You didn’t think you’d ever have to consider this right? We’ve never quite had to face a situation where people get mad at you for discontinuing a successful marketing campaign. With communities taking over brands however, this can indeed become a relevant issue, as campaigns themselves become social phenomena. Batman: The Dark Knight campaign was, as most of us already know, a thrilling campaign of unparalleled success. The game gathered millions of enthusiasts around their screens (computer, not tv) and also thousands on the street to play, interact with and collaborate around the world’s most extensive online-offline alternate reality game (read more here). The extent and depth of the game leaves me to think: it must have left the fans feeling a little empty after a one year plus of gaming, when eventually the stream of promotion material from Harvey Dent’s office ceased and the Joker stopped sending them vandalized versions of the Gotham Times with embedded secret messages anymore.
While the Batman campaign gathered mostly praise, Disney had it a bit more rough, as they decided (on schedule and according to initial plan) to close Virtual Magic Kingdom, their 18-month campaign. During this time, the community had gathered over a million users, who in addition were also the best possible candidates to be Mickey Mouse’s own brand ambassadors. Closing down the community understandably inspired some grumbles, as people suddenly lost a place they had built with significant invested time and passion. Even protest sites and petitions were created.
Hasbro now is facing the same situation with their Monopoly brand. In order to promote Monopoly City, the new edition of the board game, Tribal DDB created a campaign called Monopoly City Streets, where the player can buy virtually any street in the world and start building an empire. The mash-up utilizes Google Maps and overlays the buildings and street ownership information on top of Google’s street maps. I also bought my own street and noticed to my surprise that almost every street on my neighbourhood had already been bought. The game has an issue in that it’s growing too big to be stopped now that Hasbro has gotten the message through. There are over 1,5 million players online and pageviews amount to a whopping 15 billion per month. Closing down that amount of activity poses a huge image risk to a company that is all about inspiring to play with its products. The last I heard, Hasbro is now considering expanding the online campaign to a stand-alone product, a wise move and something that can in fact become one of their biggest successes by any measure.
Looking at this in the perspective of modern marketing creates an interesting paradox. On the other hand there is the argument that we no longer can plan our campaigns the way we used to, locking messages, budgets and media types into place a year beforehand. We’re supposed to be able to react more nimbly to what’s happening around us. On the other hand anyway, there is a faction that insists on long term view (as e.g. Anders Gustafsson of Crispin Porter Bogusky Europe recently did) – that we need to create things that inspire our customers for years, not weeks or months. Or is there a paradox at all? Are we really talking about the same thing?