Thinking outside the box: Guerilla marketing & indie games

There’s a good chance you’ve heard the term guerrilla marketing before – as it’s often thrown around when discussing particularly unusual PR campaigns that use unique or novel techniques. In truth, guerilla marketing takes on many forms, but generally, the term is used to describe the unconventional use of marketing techniques to advertise a product with little to no budget.

It’s a very imaginative process with practitioners utilising high energy, impactful methods to grab the audience’s attention and leave a lasting impression on their prospective customers. The potential this has for indie game marketing as an untapped and cost-effective strategy is unparalleled. The advantage this offers could make the difference between a game standing out in a crowded market or disappearing among the flood of unrelenting releases. Guerilla marketing is about as indie as it gets – small, bespoke and uniquely designed. It’s a match made in heaven.

Breaking from tradition

Forget what you already know about PR & marketing as these types of campaigns are about thinking outside of the box and coming at things from a different angle. Usually, a PR campaign would attempt to reach the consumer through traditional media, but the idea of guerrilla marketing is to cut out the middleman and speak directly to the customer. The goal? To evoke an emotional reaction, whether that be finding something funny or shocking, that leaves a lasting impression of your game or development company on the potential customer.

This is achieved in a number of ways, including inventive use of social media, hijacking of public events or spaces and even directly engaging individuals first-hand in your campaign. It’s worth noting that we’re not talking about publicity stunts here, although I’m sure it’s a fine line sometimes. The aim is not one-off shock tactics that might leave people with a negative impression of your brand, but clever and inventive marketing that supplements the more traditional PR work in place.  

It’s a risky business

You might say to yourself, well this sounds great, so why aren’t more people doing it, why isn’t this type of advertising more common? Well, for a start, it’s not that easy – things can go wrong and the consequences of that could be extremely harmful to your product. In all honesty, some forms of guerrilla marketing aren’t exactly 100% legal or ethical for that matter. There may be elements of deception, especially if it’s a stealth campaign – a technique that engages people who are unaware they are being exposed to marketing.

There’s a number of dangers involved and careful planning is the only reasonable way to help reduce that risk. Often what you save in money you’ll spend in time, as this unconventional style of marketing involves and lengthy and thoughtful amount of strategising.                                                                                  

It’s all about the buzz

The key to a successful guerrilla marketing campaign is to create a buzz and get people talking. You want people to do the advertising for you, spreading the word of your campaign across friends, family and social media. Defining the right target audience for this is important – you want the right people to be talking about your campaign – which in this day and age would be influencers among your target audience.

The thing to keep in mind is the value of genuine reactions in comparison to coerced or paid. You want people to be honest in their appreciations of your game and their feelings about it, as this will resonate with people in a more meaningful way.

Going viral

One way to get people talking online is to create a viral piece of content, whether that be a video, gif or image. This is no easy task, but if you land in the fortunate position of having a piece of game-related content go viral the marketing benefits are huge. This comes down to creativity, design and research. Know your audience, know the type of content that would spread among that community and design something that is highly shareable.  

Remember though, Guerrilla marketing can’t be measured in traditional ways. You can only measure such an unconventional style of marketing by the end product – sales. That is to say, a video could get thousands, even millions of views and yet not impact profit in the way you would usually expect. These type of campaigns can be unpredictable by their very nature so never put all your eggs in one basket and count on an experimental approach as your only form of marketing.

Getting social

Social media offers a multitude of opportunities for guerilla marketing campaigns, particularly in the video game industry. With such a large proportion of the audience spending large chunks of their time online, in some fashion or another, it can be potentially easy to directly reach your customers.

Creating shareable content is important when considering social media, whether that be social events, unique competitions or even memes it’s about relating that back to your game in a way that will resonate with your audience. The most obvious method is creating a viral video, but this is not easy to predict and what becomes popular online is often random.

The imagination game

Guerilla marketing is not easy, but it can take a shoestring budget and convert that into a successful marketing campaign with significant reach and impact. Ultimately, it’s about being creative and inventive when you think about marketing. Indie games are often innovative in their design giving them the perfect opportunity for unconventional campaigns. The idea is to capture your audience’s imagination and tell compelling and engaging stories about your game. That doesn’t mean you need to be widely covered in the games media. Online forums such as Reddit have hundreds of thousands of readers and it’s publicly accessible. What this does mean is you need a lot of time and energy to pour into a campaign like this.

Think outside the box, think what would make you share something online or desire to tell someone about a game that’s caught your attention. It’s all about making a lot of noise and devising a high-impact campaign that leaves a lasting impression on your potential audience.