Whether you’re talking about sex or shoes, teasing works. I don’t say that to be vulgar or crude, I say it to make a point about the connection between people’s everyday experiences and the marketing they consume. We are a simple species with basic human desires that we carry with us at all points in the day, including when engaging in a sexual relationship or buying a new pair of shoes. As a marketer, the better you are at understanding the threads connecting our desires and empathizing with them, the better you will be at developing a brand people crave.
In this case, the lesson is simple: if you give people a taste of something they like, they’ll want more. Whether it’s sex or shoes, we all want what we can’t have. Which is why teasing a community of rabid fans, regardless of the industry, works just about every time.
I learned this first hand while working for Ubisoft; a video game company that specializes in first-person shooting games. One of Ubisoft’s most storied franchises is Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six, a series that began in 1998 based on a novel written by Clancy himself.
By the time I worked on the Rainbow Six: Vegas product launch in 2006, the brand had eight years of history behind it and an army of extraordinarily passionate fans. A fact not lost on our team. We used that fanaticism to our advantage.
Instead of following the typical industry hype model wherein a company would leek never before seen in-game images to the media prior to launch (generating a few days of buzz here and there), we took teasing a step further. First, rather than releasing full images of the game, we cut our screen shots up into nine, bite-sized parts, much like pieces to a puzzle. Second, we found our most passionate community members and seeded each of those die-hard fans one unique piece of content.
To a gamer, getting exclusive content before anyone else means instant celebrity and respect from peers. We gave our hard-core fans what they wanted (social currency) and in turn, they gave us what we wanted (conversation). As each piece fell into the hands of a Rainbow Six junkie, predictably, those individuals rushed to their computers and posted them to the game’s message board. As multiple members began to post their similarly cryptic images, the community started to put the pieces together (literally), realizing that each image was not a screen shot on its own, but rather a piece of a single, larger image.
The results were outstanding and for me, as a fresh-faced marketer, eye opening. Rather than a few days of sporadic attention that came from releasing a large batch of content to the media all at once, Rainbow Six: Vegas generated weeks of conversation and the kind of fanatical engagement brand managers only dream about. All because we held our content back and used it to tease our fans.