Sep 09

Lessons from Peter Molyneux on Customer Engagement

This is a bit of an old experience of mine but  I was inspired by Brian Alkerton with his disccussion of cheezy gaming advertising . Someone I’ve really admired in the electronic gaming industry is Peter Molyneux current creative director at  Microsoft Game Studios Europe.  A saying  from him that really has stuck around with me was’ Reach for the stars and come out with something special’ ( can’t find the exact wording….). But what was really important  and that had a lot of impact for me was a game he developed a while ago ( 2000-2004) . Despite going through a name change ( Project Ego to Fable)  and  taking close to 4 years to make  its been hard to find a product that ever made me so excited. He made an experience around this product’s development that was memorable and stuck with me.

So what did he do to make this product launch truly special:

Shared His Excitement About the Product: While he received some criticism for his openness with game journalists he spoke with great  excitement about the game. He fully stood behind his product and weaved a strong story around it. Screen shots and game information were shared throughout the development process. Peter and his development firm weren’t afraid about sharing details  even those that weren’t completely solidified.  This excitement was contagious and kept fans wanting more.

Community engagement: During development and even after the game launched Lionhead Studios interacted with its  community. Through a central forum they released trailers and other product teasers and discussed the process of the game.  As a fan you really felt like part of the process. They weren’t afraid about being perceived as un-professional or whether they were going against industry norms they were more concerned about sharing with the community that came together around the game.

Fable Goes Gold!!

Fable Goes Gold!!

The above image  to the uninformed person just looks like a regular DVD. But this was the final tested version of the game, the final files before its sent to production. Most gaming studios never shared such a moment, but considering the development time of the game Lionhead felt it was important to share such an milestone.The long wait was almost done!

So what can be learned from this other than I’m a giant geek…. well to me it shows the importance of sharing with your companies fans and that product development and even day to day operations can weave stories and create relationships with your customers. By just releasing a product or just providing a service with nothing else  your company is forgettable and is  just like every other but by becoming more open and creating an experience you can turn your service or product into something much more memorable.

Jan 09

I <3 Reddit!

So I’ve been reading Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott ( amazing book!) and have just finished the chapter on “The Net Generation as Consumers”  where in one section he spoke about companies becoming essentially friends with their target consumers.  Reflecting back to companies I’ve dealt with the news aggregator site Reddit  comes to mind. I’m a big fan of this site and have often either forwarded links from this site or shared it with my friends and I do this not only because I enjoy the content on the site but because the site creators have essentially become my friend and have befriended the rest of the website members. Here are some of the simple yet significant ways that they manage to do this:

Interacting with members outside of the site: The creators of this site not only interact with members through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter ( ex: @ kn0thing)  they have offline meetups!  I’ve met with them personally last year during their Drankkit World Tour where they went to major centers and sat down and had drinks with members ( a few pics of me at that event included)  but they even do it randomly including having dinner with a Reddit member who just asked if anyone were interested in going out for dinner.

They personalize: The Reddit alien is a big part of the personality of the website, almost every day  a new drawing of it is posted up depending on current events or project of the site. From time to time as a result of already mentioned meet ups or requests of members the Reddit Alien is redrawn or the Reddit logo even contains relevant pictures. As well the website is in a constant state of change( much like Gmail its in constant Beta)  if there are enough user requests certain aspects of the site are changed.

Not only are they creators, but they are also users: They don’t passively watch the site or attempt to moderate it , they are fully involved members. They aren’t afraid to get in there and post a comment or link and create discussions with other users. They also start side projects that encourage further member collaboration. Sometimes it can be silly such as Mr.Splashypants  but even in more serious matters such as Reddits Feed A Need campaign where users are encouraged to lend their skills and time in helping out a not for profit organization.

Overall I have a major heart on for this site and its creators. As a consumer I have a choice between Digg and Reddit  as they are essentially the same site and many times have the same links but  as Reddit has worked harder to befriend me my loyalty is pretty cemented in place . I’ve included a few pictures from Drankkit Toronto 07 , some with me included. Enjoy!  



Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian

The 2 Reddit Creators , Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian with Jenna Landry from Wired Magazine



My attempt at a "C" for Canada.... it ended up pretty lame!

My attempt at a "C" for Canada.... it ended up pretty lame!

Have any Questions/Comments? Contact me at or send me a twitter message.

Jan 09

Sharpen your Blades! Red Bull Event Promotions

Red Bull has me really hooked at the moment with their Crashed Ice Promotion coming up in Quebec City. I’ve looked at the promotional materials and a few clips of this event and it looks like complete insanity. Upon looking at it further I’ve noticed that this is a very different sports sponsorship than what many other larger companies have been doing ( such as sponsorship of an established event or buying naming rights to the venue) .

Rather than take something proven and established , Red Bull has partnered with  a host city ( locations included Helsinki, Stockholm, Moscow and  Quebec City since 2006) combined popular aspects of hockey and luge and created an event that they take they can take  full credit for.  Risky business, but obviously for Red Bull this works as this event has been going world wide since 2000.

This isn’t the first event Red Bull has hosted and created as they’ve been involved as well with the creation of FlugTag USA  ( home made gliders going over a cliff competing for the farthest distance, amazing!) . Overall I’m really excited for Crashed Ice to come around and thought this was a  great case of  a  brand promoting itself. You can check out the Crashed Ice Website here  or check out the the Youtube clip I’ve included . Crashed Ice is going to be occuring on Jan. 24th on TSN for those of you who want to watch it for yourself….. my goal is  to go and see it live in 2010!



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Dec 08

Going Viral: Building Awareness or Weakening Your Brand?

Just recently I came across 2 videos from DETAILS Magazine on you-tube that made me do a bit of a double take: Gabe and Max’s Guide to  Man Style and Video #2  Beauty Tips.  The First video ( posted below) starts in a style similar to what you would expect from a magazine like DETAILS ( except the photo-shopped photos)  but as the video goes on it becomes obvious that its an over the top  comedy video that’s not great but is OK for a bit of a laugh. Included in the 1st video  are the “4 pillars of  Man Style” which include:

1. Only owning silk underwear.

2. Confidence : “Never don’t be confident” 

3.Wear a little bit of Makeup ( all men want to look,manly?)

4. Be Yourself: Everybody has their own ‘personality’ (I’m  obviously Mr Pure Granola!)

Posted last month these videos are among DETAIL’s more successful videos with the more recent video “Beauty Tips” gaining over 180,000 views. This would be great if it were a clear part of the brand or if this channel were specifically dedicated as a magazine “funny page” but video’s like this are mixed in  with more serious video’s like  interviews with Anna Faris and Ben Aflec and  style tutorials like How to tie a Scarf and How to fold a pocket square, part of the magazines core business which in comparision peform poorly in view count. 

Adding further confusion to DETAIL’s branding is its own website  which is very clean cut and serious.  Some may argue otherwise, but with competing  magazines such as Mens Health, Esquire and Mens Journal and an increasing on-line audience ( Ask Men) I feel DETAILS could instead  use You-tube as a strong medium to instead communicate with its core customer base ( as there are many guys like me who will look at a funny video , have their laughs and leave adding no value ). I also think as a company DETAILS  needs to  focus  their efforts on presenting them-self  as a serious contender rather than investing time in non core projects like posting  “funny you-tube videos” .  

Sales in  print media are dropping ( The New York Times having to mortgage its headquarters,that’s scary) and DETAIL’s along with other magazines in this segment will have a challenge ahead to keep the mind share of their target audience. Of course funny video’s will bring in the hits (Crazy Frog anyone?), but in the end DETAILS should be focusing on building value for its customers to continue its profitability.  

I’ve included the described videos. Admittedly they were a decent laugh and I plan to check out the original comedians: