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Lessons From This Year's E3 Best Marketing Examples

Companies debuting games at the Electronic Entertainment Expo illustrated effective use of hype, timing and brand sincerity.
Lessons From This Year's E3 Best Marketing Examples
Image credit: Troy Harvey | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Every year, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3, takes over the Los Angeles Convention Center, and gives consumers a sneak peek at some of the most impressive video games (and related tech, accessories, and industry developments) coming down the pike over the next year (and sometimes several years).

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Breaking Into the Video Game Industry

I've personally had the honor of attending the past few years, both as a gamer and a marketer fascinated by the tactics publishers are using to cultivate their hype and rise above their army competitors.

From this year's line-up, I'd like to point out some of the best and brightest marketers I saw at E3 -- and identify some key lessons they demonstrasted that that marketers in any industry could use to improve their own results.

1. Beyond Good and Evil 2: good at generating hype.

Ubisoft released Beyond Good and Evil back in 2003, and though sales were less than impressive, the game developed a massive cult following.

For reference, Good and Evil is a sci-fi, third-person, action-adventure game known for its immersive atmosphere, excellent music and dynamic characters. Five years after the game's debut -- in 2008 -- Ubisoft released a trailer for a sequel, but the company's ensuing silence over the course of the decade since made fans believe part two would never come.

That's why the latest trailer for the sequel at this year's conference was so successful -- plus the fact thatUbisoft introduced an entirely new, yet equally immersive vibe for the game. Critics have pointed out that this trailer offers no glimpse of actual gameplay, and that a real functioning game may still be years away, but what's important here isn't the quality of state of the game. It's how effective Ubisoft was at generating hype.

Ubisoft knew what narrative and graphic elements would get its fans excited about the game, and kept its trailer a total surprise until it was officially released.

2. What's Good Games podcast: Timing is everything.

What's Good Games is a relatively new gaming podcast hosted by four women who attended the entire expo, covering press conferences and announcements as they unfolded. What I found interesting about this marketing strategy was its timing; in a risky move, these podcasters launched their offering three weeks before E3. That move created immense pressure, but paid off by generating initial momentum.

The podcasters' timing, coupled with the fact that they're helping to reverse the industry's glaring lack of women in the media, showed marketing savvy -- they identified a need in their industry, and filled it. They've also been killing it on social media, responding to every comment posted by their followers across numerous platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube.

Related: 5 Lessons Video Games Taught Me About Success

What's more, they've started some intriguing conversations, all while covering E3 events live and in person via Facebook Live. Nailing social media marketing is arguably a media startup's most important marketing task, and in this regard What's Good Games is putting on a clinic on how to do it right. The What's Good podcasters, in fact, recently received glowing praise from Apple's official Podcasts Twitter account, which cited "brilliant video game commentary, by some of the smartest in the business."

3. Nintendo: Brand sincerity works.

Nintendo almost always has surprises for its fans, yet the company keeps things fun, creating memorable branding with every announcement and system, and every new game. Fans of the Metroid series have been waiting for a new game in the series for years, so Nintendo upped the ante at E3 by delivering not one but two upcoming Metroid games, including Samus Returns (a side-scrolling game for 3DS), and the forthcoming Metroid Prime 4, rolled out, unfortunately, with few details.

Super Mario Odyssey, a new Mario platformer, looked interesting, and it was revealed that a new Pokemon RPG for the Switch is in development. What set Nintendo apart at E3 was how it presented itself: Rather than make a big show and try to win the pissing contest of whoever can offer the best graphics or fastest processing power, Nintendo focused on the quality of its software.

In short, the company just tries to serve its fans and show honest glimpses of its latest projects. That brand sincerity is what keeps Nintendo around, even when it can't compete with Sony or Microsoft in terms of hard-core gaming experiences.

Meanwhile, there were other announcements to get excited about: the Shadow of the Colossus remake looked stunning; BioWare's Anthem promised to push new boundaries in open-world games; and Microsoft announced a slew of new games. All were presented in a somewhat predictable way, however; that's why they didn't make the cut for the "3 best" marketing examples.

Key takeaways

So, what can brands learn from these marketing examples?

Know your fans. Your campaign shouldn't be about what you think is best about your products -- it needs to be about what your fans are most excited to see. Communicate directly with your target audience members, and they'll reward you with more attention and greater loyalty. Relevance beats volume every time.

Get the timing right. Timing a product launch, an announcement or a social media feed could make or break the visibility of your campaign. Try to plan ahead as far ahead as possible -- weeks at least, months if possible. -- in advance of your efforts.

Stay true to your brand. Finally, stay true to your brand voice and character throughout your marketing efforts. Trying to emulate a competitor is only going to make your product seem like a cheap imitation, so focus on doing what you do best.

Related: Marketing and Branding Wins and Losses From E3 2017

This year's E3 was a blast, and I'm excited for all the impressive games coming our way in the next few years. Hopefully, publishers can learn some lessons from this year's winners and losers, and come back with even stronger offerings next year.