Fresh from recent successes including the #1 kid’s app Playtime with Blaze and the Monster Machines, and the BBC’s first interactive episode of a prime-time drama, Casualty: First Day, we share our thoughts on what makes a product successful.
Here, Justin Eames, fish in a bottle’s co-founder explains how a simple formula for success guides the production of our most successful work.
There’s a lot of secret sauce about success, and I don’t suppose to belittle the mix of savviness, luck and down right hard graft that’s behind the successes that we and other studios have experienced. However, at a high level, there is a really simple formula for success when you’re launching a product.
I suggest that you too could use this formula to check your approach and align everyone involved in your product’s development.
SUCCESS = BRAND + PRODUCT + MARKETING
I did say it was simple, and it does require further explanation. But that, in a nutshell, is it.
You would be amazed at the number of organisations that launch into developing a product having given very little thought to neither brand or marketing. Often those who do will wait until the product takes shape before committing to the other parts of that formula.
Those are mistakes. Brand, product and marketing are deeply connected and wherever success happens there is practically always an easily identifiable marriage of those three things. Where success doesn’t happen, it’s often just as easy to spot where one or more of those components have been lacking.
Let me give some examples.
Take Everpix – a photo sharing product and an example of too much focus on product and not enough on brand and marketing. They could (and probably should) have been the true alternative to Dropbox and Flickr. Their product was excellent and they experienced early success because of that. What they failed to consider was that brand excellence and marketing excellence would also be part of their longer term success.
Everpix’s initial launch attracted an impressive rate of user acquisition, but when they suddenly couldn’t sustain that, they invested more in the product, assuming that would correct the decline in new users. What they actually did was over-resource product development and under-resource brand and marketing activities. Unfortunately for Everpix, their competitors knew better. The rest is history, and a lesson for all of us.
For other examples, look to the notoriously hit based games world. Crossy Road racked up $10million in revenue within 90 days. If you know anything about that success (or that of any other hit indie game) you could argue from the position that repeatable strategies behind hits are practically impossible to identify. So does that disprove the formula for success? I don’t think so.
In fact, when you look into it, you quickly see that all of brand, product and marketing are in balance for Crossy Road. Take brand – Crossy Road is closely based on Frogger. I suspect almost everyone reading this will be familiar with that game and it will conjure up warm retro-gaming emotions. The game also presents itself in the popular voxel art style, sitting on the shoulders of giants like Minecraft. This association with other brands is part of what branding people call brand equity. In a general sense it means that people become more open to, and attached to, brands that already feel familiar. To a new player, Crossy Road already feels familiar.
So what about marketing? This is a game that’s become a success in a world where 65% of apps are never actually installed and where the cost of acquiring a player for games like Candy Crush Saga has topped $3 per player – which adds up when you have over 500 million of them.
How did two guys working from their bedrooms manage to create a marketing strategy that would compete with games like Candy Crush Saga? The short answer is they didn’t (the longer answer is here). What happened was that popular YouTubers PewDiePie and Lonnie Dos started playing their game in their videos. Then Crossy Road took off like a rocket. Intentionally or not, they found a route to market that few other games manage to find.
To recap, Crossy Road generated $10million within 90 days by started life with strong brand equity, being a good game and finding a route to a mass audience of gamers.
SUCCESS = BRAND + PRODUCT + MARKETING
Recently we held the #1 kid’s paid app spot with Blaze and the Monster Machines. With that product we knew we were working with a strong brand – Blaze and the Monster Machines is a successful kid’s TV show. We were publishing through VIACOM and we knew there was a specific opportunity to get an Apple feature. So we had a high quality brand and a high quality route to market. Our role was to complete the formula by producing a high quality game that was designed to work with the brand and fulfil the marketing opportunity we were given.
Back to the formula – why do you need it and how do you use it, anyway?
When you’re launching a product you are getting involved in a game and there are rules based on what has worked and hasn’t worked in the past. Formulas are a way of understanding and applying those rules over groups of people and across organisations. The formula for success is bitesized, easy to remember, easy to understand and easy to use as a litmus test when asking “how well aligned for success are we?”
It’s a mantra that you can use to check that everyone understands the balance of the three basic components; brand, product and marketing. Once you have that balance, you have a chance of success.
About Justin Eames
Justin is fish in a bottle’s cofounder and Head Fish.