For more than 50 years, the board game Stratego has been a fan favorite among strategy game aficionados of all ages to show off their tactical cunningness among friends and family. As the game entered the digital age, Dutch videogame publisher and developer Keesing Games tapped Wonacott Communications to help bring the new version to market on Web and iOS. As a generation of Americans grew up playing the board game, we quickly developed a plan to promote Stratego’s nostalgic appeal by presenting Stratego Online as the same game fans know and love. But now available to play anytime, anywhere across multiple systems.
The Wonacott Approach
Keesing needed an experience PR partner with profound knowledge of launching a casual game across mobile, social and Web in order to reach key media targets and win them over. The publisher released a first version on the Web (sans PR) in April 2012, with limited success. With the new version coming in early 2013, they tapped Wonacott to bring the Web game, Stratego Online, and the mobile version, Stratego – Official Strategy Board Game, to market.
Following Stratego’s original launch, the game went into closed beta, and was rescheduled to re-release on Web, Facebook and iOS with PR aid by the end of 2012. However, as we began gearing up for the official reveal we learned the game needed more polish and would not initially release on iPhone and iPod. As a result, we recommended a late-January launch date for the Web, Facebook and iPad versions to maximize press coverage.
We identified game editors who show an affinity for classic board games, and created personalized Stratego avatars for each one (digital SWAG!). We used these as an invitation to attend walkthroughs leading into launch to showcase Stratego as the same game they grew up with, but now available digitally. This kicked off a successful launch campaign and subsequent review coverage, where much of the media reminisced on their past playing Stratego. To showcase the games’ additional features, Wonacott developed and pitched themed stories on Stratego’s synchronous play, cross-platform capabilities and its social aspects.
Our work on Stratego resulted in more than 24 million impressions from nearly 100 unique hits in outlets including 148 Apps, Agence France-Presse Relaxnews, AOL’s Games.com, AppAdvice, Appolicious, BoardGameGeek, Business Insider, ClickZ, CNET, Gamezebo, IGN, Inside Social Games, Joystiq, Kotaku, Polygon and Slide to Play.
The Wonacott team secured a swell of positive media coverage for Stratego across videogame enthusiast, app, trade and business outlets, through creative story angles and other tactics, helping Stratego increase its user numbers by 300 percent from the game’s original launch.
As 2011 came to an end, videogame publisher THQ was at a crossroads facing projections of a disappointing holiday season, which resulted in a massive restructure, company-wide layoffs and a shift in business focus that placed new emphasis on “core games.” At the heart of this vision change was the highly anticipated action-adventure videogame, Darksiders II, which was rapidly approaching a summer 2012 release. Needing to kick off the campaign (and New Year) with a bang, THQ asked Wonacott to handle PR efforts for the game’s launch and reinforce the company’s status as a leader in core videogames.
The Wonacott Approach
Immediately we hosted a “hands-off” media event in January in San Francisco, giving more than 60 editors the first look at Darksiders II in nearly a year and stoking interest in getting hands-on time later in the campaign. We followed with a series of press beats that kept Darksiders II top of mind among the media:
Oh, and THQ underwent additional transitions during the campaign, including hiring a new president, Jason Rubin, just before the videogame industry’s most significant tradeshow, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).
Leveraging the talent from developer Vigil Games and brainstorming some unique story angles – and taking advantage of every opportunity to capitalize on the game’s main character, “Death” – we reached a wide and influential audience, helping make Darksiders II the No. 1 selling game for August 2012.
Wonacott continued to support the franchise after launch by promoting the game’s downloadable content as well as the November launch of Darksiders II on the Wii U. The team leveraged the holiday release timeframe and excitement over the debut of a new videogame console to secure numerous reviews and placements in round-up stories.
The Wonacott team secured a swell of positive media coverage for Darksiders II across videogame enthusiast, consumer, trade and business outlets, totaling more than 2,700 unique hits that combined for more than 1.8 billion audience/reader impressions. The game garnered multiple editorial awards, achieved critical acclaim and maintains a respectable mid-80s Metacritic score.
During the course of the campaign, we secured reviews and exclusive features from a broad array of influential videogame and consumer media outlets, including Associated Press, Boston Herald, CNET, Complex, Digital Trends, EW.com, Forbes.com, FoxNews.com, GameSpot, IGN, Maxim, MTV Geek, Nerdist, New York Post, PC Magazine, Playboy’s Smoking Jacket, USA Today, VentureBeat and Washington Post.
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NOX Audio was set to unveil the Admiral Touch, a wireless headset incorporating a uniquely designed Android-powered touch screen, at CES, the world’s largest consumer electronics show. The Admiral was a critical addition to the company’s portfolio, further establishing the diversity of its audio products following the launches of a gaming audio headset and high-end “earbud” headphones. Needing to draw awareness to the unveiling of its newest product, and having a booth nearly hidden in a tucked away corner of the show, the emerging direct-to-consumer CE company called on Wonacott to helm the communications strategy to make the Admiral Touch rise above the trade show noise.
The Wonacott Approach
Leading into the 2011 show, we learned NOX would have a working prototype of the Admiral on hand, in addition to showcasing its existing products. We secured the list of pre-registered media and combined with our in-house developed media list conducted extensive outreach utilizing every means possible, including phone, e-mail and even finding contacts on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to secure one-on-one meetings at the show.
To make some noise and draw attention to the booth, we worked with DJ Envy to perform on the show floor for NOX – this was also part of our social media strategy. DJ Envy tweeted to his 80,000 followers several times during the performance and we uploaded photos and videos of him to the NOX Facebook page, re-tweeted his updates and even coordinated a contest where Facebook fans could request songs for him to spin at the event. This complimented hosting product give-aways and contests for attendees who “checked in” to the booth via Foursquare or Facebook Places. We also coordinated booth sponsorship from Afterparty, the hangover recovery drink, and handed out free samples to media.
We secured more than 30 one-on-one press briefings, including those we locked in before the event and those from stalking the aisle for people wearing press badges. We introduced NOX to key outlets ranging from MacWorld and Droid Gamers to Stuff and AskMen.com. Stemming from our outreach for the Admiral Announcement and meetings and stunts at CES, we secured nearly 170 million consumer impressions with 475 media clips from outlets including Yahoo! News, USA Today and Engadget, which included the Admiral in its Best of CES round up.
Mobile payments provider BilltoMobile (BTM) tapped Wonacott Communications in the summer of 2010 to position the company as the emerging market leader. Using mobile payments to charge online purchases directly to your mobile phone bill was slow to make it to the U.S., but two companies, Zong and Boku, had already established mindshare with the media, even though BTM was the first player to sign an agreement with a major carrier, Verizon Wireless, for mobile billing.
The Wonacott Approach
Wonacott immediately identified a key need for BTM: to separate itself from the competition and not appear to be a “me, too” player. With a comprehensive media campaign, which included heavy media relations and a robust Speakers Bureau program, we determined the best approach would be to identify a core group of influential media and tradeshow organizers and win them over as champions for the brand. To accomplish this, Wonacott deliberately pre-pitched all major news under embargo to select media, making them feel at a minimum the first to know about the company’s progress. A few months into the campaign, we faced a setback: Breaking into key trade shows for speaking opportunities proved extremely difficult as Zong and Boku were the go-to mobile payments providers for many organizers. Wonacott experimented with treating organizers similarly to the press – giving them early access to news and updates from the company – and it worked.
Wonacott secured more than 100 million press impressions for BilltoMobile in influential publications including the New York Times, Entrepreneur, VentureBeat, Bloomberg, GigaOm, PC Magazine, TechCrunch and Wall Street Journal. We also placed the company in multiple premier, high visibility industry speaking engagements. BTM leveraged the press coverage to augment its business development efforts, increasing its online merchant partners from 15 before Wonacott’s involvement to more than 50. On the carrier side, BilltoMobile went from being the first mobile payments company to partner with Verizon Wireless to adding AT&T Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile in the course of a year, reaching ~85% of the U.S. mobile subscriber market. The program success can be summarized by a headline on influential site GigaOM’s story on BilltoMobile on Feb. 18, 2011: “BilltoMobile Quietly Emerges as Mobile Payment Powerhouse.”
Video game publisher THQ wasn’t one for controversy or taking risks with its PR campaigns, but the publisher wanted to shake it up for the 2011 launch of Homefront, a first-person shooter set in the near future depicting North Korea’s occupation of the Western United States. Pitching the publisher – and beating out six other agencies – Wonacott won the opportunity to create a stunt with “Pyongyang Express: Subsidized good food for a better America.”
The Wonacott Approach
Our idea was to take advantage of the food truck craze hitting Los Angeles with a North Korean BBQ-themed truck, drawing speculation about the connection with THQ/Homefront. With just six weeks before E3, we created the Pyongyang Express food truck, set up a fake website, Facebook page and Twitter, and a consumer information line. We announced the truck and began serving “subsidized” chicken tacos and kimchee quesadillas to Los Angeles foodies, drawing attention from many food bloggers and consumer media that had no idea of the connection to Homefront (the video games press suspected it immediately, which added to our coverage!)
Leading into the game’s March launch, we brought the truck back – along with another in San Francisco – in early 2011. This time around the trucks were clearly co-branded to promote Homefront, complete with the images of a game character waving a burning American flag and outfitted with Xbox 360s for game demos. The trucks made noteworthy appearances at GDC and provided pre-order vouchers for the game with every one of the estimated 180,000 tacos provided. This activity garnered a second round of consumer press coverage, driving awareness and pre-orders beyond that of any prior THQ title.
There’s an old PR adage that there is no such thing as bad press – and Pyongyang Express is the perfect example. With coverage from food bloggers, consumer media and video games media, the press either loved or hated the truck as a marketing tool. But even those who hated it included THQ and Homefront in nearly every article about Pyongyang Express. Over the two stages of the campaign, we locked in more than 500 unique articles and/or significant reposts of coverage, including from ABC News, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Laist, San Francisco Weekly, IGN, Joystiq, Gamasutra, G4, and several food blogs, greatly contributing to THQ breaking a company record with more than 200,000 pre-orders for Homefront across all platforms.