-->I'd like to preface this by saying that I'm not a fan of the band Nine Inch Nails, BUT I'm fascinated by the way their new album is being marketed and I don't know if I would have paid much attention if I hadn't taken this class and gotten this heightened awareness of these things. 42 Entertainment, a creator of "alternate reality games," has designed an entire world around the just-released album, both online and off, that leverages the interest of their avid fans. It reminds me of a more in-depth extension of the "advergames" that Steven Curran spoke to us about back in January as ways to engage consumers in an entertaining and interactive experience. Actually, 42 Entertainment was behind the 'ilovebees' game for Halo 2 that Curran credited as one of the pioneers of the ARG trend in his chapter in Connected Marketing.
This game started about two months ago, when some of these fans started noticing that their NIN concert t-shirts contained highlighted letters that spelled out the phrase "I am trying to believe," which led them to a website of the same name. From that website are many more websites that seem to belong to this alternate world. People have also found USB drives containing audio tracks planted in bathrooms at NIN concerts.
After hearing about this, I was curious to learn more about 42 Entertainment. Their marketing campaign mission statement reads: "As a standalone agency, we drive brand engagement and ROI by immersing consumers in our clients' brands." The company's co-founder, Jordan Weisman, has come up with 5 principles of alternate reality games and I thought that several of them seemed to apply to things we talked about in class this semester.
Weisman recognizes that people 18-35 have become somewhat immune to traditional marketing messages, which is why 42 Entertainment goes the opposite way and hides, or whispers, their messages: "Finding it becomes an act of discovery--something they can feel proud of and are willing to talk about with their friends." Another principle emphasizes the importance of interacting with the "audience," and not limiting the exposure to computer screens but making it more of an immersion by putting clues on things like billboards, fliers, and fax machines--"every medium we could touch," or really offering people a total experience.
While this kind of marketing still seems highly specialized and probably wouldn't translate across all product categories, 42 Entertainment really seems to understand who their audience is and the best ways to reach out to them by making them feel connected and involved. The principle that I found most relevant is that 42 Entertainment strives to give the audience "a common emotionally charged history or mission" so that they "seek each other out and form into a cooperative to investigate and expose the story." The full text from this article can be found here. Also, at least as far as the Nine Inch Nails creation (I can't speak about any others for certain), they're advocating transparency--it's like they're using all the best elements of stealth marketing, but are open about it, and it's not appearing to hurt them at all.
Tags: WOM word of mouth Word-of-Mouth Marketing buzz marketing viral marketing marketing communication Northeastern University