Over the last few years, we’ve seen a lot of articles talking about internet marketing success stories. Usually focused on social media posts and content marketing gimmicks, these stories inevitably end up prattling on about how X company got thousands of followers by tweeting infographics tying their products to cat memes or making snarky comments to people on the internet.
And on a certain level it makes sense. People love graphs and stats, and that infographic trying to value Ganon’s Castle from Ocarina of Time like it was a real place probably did bring a few more people to your real estate site.
But there’s a level of marketing beyond that. A level that’s so good, people don’t realise it’s marketing at all.
Where the ad becomes the story itself, and the marketing campaign is itself a major news event covered by practically the entire media landscape.
And there’s no better example of that then with Nintendo and their presentations and Nintendo Directs.
Because when you think about it, what is a Nintendo Direct?
Well, it’s really just a 30 minute series of commercials for upcoming games Nintendo is releasing on their series. That’s it. You’re basically getting hyped for weeks over a trailer reel.
Yet the company has done such a good job of stoking up interest in these announcements and getting fans loyal to their cause that these advertisements have themselves become a global news event. Seriously, go online and look at what happens when a Nintendo Direct gets announced.
The internet goes insane. Media outlets rush out articles about the upcoming event. Forums and social media sites go crazy with speculation about what could be announced there (or whether Mother 3 is finally being localised) and whole articles and videos pop up about people’s predictions. It’s nuts.
And it continues to be throughout the event. Journalists and bloggers usually livestream the entire thing. Every game, DLC character or random announcement becomes a 500 word article on the likes of IGN or Gamespot (or Kotaku or Polygon or Nintendo Life or god knows whoever else).
Hell, even local and global media outlets unrelated to video games will write articles about these events and their reveals. Like the BBC, who talked about the Smash Bros Ultimate reveal here:
Super Smash Bros coming to Nintendo Switch
Super Smash Brothers is coming to the Nintendo Switch for the first time, it's been announced. The much-loved fighting…
Or Forbes, who ran article about what might be in an upcoming Direct:
What's In The New Nintendo Direct Tomorrow?
There's another Nintendo Direct coming our way tomorrow, bringing with it a wave of speculation, at least until…
Let’s not forget the papers either. The Metro always end up covering these announcements for instance. As does the Daily Mail or the Sun or whoever else.
It’s incredible to think about really. How a company can turn their marketing into an international media event with coverage in even the most prestigious publications.
Yeah, admittedly that’s not entirely unique to Nintendo. Quite a few large companies are popular and successful enough that their marketing is newsworthy in of itself. Just look at Apple and the media circus that starts whenever a new iPhone is announced.
Or Disney with their movies, the BBC with Doctor Who (that got an entire prime time TV show purely dedicated to unveiling the next actor to play the main role) or the James Bond movies in general.
But none do it as well as Nintendo, nor as regularly. Nintendo Directs are a monthly thing. Nintendo can seemingly just walk into the media spotlight every month by clicking their fingers and announcing a Direct.
So how do they do it?
Obviously, the nostalgia factor and general brand recognition helps a lot here; everyone knows what Mario, Zelda, Pokemon or Super Smash Bros is, in at least some way or another. Hell, at one point the former was literally more well known than Mickey Mouse (and at its height, Pokemon probably was too).
However, I feel the general cinematography and trailer setup probably has a fair bit to do with it too. Indeed, as a layman, these may well be some of the best presented ‘ads’ I’ve ever seen. There’s no bullshit or skipping around the point with meaningless platitudes here, it’s all ‘here’s what the game will offer, presented in the fanciest way possible’.
Yeah, I know, I’ve used these examples a lot already.
But come on, they’re advertising at its simplest and best. They don’t waste time showing you actors playing around in real life or artistic imagery with no connection to the product. There are no ‘cool’ songs from the top 20 charts in the background to appeal to the ‘kids’. It’s just ‘here’s a really good game, and we’re just going to show the best bits of it in a way that would make a movie trailer creator jealous.
And no, that’s not all they do either. No, they also tell a story with their footage as well. For instance, look at the trailers for Super Smash Bros Ultimate.
Every single one is in a different style. Every one is reminiscent of the source material associated with a character, or a running joke within the Super Smash Bros scene.
All designed to be as shocking, social media friendly and memorable as possible.
Like say, that one where Luigi gets killed by Death in Simon Belmont’s reveal trailer:
Or King K Rool’s dramatic comeback in his reveal (complete with humorous fake out):
Or heck, perhaps even the final one, where the trailer sets off a rivalry between two characters who’d never previously met in their lives and who seemingly have nothing in common with each other:
Every one of these is absolutely masterful in how they build up suspense, trick the viewer with what appear to be announcements for other games, set up bait and switch reveals, foreshadow things, etc.
And they’re all done so well that they become news stories in themselves.