Drop in and Load up: Business Lessons From 'Fortnite' That You Won't Get From Business School
I have two teenage boys, so I know about Fortnite. What I didn't know was just how much it now dominates the video gaming world -- 125 million players since it launched a year ago. That's growth worthy of the record books. But, can Fortnite teach us anything about surviving in today's competitive markets?
In business, it's a benefit to be savvy about trends, so I took over my son's Playstation control. Ouch. I lasted less than a minute between ejecting from the hot air ballooned bus and landing on Flush Factory, but eventually I was able to develop my own survival strategy.
Hundreds of products are launched every month -- some home runs and others needing slurp jugs and med kits. When I read the Fortnite Battle Royale screen offering three gameplay tips, I was surprised by how much it aligned with how marketers think about competitive strategy and launching products.
Not familiar with the three Fortnite mantras? Let's walk through these valuable survival tips that aren't taught at Harvard Business School.
Drop in and load up.
Pick a landing spot and search for gear.
Players enter the game by parachuting from a ballooning bus. You then search abandoned homes and buildings for loot, axing down trees and structures to collect materials along the way. Where you choose to land dictates the course of your game and your odds of survival.
In business, we need to carefully consider where we enter a market (drop in) and how we raise money, build resources and prepare (load up) for the coming market and mindshare battle.
Stay inside the eye of the storm.
Deadly clouds are closing in. The eye will shrink as the storm intensifies.
In Battle Royale, getting caught in the enclosing storm reduces your health. The same is true with product launches. Once launched, competitors and market forces close in like "deadly clouds." Your market advantages begin to shrink: pricing advantages erode, distributors wield influence, buyers change behaviors. You need to keep your brand and product moving to the center. Stay inside "the Eye" of your customer's mind and wallet to keep from drifting into the deadly zone of an unhealthy brand.
Last one standing wins.
There can be only one winner.
Fortnite ends when only one player remains. In the end, you'll need to build and defend a fort in a final small patch of land. In your market, there can only be one top product or brand. Competitors will come and go, but there can only be one winner. As a marketer you must strive to ensure your company, brand or product is "the last one standing."
Just like in Battle Royale, launching your company or product presents a choice between many different strategies. Whether you survive and win ultimately depends on your knowledge, skills and your appetite for risk.
For challenge brands. Teenagers and millennials grew up online playing games like Fortnite, and they play them well. They thrive on the intense action. In Battle Royale, my sons parachute right into the fight. It's a fast-paced strategy, and if they're taken down, they jump right onto the next bus. Young challenger brands are like that, too -- heading right into the market turmoil, running head-on into established players, but nimble and agile enough to adapt and build defending barriers at lightning fast speed.
For mature brands. As a baby boomer, I'm not so quick on the controls. My strategy is survival. I glide to the farthest point on the map, and slowly build up my resources away from immediate battles, staying one step ahead of the storm. When only a few players remain, I come out of hiding to make my move. It's a conservative approach that takes patience, but it always nets a top ranking. My sons find my strategy slow and boring, but it outlasts and outwits their aggressive follies. After over a hundred drops, I still haven't eliminated another player, but I'm always in the final 10 survivors. Mature brands are more risk-averse and take thoughtful precautions to prepare for the final "battle royale" in their markets. My boys call me the "Peaceful Fortniter." I say it's simply a reflection of my CMO style.
Fortnite can teach us much about how to launch a new company, product or brand. Drop in and load up. Stay inside the eye of the storm. The last one standing wins. With 125 million players and growing, Fortnite is teaching us how to play, survive and win in a fantasy world. And perhaps how to compete and win in the real world, too.