Building Killer Brands in Independent Game Developers
We will start off with reviewing the concept of brand equity, that is, the 'added value' created around a core product due to the brand. For a firm, this added value is usually in terms of additional sales, or the ability to increase the price of the product. Let us consider a simple game with a female hero, who runs around and kills evil monsters and finds hidden treasure, as it happens, it is a sequel to a previous game along the same lines. This may sound like an interesting game, and may sell reasonably well, but if it happened to be Lara Croft, and the game was a sequel to Tomb Raider, then the added number of sales created could be attributed to the brand equity created by previous marketing efforts on the brand. Lara Croft and Tomb Raider are an excellent present day example of how big developers use branding to create more value in their computer games.
Basic building blocks of brand equity
In order to know if we're creating brand equity it'd be nice if we were able to measure it. This can be a difficult quantity to accurately measure, but it's definitely possible to get a good estimate, and that's through asking people. The brand equity measurement system is a whole article in itself, but here are some methods that as indie developers, we could use quite easily.
Ask people questions about your product, company name or logo. Something like the following would give you useful information:
"When you look at my logo, what comes to mind?"
The kind of answer we're looking for is not, "Well, it could do with being a bit bigger, or having a bit more color.", but more along the lines of "I think of innovation, technology and cutting edge, because it has the word multimedia in it, I think of games, TV and movies and things…" This should give the idea; you could even give the person a limited number of possible answers, such as:
"When you hear the name 'Infinity Multimedia Ltd', how much do you think of innovation and technology ?"
a) Not much.
If you find out that in fact, people think that your company name sounds more like a law firm, that your game sounds like a particular type of toilet cleaner and your engine has a name that means different things in various countries, then you may need to consider the image that's being portrayed.
Image is everything?
Actually, it isn't. It's only half of the story. The other half to worry about is brand awareness (i.e. how much awareness there is of our product in the market place). Now in the case of independent developers, we have to assume that we're on a small scale, but it doesn't mean we can't have a high level of awareness in particular market-places, such as shareware or even mobile-phone games. Therefore, lets try and create a framework for our 'product'. In order to illustrate this, I'll give the example of a small group of student developers, who have just finished creating a game that they are planning to release via shareware.