What do I say about *myself* if I buy, and play, your game?

edited April 2010 in Story Games
Let's talk about marketing for a moment.

Here's the base state: I don't care all that much about your game; you don't care all that much about mine.

The more I look at it, the more it seems that what people stop and look at, the game they pick up and open, the one they learn to care about? They picked that game because it shows signs of "things I'd like to be associated with", or "things I could be and do in the context of play".

I don't care about the game you made; in and of itself. I care about me. And your game might, or might not, slot into the story I tell myself about my life and my identity.

I might buy an indie games for the indie-ness, this week. I might avoid doing so next week. I might buy it because you wrote it, or avoid it for the same reason. This is true of any identifier you care to slap on a game. Complaining about either one means you don't understand, bone deep, that even when I'm buying a game because you wrote it, I'm not buying it for you; I'm buying it because in the story I tell myself about who I am, I buy games from cool people that I like. In this, I am an entirely normal consumer.

Follow me so far?

Okay.

If this is true, then what else is true?
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Comments

  • Know thyself !

    But know one does cus were all window shopping or consuming and shelving ?
  • Posted By: BlodwinKnow thyself !
    How about:

    Express thyself.

    And I shall follow, but only if I see a way to express myself within and through your expression.
  • That's it we all want to play and when finished put a lid on the box and go home.

    What do I say about *myself* if I buy, and play, your game?

    I like Playing

    Being other people, telling stories
  • Posted By: Levi-Who-Babbles.If this is true, then what else is true?
    That we should focus less on marketing our game, and more on marketing our gamer.

    For example, Burning Wheel should be informing me about how it is a game for passionate, serious, in-the-moment people.
    Fiasco should let me know that it is a game for sexy, hip people who hang out at coffee shops and make ironic statements about contemporary fiction.

    I picked those two examples because they actually do pretty well in this regard.
    Posted By: Levi-Who-Babbles.If this is true, then what else is true?
    That when we buy something, we are engaging in a statement about who we are.
    The more "engaging" that process is, the bigger that statement is.

    Old skool games, with dice and battle mats and supplements, ask for a lot of engagement from purchasers. As a result, they form a major component of their consumer base's identity, and simultaneously limit their consumer base. These products are asking for a lot of social real estate.

    Consumers have different needs and wants from the purchasing process - some want to be involved and engaged in a community, others want the process to have very little impact on them. Successful marketing will manage to identify which group a product is catering to (or find a balance between both), and deliver a purchasing process that invites the level of engagement that fans are looking for.

    Fiasco is a great example of catering to both groups, perhaps. The game is self-contained and has several included style sheets. It is definitely ready to run.
    Jason's also releasing monthly supplemental style sheets, and involving the community in developing them and discussing them.

    When it comes to engagement, Jason has provided a low requirement and a big opportunity. That incentivizes people to purchase his game no matter how much they want Fiasco to say about them.
  • Posted By: joepubThat we should focus less on marketing our game, and more on marketing our gamer.

    For example, Burning Wheel should be informing me about how it is a game for passionate, serious, in-the-moment people.
    Fiasco should let me know that it is a game for sexy, hip people who hang out at coffee shops and make ironic statements about contemporary fiction.

    I picked those two examples because they actually do pretty well in this regard.
    I keep thinking:

    This game suits:
    -Play like this
    -Play like that.
    -Play like the other.

    (The play types described in positive terms)

    Do you play like that?

    ...But I'm not sure if that would necessarily speak enough to people; if they would go "I play like that!".

    Posted By: joepubThat when we buy something, we are engaging in a statement about who we are.
    The more "engaging" that process is, the bigger that statement is.

    Old skool games, with dice and battle mats and supplements, ask for a lot of engagement from purchasers. As a result, they form a major component of their consumer base's identity, and simultaneously limit their consumer base. These products are asking for a lot of social real estate.
    To run this game, you will need:
    -Dice, pencils, paper
    -A bunch of people that want to live in your brain.
    -A deep commitment to world-making, monster-imagining, and rules-knowledge.

    Heh.
    Posted By: joepubConsumers have different needs and wants from the purchasing process - some want to be involved and engaged in a community, others want the process to have very little impact on them. Successful marketing will manage to identify which group a product is catering to (or find a balance between both), and deliver a purchasing process that invites the level of engagement that fans are looking for.

    Fiasco is a great example of catering to both groups, perhaps. The game is self-contained and has several included style sheets. It is definitely ready to run.
    Jason's also releasing monthly supplemental style sheets, and involving the community in developing them and discussing them.

    When it comes to engagement, Jason has provided a low requirement and a big opportunity. That incentivizes people to purchase his game no matter how much they want Fiasco to say about them.
    I see that you identify with Fiasco!

    What's the story you're telling yourself, about yourself, when you do that?
  • A lot of games do sell the image, but fail to produce not through faults of design, but peoples play methods.

    My perception of Indie was light rules to play characters RPG.
    But experience has proven very different, Narration seems to be quite vogue, or another is task bidding?
    For me rules play a great part in buying a game.
    It doesn’t matter how hip a game sells its self if it bogs down in rules or style of play I would shelve it. Some times at home because I bought it.

    What you say is true but how many people are playing these games again and again I bet most are buying just to read or keep in with the gaming community?
  • Posted By: BlodwinWhat you say is true but how many people are playing these games again and again I bet most are buying just to read or keep in with the gaming community?
    I'll happily grant that there are such people; I'd rather not debate how common they are in this thread.

    What about them?

    They're saying "I'm keeping up with the scene." and "I'm making sure I know my community". Those aren't bad things to say.

    Much more problematic is when, as in your case, the buyer thought they were getting a tool to express one thing (your chosen form of rules-light character play), and can't see an easy way to express it with the tools included (narrative rights & task bidding), as those tools are expressed.
  • Other than D&D4, every game I bought in the last few years was a sad attempt to pretend I'm still "a gamer" even though I don't have anyone to game with.

    D&D4 I bought because WotC are lying bastards who tell lies.
  • Posted By: Ron HammackD&D4 I bought because WotC are lying bastards who tell lies.
    Can you put the Lie into the context of the thread so far?

    As in, phrased as "You thought you were expressing, or getting ready to express, some thing in a certain way. You had reason to believe that's what they were promising you could do. And that was, in fact, not the case."

    What was that thing (or that way of expressing it - like "through tactical play" would be a means of expression)?
  • Posted By: Levi-Who-Babbles.I'm not buying it for you; I'm buying it because in the story I tell myself about who I am, I buy games from cool people that I like. In this, I am an entirely normal consumer.

    Follow me so far?

    Okay.

    If this is true, then what else is true?
    The obvious one is that you're probably willing to tell yourself a slightly different story about who you are if it doesn't cost you much to do so.

    Some games you might be willing to pay a ridiculous amount of money for on eBay; others you'll happily pay full price for (and work "I am supportive of things I like!" into your story); others you'll need a good discount on ("I am thrifty!"); some you might leave on the table even if it's free ("I don't need more useless clutter in my life!"). What you won't buy this week at $30 you might pick up for $15 next month when there's a big sale, and that'll say something about you, too.
  • All marketing is bad. It is a perfect example of how money inherently corrodes human relationships. Yes, it is necessary, and yes, it will always be with me, but I work very hard not to express anything when I buy something except that I want it - for what purpose is none of your business - at this price, place and time, by this method and in this form, and the seller is willing to sell it to me by this method and in this form - for what purpose is of no interest to me - at this price, place and time.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyAll marketing is bad. It is a perfect example of how money inherently corrodes human relationships.
    I want to be attractive to pretty girls.

    I want you to read my free book.

    I want people to believe in Jesus.

    I fail to see the difference.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyAll marketing is bad. It is a perfect example of how money inherently corrodes human relationships. Yes, it is necessary, and yes, it will always be with me, but I work very hard not to express anything when I buy something except that I want it
    Um... "marketing" is a pretty big concept, which includes the format in which I transit my ideas to you and how I inform my audience about what it is.
    It isn't advertising, though advertising is a component of it.

    I guess I'm saying those things in order to follow up with, "So I don't get where you're coming from and what you're hoping to communicate, perhaps because our contexts are different. Can you inform me of why it is a bad thing?"
  • edited April 2010
    Posted By: Levi-Who-Babbles.I want to be attractive to pretty girls.

    I want you to read my free book.

    I want people to believe in Jesus.

    I fail to see the difference.
    There seems to be a huge difference between the first one and the latter two, at least in my eyes.

    "I want to be attractive to pretty girls" is something about you: it is what you want for yourself. It is not telling the pretty girls that they should want you, but rather you telling yourself that you should try to be what the pretty girls would want. (Mind you, who the pretty girls actually are and what they are supposed to want is so warped by other marketing at this point that it may very well end up being the same thing in the end.)

    "I want you to read my free book" and "I want people to believe in Jesus" is about other people. You want other people to change who they are and what they do, not to change yourself.


    I can sort of see the argument for marketing being inherently corrosive, or at least coercive: marketing does not seek to educate or inform, it seeks to influence. It's the difference between making a decision and being told what decision to make, and when one side exclusively profits from that decision, it's morally iffy territory at best. The marketer's job is to find the fastest, most profitable way into your wallet, and should therefore never be trusted by consumers.
  • Posted By: Accounting for TasteThe marketer's job is to find the fastest, most profitable way into your wallet, and should therefore never be trusted by consumers.
    Where does this come from?

    The marketer's job is to get a product into a market, and subsequently into the hands of others.
    The best way to do that is typically by making a quality product, being truthful in your promotion of it, and ensuring that the people picking it up are the ones who will like it.

    Because otherwise you have dissatisfied customers who don't want to continue to support you, a bad reputation and a product you're likely to be less proud of.
  • edited April 2010
    Posted By: Accounting for TasteI can sort of see the argument for marketing being inherently corrosive, or at least coercive: marketing does not seek to educate or inform, it seeks to influence.
    Every communication (yours, mine, all) seeks to influence, even if only in the sense of "I want you to think about this and tell me if it's any good"; I don't see that as a negative.

    Bad marketing distorts or misrepresents a product. Good marketing might inform, or it might be a total content-void.

    Hello Kitty is a total void - and deliberately! Hello Kitty has no adventures, no stories, no content. The people of Sanrio want Hello Kitty to be a void; it's a policy intended to foster what they call "projectability". It's a blank, a shaped but null space. Is Hello Kitty therefore bad, a ripoff? If you buy a Hello Kitty product, you're buying a place into which you project your own thing-ness; cutesy, ironic, it makes no difference.

    This isn't at all the same as misrepresentation, where you are simply sold a lie. And that, again, isn't quite the same as an exaggeration...

    ...If you buy or learn a mediocre game on the promise of a great time, and have a great time because you expect to have one, isn't that good? And if that's good, why wouldn't a producer say true things in the best possible way, to maximise the chance of doing exactly that? If they do, are they creating happiness?

    (I'm not sure if I'm taking this position with any serious gravity; these are just ideas that seem to follow the line of reasoning, and I want out them where they can be examined and shot at).
  • edited April 2010
    Posted By: Mcdaldno (joepub)Posted By: Accounting for TasteThe marketer's job is to find the fastest, most profitable way into your wallet, and should therefore never be trusted by consumers.
    Where does this come from?
    In my mind, it comes from the fact that marketers do not work for the consumers. They don't identify a group of people who would like a product and then go find that product for those people; instead, they are hired by someone who has a product that they want to make a profit on to go out and find or create a group of people who will buy it. The marketer's job is, ultimately, measured by how quickly and efficiently they get that profit, because that is what the people who hire marketers care about.

    I'm not saying that you can't draw distinctions about how "ethical" various kinds of marketing or marketers are, because you probably can. But at the most basic level, any half-bright marketer knows who signs their paychecks, and consumers should be aware of that too.


    edit:
    Posted By: Levi-Who-Babbles.Every communication (yours, mine, all) seeks to influence, even if only in the sense of "I want you to think about this and tell me if it's any good"; I don't see that as a negative.
    I suppose. But isn't there a difference between communication and marketing? If I'm communicating with you, I may want to influence you. But if I am marketing to you, it's because I want or need you to give something to me (and probably something you must be convinced to give me): your money, your vote, your allegiance, whatever. I see a difference between me telling you information that you may or may not benefit from but which doesn't directly benefit me either, and me telling you the same information precisely because I know that it benefits me directly when you agree with me.
  • edited April 2010
    Posted By: Accounting for TasteIn my mind, it comes from the fact that marketers do not work for the consumers. They don't identify a group of people who would like a product and then go find that product for those people; instead, they are hired by someone who has a product that they want to make a profit on to go out and find or create a group of people who will buy it.
    The most successful businesses I’ve known find customers first and make a product second. More often now companies are looking to buy the right product idea to sell rather than create groups of people to buy existing products.

    But I totally understand where you are coming from. A lot of marketers try to create groups of people to sell stuff to. Maybe even most… and most of them fail! Creating a need to sell something is disturbing!

    Successful marketers flip the funnel. Instead of blindly marketing to the faceless majority, you start by super serving your existing customers and making them as happy as possible.
  • edited April 2010
    Posted By: jenskotSuccessful marketers flip the funnel.
    A little Seth Godin, wandering in, I see.... Well, it belongs. So, good.
  • In my mind, it comes from the fact that marketers do not work for the consumers. They don't identify a group of people who would like a product and then go find that product for those people; instead, they are hired by someone who has a product that they want to make a profit on to go out and find or create a group of people who will buy it. The marketer's job is, ultimately, measured by how quickly and efficiently they get that profit, because that is what the people who hire marketers care about.

    I sell a product. It's a good product and an unusual one. I know that there are people who will want that product because I see them buying things that are similar to the product I make, then being disappointed. I don't, however, know how to reach them. A marketer helps me figure out who they are and how to communicate with them.

    If you're making a game and you haven't figured out who you're writing it for, you're fucking up.

  • Posted By: Levi-Who-Babbles.Posted By: jenskotSuccessful marketers flip the funnel.
    A little Seth Godin, wandering in, I see.... Well, it belongs. So, good.
    I was thinking more Joseph Jaffe. But he may have taken it from Seth!
  • edited April 2010
    People buy on emotion and justify with logic.

    For context, I need to talk a little brain theory. Please note, I’m not a psychologist or a neuroscientist. I just have friends who are and love to read books they recommend me. And although the theories below are used by many psychiatrists, they are not accepted by all researchers in comparative, evolutionary neuroanatomy.

    The triune brain theory says there are three distinct layers in the brain. Each layer dominates different brain functions.

    The R-complex (reptilian brain) is responsible for physical survival and maintenance. It takes over in fight-or-flight situations and is responsible for establishing reproduction and social dominance. It’s obsessive, compulsive, rigid, and automatic. It’s not capable of change and will repeat behaviors over ad over, never learning from its mistakes.

    The Limbic system is responsible for emotion, attention, and emotionally charged memories. It’s critical for creating links between emotions and events, and plays a dominant role in storing and recalling memories. It drives our value judgments, deciding if we like something, and dominates behaviors that involve avoidance of pain, compulsive seeking pleasure repeatedly, and determines the amount of attention we give something.

    The Neocortex is responsible for voluntary movement, processing sensory info, logical thinking, and abstract thought.

    The take away point here is that although the Limbic system can override the R-complex’s habitual and unchanging responses… the Neocortex is often reduced to simply rationalizing the Limbic system’s value judgments. Hence people buy on emotion and justify with logic. So marketing often focuses on our emotions, our avoidance of pain, our desire for pleasure, and our emotionally charged memories (which is why nostalgia is so potent)… all controlled by the Limbic system.

    Not all marketing is bad or evil. As I mentioned in a previous post, a lot of effective marketing is very useful to customers and doesn't lie. But there are issues above that if not handled carefully, make me uncomfortable.
  • Posted By: Levi-Who-Babbles.Posted By: Ron HammackD&D4 I bought because WotC are lying bastards who tell lies.
    Can you put the Lie into the context of the thread so far?

    As in, phrased as "You thought you were expressing, or getting ready to express, some thing in a certain way. You had reason to believe that's what they were promising you could do. And that was, in fact, not the case."

    What was that thing (or that way of expressing it - like "through tactical play" would be a means of expression)?

    Nah, I didn't buy D&D4 because it fit into my personal narrative, I bought it because WotC promised they were coming out with a snazzy new Virtual Game Table real soon now. I know there are other virtual tabletops out there, but this one actually looked good, had a lobby feature, and, since it would be the Official virtual tabletop of D&D, would have lots of people using it, which promised plenty of opportunities for last-minute pickup games on the random occasions I got an evening free.
  • Posted By: Ron HammackNah, I didn't buy D&D4 because it fit into my personal narrative, I bought it because WotC promised they were coming out with a snazzy new Virtual Game Tablereal soon now. I know there are other virtual tabletops out there, but this one actuallylookedgood, had a lobby feature, and, since it would be theOfficialvirtual tabletop of D&D, would havelotsof people using it, which promised plenty of opportunities for last-minute pickup games on the random occasions I got an evening free.
    So, you absolutely bought it because it fit into your personal narrative, then.

    Because it sounds like you're saying you wanted to affirm that you were a gamer, while simultaneously dealing with the fact that you had trouble committing to an in-person game and that you were a busy person with a full life already in motion.
  • edited April 2010
    Posted By: Levi-Who-Babbles.
    If this is true, then what else is true?
    Usually I just lurk around here, but I'll try a thought out...

    As a person that's just bought this thing [game], you've just made a statement. You have this image of what this [game] represents. It's also a short-cut to identifying other people that you're more likely to have something in common with. Now, you might have to do some filtering to figure out if the person is a poser or _really_ in step with you... but them having this thing [game] is an excellent first step.

    It can also help mark you either as "one of the in-crowd" yourself (because you've joined an already established identity) or it can mark you as Someone To Watch, because you've taken a step out there and made a statement and other people have joined in that statement/identity.

    Hello Kitty brings up a point though. With that form of branding and identification, you have a variety of socially acceptable ways of announcing your identity and making a statement. The statement itself might not be acceptable but you can "tune" the amount of statement. A full Hello Kitty backpack versus a Hello Kitty zipper charm. A Hello Kitty Notebook versus some stickers. A Hello Kitty ring versus a Hello Kitty shirt.

    When you buy this [game], you have to work harder to make a statement. You have to show up online and talk about it, or you have to make sure you drag this [game] to some other event [other game?] and be noticed interacting with your new statement. The hope being that you'll elicit a response and be able to boldly make your statement to an audience. In theory this audience is going to be at least somewhat receptive, as _you_ are already there and since _you_ have acquired this [game] and _you_ aren't lame, your audience shouldn't be (too) lame either.

    Basically, marketing is showing how this [game] will confirm that the story you tell yourself about yourself is a) true and b) something that others will desire to share with you. At least I think that previous statement might be theoretically correct, but I'm not 100% certain.

    On a longer term scale, consistent participation in the consumerism will (hopefully) lead to a gain in status and respect. People will being to recognize you as an individual and even if they happen to have different [wrong?] tastes from yourself you've still established yourself as someone that's worthy of consideration. Especially in an online venue where even if one poster happens to recognize another's name it still feels like writing a message in a bottle and tossing it out into the electronic sea, breaking through that wall and being recognized is sweet sweet candy.

    However, a danger occurs in that if you have too many people that make the purchase and make the statement, but don't actually _live_ the statement [play the game] you build a house of cards in which lives an emperor with his New Clothes. Design is then less about the result [game] and more about the appearance of the result.

    Bodybuilders that get abdominal and calf implants.
  • "If this is true, then what else is true?"

    * I know nothing about marketing

    * I only design games for myself

    * Levi is a smart guy whose brain works in quirky ways

    All of these are demonstrably true, and follow logically from your statement. :D

    -clash
  • Posted By: Scurvy_PlatypusUsually I just lurk around here, but I'll try a thought out...
    Game purchase as declared social positioning (rather than internal narrative)? I can see it.

    Now, personally, I don't think there's all that much satisfaction in purchasing that way. Thus, I suspect that marketing would produce less positive long-term results.

    But that's a suspicion; I have no facts.
  • Posted By: Levi-Who-Babbles.If this is true, then what else is true?
    Like all other modern products, the design itself is part of the marketing message. Solo designers need to educate themselves about modern marketing thinking and not have a 1950's understanding of what marketing is about. "Design a marketable product" is an important design constraint; constraints are not the enemy of creativity.

    The "elevator pitch" for a game should produce an image of the kind of person that would say it.

    As a community, we should eliminate and replace misleading jargon and labels, such as "narrativist" gaming that has little to do with narrative or "hippie games" that require strict adherence to formal procedures.
  • There are basically seven (iirc) emotions one can appeal to via marketing. Affinity is one of them.

    Telling a true story about your product or service is helping your customer. All this talk about marketing being bad or evil or whatever is misinformed bullshit.

    There are bad apples who misuse marketing techniques to lie to their customers. Guess what? It wasn't marketing that made them bad apples.
  • Posted By: Paul BThere are bad apples who misuse marketing techniques to lie to their customers. Guess what? It wasn't marketing that made them bad apples.
    No - it only paid them for it.

    I stand by my statement.
  • Posted By: Paul BThere are bad apples who misuse marketing techniques to lie to their customers. Guess what? It wasn't marketing that made them bad apples.
    Well, sure. The same could be said for most things people do, right?

    Still, those "bad apples" do exist. It's always good for consumers to maintain a healthy sense of skepticism and distrust about marketing aimed at them. If the marketer is telling a true story about the product or service, the consumers will learn this and everyone will win; if the marketer is a "bad apple," the lies will come out and the consumers will be protected.

    (Or to put it another way: if you assume the worst of marketers, you can protect yourself from the worst marketing. It's better to be pleasantly surprised by the ethical people than to get swindled by the creeps.)
  • It's always good for consumers to maintain a healthy sense of skepticism and distrust about marketing aimed at them. If the marketer is telling a true story about the product or service, the consumers will learn this and everyone will win; if the marketer is a "bad apple," the lies will come out and the consumers will be protected.

    I can't tell you how great it is to be at a con and be hooking customers up with the game they want, because we've got a bunch there. Sometimes, they say they like Science Fiction, and I'll show them Shock: but then it turns out what they really like is Firefly and Doctor Who, and I point them to Prime Time Adventures. They're more likely to get excited about PTA if it's not obviously in my self-interest to do it.

    Some people think it's weird that I don't want crabby customers who hate my product. That seems pretty straightforward to me.

  • Jason, I think you must be using a very specific and narrow definition of "marketing".

    John and I are both professional marketers. I don't personally recall ever EVER misleading anyone via marketing, and I know we've both spoken at length on what a poor practice it is to mislead potential customers. Like all human endeavors, there are good and bad ways to use marketing.

    When I am paid to get the word out to parents about a nonprofit clearinghouse of information about outdoor activities for their kids, I...fail to see how that is "bad" by any stretch of the imagination. That's one example of one of my largest marketing clients.

    When I am paid to frame the experience and culture of a group of environmental educators so that like-minded potential members understand what that group is about, again I fail to see how that's bad. That is another of my very largest marketing clients.

    Other horrors of bad, evil marketing I committed in the past month: helped a membership drive for a trade association, helped fundraise for the Audubon Society, created an identity for a recycling company that turns postconstruction waste into zero-impact products, and, yes, helped a couple indie game publishers tell their own story in a more compelling way.

    Joshua's story above about another application marketing -- matching audiences to experiences that will most interest them -- is, again, not a bad thing.

    I'm sure the participants of any of my marketing roundtables can also chime in at this point. Do any of you recall us discussing how to most effectively mislead consumers and steal their monies?
  • edited April 2010
    On a scale of One to Asshole, Paul is like a negative three and anyone who thinks otherwise because of his day job is an idiot.

    As a two-time participant of his marketing round-tables, we discussed: how to help people who like things your games are about and also like playing games find the games you wrote about the topics they enjoy, how to tell if someone is not interested as quickly as possible so you don't waste time on a hard sell, and how BEING GOOD TO YOUR CUSTOMERS is one of the best ways to market.

    So, Jason, should we all just be dicks to everyone, disregard whether or not someone is interested in our games, and ignore people who are actively looking for something we've made? Because that is, technically speaking, the opposite of marketing. You try that for a while, let us know how it goes.
  • I had a friend who was a small time drug dealer. Really nice guy. *Cared* about his customers.

    By the logic of this thread, the whole illegal drug industry is therefore a paragon of ethical business practice and community service.
  • Posted By: Levi-Who-Babbles.
    If this is true, then what else is true?

    It implies that your product isn't merely competing against other RPGs, or other entertainments, or anything as narrow as that. It's competing against every other product out there that exists. But it's not a simple matter of mutual exclusivity, so you might not need to worry too much about people choosing between your product and, say, Christianity. (Or maybe you do.)

    It implies that you're selling, among other things, membership in a community. Which cuts both ways, of course. The only other guaranteed member of that community is the author (sort of; 'guaranteed' is a bit too strong here, but let it pass.)

    It implies that in a general sense you (and everyone) is selling identify modification (or, alright; it could be identify reinforcement too). That presupposes some degree of identity failure for which your product, at least theoretically, is the remedy. (cf Get Self-Confident Now, Stupid!)



    Cheers,
    Roger
  • Hey guys,

    Levi's thread isn't supposed to be about the moral compass of marketing, in general.
    The horse is dead. If you want to keep flogging it, at least drag it around the backside of the barn, please.

    In other words, start a new thread. What Levi is saying is interesting, and this debate about whether marketing is good or evil isn't.
  • Posted By: ElizabethSo, Jason, should we all just be dicks to everyone, disregard whether or not someone is interested in our games, and ignore people who are actively looking for something we've made? Because that is, technically speaking, the opposite of marketing. You try that for a while, let us know how it goes.
    But I don't have a game, I have nothing to sell. Nothing to sell means nothing to market. I can be a dick to everyone on my own terms. "Marketing a nonprofit" makes me laugh. Oh how far we have fallen when any provision of any information to anyone is marketing, when "creating an identity" is marketing, when being nice to someone is marketing, when by buying a delicious Sonoran style hot dog for $2.29 at Guero Canelo, I am "establishing something about my identity" instead of becoming less hungry. Anywho, the rest of the thread should help you out, the kids today don't shudder at these kinds of things, they don't notice the smell, it has always been with them, at least since the invention of supermarket discount cards, so don't mind me.
  • I mentioned above that people buy on emotion and justify with logic due to how our brains work. Which is why, even though I don’t consider marketing to be evil, there are ethical issues to consider when people use emotions to market.

    The idea that selling based on logic isn't as effective as selling to our emotions bothers me personally. I try to be data driven. And I've spent a lot of time helping people understand why they make decisions so they can edit out destructive behaviors.

    But emotions do have value. I don't feel ripped off when I watch a movie. It's obviously not real but I get a lot out of it. But it's also clear I'm buying an emotional experience when I go to the movies.

    Selling on emotion isn’t automatically bad. But plenty of products are sold on emotion disguised as logic. Or even worse, flat out lie. Which is unethical. But marketing that sells on emotions driven by lies is failing more and more. Honesty and transparency is winning out in a world where we have freer access to real time information. I’m excited!

    I haven’t worked in marketing for a while and when I did it was mainly in creative, design, communication, user testing, and analytics. But even then I used to turn clients down constantly because I didn’t believe in their products or the methods they wanted to use to sell them. Not only didn’t I agree with them ethically, but their tactics often fail in the long term! Fortunately there is more data available to convince clients there are better and more ethical ways to approach marketing. It’s not only ethical but it’s also more effective.

    That all said, this isn’t the total of what marketing is, just one part. And I agree with many people in this thread, many things in life aren’t inherently bad. It’s how they are used that makes them bad.

    But even still… I agree that skepticism is a good thing. Not just about marketing but anything. Double check your facts. Listen to different perspectives. Be informed. None of what I’m saying undermines that. And I don’t think anyone is promoting blind trust.
  • Well, Jason, it's now clear to me that you are using the word "marketing" in a very narrow, very specific way. Like most internet arguments, it comes down to definitions once again.

    FTR "marketing" is not synonymous with "pushing people's buttons to compel them to action they would not otherwise take." Treating it as such is intellectually dishonest. The opening line of this Wikipedia entry does a good job explaining it.

    Of course it was probably written by an evil marketer.
  • edited April 2010
    Posted By: RogerIt implies that in a general sense you (and everyone) is sellingidentify modification(or, alright; it could beidentify reinforcementtoo). That presupposes some degree ofidentity failurefor which your product, at least theoretically, is the remedy.
    Does it?

    When I sell you a game, I submit that I am selling you a means to express specific parts of who you are, in a specific and shaped context. Like, let's say I'm selling "Dress-up Halloween Party Kits".

    Now, maybe when you throw the party in that kit, and dress up for it, you're modifying or reinforcing something about who you are.

    But it seems likely to me that you're expressing part of who you already thought you were - possibly part of yourself that your guests at the dress-up party hadn't seen, and they get to do likewise, which is a social identity thing, and might be your goal. "We all get to see a different side of each other!" is pretty cool.

    So, the niche for my party kit doesn't exactly imply identity failure to me, just room for further expressions of same.

    (This distinction may be pure semantics)
  • "Marketing a nonprofit" makes me laugh.

    That happens a lot with people who don't try to run them. And, unfortunately, with a lot of people who very briefly do run them.

    Oh how far we have fallen when any provision of any information to anyone is marketing, when "creating an identity" is marketing,

    I'm pretty sure you just said, "I don't actually know about this stuff, but boy, do I not like what I imagine it is."

    when being nice to someone is marketing, when by buying a delicious Sonoran style hot dog for $2.29 at Guero Canelo, I am "establishing something about my identity" instead of becoming less hungry.

    Oh, there, you said it again.

  • edited April 2010
    Posted By: Levi-Who-Babbles.(This distinction may be pure semantics)

    Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's what we've run up against, and it's all my fault.

    For one thing, failure is more extreme than I was trying to get across. Something closer to "gap between reality and perfection" is what I'm getting at.

    What I'm trying to suggest is that customers are people who are somehow dissatisfied with some aspect of their reality. If someone is perfectly happy with their OD&D game, it doesn't make any sense trying to market a replacement to them -- yet I see people making that sort of mistake all the time.

    Secondly, I was (and am) playing pretty fast and loose with what I mean by identity here. I mean, in the most inclusive sense, both sides of the coin -- internal self-image, and external social image. I think every product has an impact on both, although individual people might care more or less about one or the other.


    To get to the specific point of "When I sell you a game, I submit that I am selling you a means to express specific parts of who you are, in a specific and shaped context"... I feel a disagreement of opinions coming on.

    I think lots and lots of people essentially agree with you. But I don't agree with you, or any of them, either. This isn't some semantic difference either -- this is about as basic and fundamental as it gets. I'm not going to try to sway you here, but I just want to explain myself.

    In my opinion, these sorts of games are a means to express specific parts of who you are pretending to be, in a specific context. It's an extraordinarily classic case of Baudrillardian simulation. So yeah, that's my opinion on the matter, for the record.


    Back to the general case: there's always the danger (and/or opportunity) of selling someone something you had absolutely no intention of. I'm looking at the ironic hipster over there buying a NASCAR hat. In theory this is possible in the RPG space, but I'm not sure I've ever seen it in the wild. A game like Twilight 2000, with its peculiarly-80s fetishism of nuclear holocaust, seems ripe for it, along with many others. Maybe the right confluence of factors hasn't quite been reached yet, or maybe I just missed it.

    (Edit: I just thought of/recalled Hackmaster. I think that might be a reverse case, though -- a product trying to be all hip and ironic, but most of the consumers are playing it entirely straight. But I could be wrong.)
  • Posted By: RogerIn my opinion, these sorts of games are a means to express specific parts of who you arepretending to be, in a specific context. It's an extraordinarily classic case of Baudrillardian simulation. So yeah, that's my opinion on the matter, for the record.
    Hmm. I'd like to hear about that... But likely in a new thread. As a topic, it has some heft to it.
  • In my opinion, these sorts of games are a means to express specific parts of who you are pretending to be, in a specific context. It's an extraordinarily classic case of Baudrillardian simulation. So yeah, that's my opinion on the matter, for the record.

    Wasn't his point that simulation is addictive but nonproductive — that it can't help you grow, only continue reproducing what you like? That always rubbed me the wrong way. I only read The Ecstasy of Communication though, and that was a fucking long time ago.

    Anyway, as part of the larger context:

    To get to the specific point of "When I sell you a game, I submit that I am selling you a means to express specific parts of who you are, in a specific and shaped context"... I feel a disagreement of opinions coming on.

    I think lots and lots of people essentially agree with you. But I don't agree with you, or any of them, either. This isn't some semantic difference either -- this is about as basic and fundamental as it gets. I'm not going to try to sway you here, but I just want to explain myself.

    In my opinion, these sorts of games are a means to express specific parts of who you are pretending to be, in a specific context. It's an extraordinarily classic case of Baudrillardian simulation. So yeah, that's my opinion on the matter, for the record.

    I'm not inclined to pretend to be people who aren't either: like me (probably caricatured aspects of me); like what I wish I was; like I viscerally dislike; or some combination of those that I find interesting. Those are all part of me. Those have to do with my own moral standing on whatever it is that matters in the creation of those characters. I don't choose to play someone I can't envision being, and I can't envision being someone completely alien. I need something I can relate to, even if it's just an opinion I have of that person. That opinion is a part of me, not them.

  • edited April 2010
    Report: $14 Trillion Spent Annually On Trying To Look Cool

    It seems to me, Levi, that you're expressing a certain narcissistic notion that goes along with the extension of capitalism into every human relation. Given a market, marketing follows. The specific form of marketing as identity-formation follows the final conquering of the superego by capital: from now on our egos will be defined by consumer objects which have been fetishised. We believe ourselves to be expressing our own identity through our reified purchases.

    By asking this question, you act as part of the process of ideological reinforcement (but also attract dissent).
  • Posted By: droogWebelieve ourselvesto be expressing our own identity through our reified purchases.
    Droog just lifted the rug, to reveal that we're actually standing on floorboards.
    Please, dear god, nobody lift the floorboards.

    In other words: we're about to stumble into a clusterfuck of a conversation here, about whether our beliefs inform our realities, or mask them, or what. Or, maybe we aren't. This conversation will get weird and convoluted if we do, and I hope we don't.

    I think there are two ways to look at what you just said:

    1.) We've come to equate consumerism as expression, and define ourselves by the ways in which we propagate the capitalist machine.
    2.) Our actions define us, and buying is one way in which we define who we are (alongside eating, and dancing, and talking, and thinking).

    #1 is royally WTF, #2 is reasonable and calming.
  • image

    But, uh, seriously...

    It strikes me that there are two ways (at least) to look at a "this thing/force/concept is EVERYwhere, in everything you do!" sort of theory. You can, as JD does, take the stance that it's meaningless: if marketing is everything, then marketing is nothing! Or you can take the stance that it's meaningFUL because it informs everything in your life.

    I've certainly been on both sides of that divide with regard to this or that "it's in EVERYTHING!" theory. It's the sort of thing that's hard to prove OR disprove, 'cause of interpretive bias. "Oh Karl, you thing everything is a class struggle!" to which Mr. Marx replies, "yes, exactly!" and around and around you go. So the way off the carousel is to look at each one for the value you can derive from it--what's its interpretive power, what sort of sharpening or widening perspective does it provide?

    So for ME, the idea that marketing is in every endeavor means that every layer can inform every other. If "I want you to hang out with me, your friend, tonight" is on some level the same as "I want you to purchase the entertainment product written by me, a stranger on the internet," then I can look at what sorts of things work for convincing you of the former, and how they can help me convince you of the latter--or vice versa. The fact that marketing is all these things besides hiring an ad firm to sell a commercial product means that we can study this thing as just plain human interaction, and that's a strength, not a weakness.

    I'm excited to explore that territory. I want to learn more about getting people to: buy my entertainment products, read my blog, spend time with me socially, collaborate with me in creative endeavors, and so on and so on and so on.

    In fact? That's it right there. As soon as you start looking at all these things--all of them!--as creative collaboration, it becomes a thing of joy for me.

    Also a thing of joy for me is story I tell myself (and others) about my life*--therefore, Levi's formulation rings true for me and has value. I'm not sure if I have any value to return besides "hell yeah!" I'll think more about the "what else is true?" question.

    Peace,
    -Joel

    *Bam! Marketing!
  • edited April 2010
    Re: Levi's OP
    and
    #33 [Joshua directing people at a con to buy PTA]
    #34 [Paul listing clients he's proud to represent]
    #35 [Elizabeth on 'assholes' 'idiots' and 'dicks']


    OK, so yeah-- people identify with what we buy. And how's that working out for us?
    Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse... it's been a while since I read that stuff.
    But one of those guys talks about the Alienation that arises when people seek self-affirmation from consumer products.

    Kurt Vonnegut said it best:

    "Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops."

    The job of marketing is to help her shop. But it's like that court case where a woman was raped in a Wal-mart parking lot and the 'security' didn't help her, because their job is protecting the merchandise: the help marketing offers is often dwarfed by overwhelming culpability.


    What do I say about *myself* if I buy, and play, your game?

    My early years of rpgs (1981-89) were mostly rpg hobby,
    with little intersection with rpg business or rpg marketing.

    My rulebooks were photocopied from friends, or purchased in dollar bins, etc. I didn't attend cons.
    I was outside any sane business plan or marketing model. (Except Car Wars. If federal agents hadn't raided Steve Jackson, our marketing-based relationship might have flourished.) The point is: with scant help from 'marketing' I found games and they found me.

    When such aggressive marketing attempts as DragonLance and 2nd Ed. AD&D were forcefed to the public; I was viscerally repulsed. Thanks, marketing! Thanks for all the shit!
    A decade later, I knew to avoid White Wolf and Kollectible Kard Krazes, too, in spite of (or thanks to) marketing.

    I resumed play in 2004, using a friend's old 1st ed. AD&D books. No new purchases.
    I first found this story games community via ptgptb.org, which was part of the rpg hobby, but outside the rpg business or rpg marketing.

    That led me to the Forge, which felt like hobby not marketing. At first, that is.

    My first face-to-face contact was GenCon 2005, where the Forge boothmonkeys definitely were marketing at me. I was eager to finally have genuine human interactions, but what I got was "DO YOU LIKE TV?!!!!!!", with giddy Scientology enthusiasm and PTA shoved in my face. (Now that I think about it, was that you in 2005 Joshua?-- in a devilish costume, acting like an attention-starved jackanape? Was that 'marketing'? The funny part is, I'd have found the same attire and geekery endearing, if it wasn't connected to a sales pitch.)

    How does marketing's track record look, long term, in this hobby?
    What was gained and what was lost, when Gygax marketed Arneson's fun into a 'product'?
    Or when the grognards' culture of correspondence and trading-ideas was repackaged and then usurped by Dragon Magazine, as an 'official' for-sale trademarked business-product?

    Starting to see why marketing might have a bad name in this hobby?


    Let's pause for a breather, and I'll chuck a link in here.
    Toxic Sludge Is Good For You!


    Then there's Paul and John's profession.

    Allow me to take the concept of 'identifying with a product' and apply it to the very personal way in which Paul identified his Self with his Job, above. (Until then, the discussion was about marketing in the abstract.)

    Liking his job is Paul's prerogative. But hold on a sec. Paul's personal testimonial would be easier to take at face value, if he weren't a marketer. Because personal testimonials are a marketing tactic.
    Is Paul speaking entirely without guile? Or is he marketing Marketing?!
    Having identified himself quite personally with Marketing, it's hard to tell where it ends and he begins.

    Likewise, I confess that I've been standoffish in my few interactions with John. This began with too many well-intended suggestions from other people, "You're from New York? You need to meet John!" So when I finally met him, I had this niggling feeling that I couldn't just meet John without buying-in wholesale to a nerdnyc Thing. I was icy. I felt bad.

    But learning that John's profession is marketing--- I wonder if my gut was right? I'd rather not be networked into a peer to peer social database or whatever. It's good to hear John worry above, about the ethical implications of marketing. But what's to stop HIS r-cortex, limbic system, and neocortex from retro-justifying (in his head) professional abuse of his knowledge of MY r-cortex, limbic, etc.? It's creepy.

    PERSONAL areas such as friendship and peer groups-- become marketing fodder. Personal interactions become marketing opportunities.

    Levi's OP question delves into some very personal matters, to what end? Boosting sales of playthings.

    Paul took abstract criticism of marketing, and personalized it with his testimonial; and then Elizabeth went one step further-- framing the discussion as a personal attack on Paul as an 'asshole'. Deeming marketing's critics 'idiots' and 'dicks'.

    We're all worse off when the level of discourse sinks that far.

    I can't help but think we'd all be better off if we kept a respectful distance from each other.

    I am accusing 'marketing' of violating respectful distance-- via intrusive, duplicitous behavior;
    disguised helping me or being my friend.
  • Posted By: Todd LWhen suchaggressivemarketing attempts as DragonLance and 2nd Ed. AD&D were forcefed to the public; I was viscerally repulsed. Thanks, marketing! Thanks for all the shit!
    A decade later, I knew to avoid White Wolf and Kollectible Kard Krazes, too, in spite of (or thanks to) marketing.
    It seems to me you are talking about how you dislike aggressive marketing that targets consumers. Even in the 70s, when I was hanging out in hobby shops, I saw plenty of advertisements about OD&D, 1st ed D&D, and other games. They all had "house organs," like The Space Gamer, because that was how they marketed. As I understand it, marketing is just the use of persuasion to sell products, advance agendas and ideologies, etc. And it's not just to consumers, it's also to middle men. That you were able to buy your games at all was because TSR and other companies used marketing to get their games on the shelves of the stores you bought them at.

    At some point, this thread stopped being a discussion and turned into emotional attempts at persuasion.

    Here's just an observation: this thread is no longer about marketing. It is marketing, and some of it is aggressive.
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