible that your localization agency will not be able to integrate the localized copy, visuals, etc. into your final localized deliverable. Make sure you have the right people lined up to help you do this. Not only will you need help with integration, but you will also need help verifying that the right copy or visual goes in the right place. This means that you may need to keep your localization agency on board and/or enlist local support for review and testing during this phase. Who does the integration will also affect your overall project cost.

What is your experience with localization? Any gotchas or "a-ha" moments you'd like to share?