When the highly anticipated Nintendo DS console launched in the UK on 11 March, boasting impressive 3D rendered graphics, dual screens and touch display technology, it needed a marketing campaign that lived up to its innovations.
Geoff Howe Communications created the experiential marketing element as part of a wider £5m integrated campaign. "The main principle is that to understand what is innovative about the Nintendo DS you must play it," says Geoff Howe director Tom Thirlwall. "A lot of launches in this sector would invest 70-80% in the above-the-line activity first. We wanted to reverse that and get it into as many people's hands as possible."
The first phase of the Touch Me Tour ran for 10 weeks and was divided into two sections. The first included rigs containing 30 gaming pods, placed in 16 shopping centres nationwide. Eight Nintendo experts manned each stand offering consumers advice on the new product.
The second aspect included tie-ins with Vue Cinemas, Megabowl, Topman, Allsports, Laser Quest and Footlocker, in which mini rigs were positioned instore.
"The aim was to reach 250,000 consumers by allowing them the chance to try out the new console. We reached that total before the close of the first phase and this figure continues to rise as both Allsports and Laser Quest have asked that the consoles remain instore because the products are delivering footfall to their shops too," says Thirlwall.
The second phase of the campaign kicked off last month and coincided with the launch of the film Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
The Pull Up and Play aspect of the campaign meant installing collapsible rigging, capable of accommodating 10 players at a time, into three Chrysler PT Cruiser cars. Over 84 days, these will visit 20 of Vue Cinemas' largest complexes and allow audiences queuing to see the film a chance to try out the new console and game.
Because of the product's interactive nature, sampling was placed at the forefront of the campaign strategy, providing vital hands-on experience of the console.
Dawn Paine, head of marketing at Nintendo UK, says: "Live experiential marketing is a crucial part of the marketing mix in the videogames industry. Our industry is inherently interactive, placing the onus on actually being able to trial the latest games or hardware developments. Nintendo games offer much more than just great graphics but a fully immersive and innovative gameplay experience, so it's probably even more important for us as a pioneer in new videogame concepts."
From July, additional activity will involve a 70-stop Pull Up and Play tour which will visit events relevant to the key 16 to 24-year-old target audience, including the BMX Racing European Championship and Wakestock, the wakeboard music festival.
The main objective was always to allow consumers to test the handset and make their own conclusions from the experience, with sales activity providing a clear indication of the total campaign's return on investment.
Thirlwall says: "The success of the campaign was based entirely on sales. During the first weekend we had the fasting selling console ever. Our trade partners were all delighted with the approach. Retailers in particular understand that marketing and consumers are more sophisticated. With products like this, word of mouth is key. You must target people in peer groups so they can become your brand ambassadors."
BUILDING THE RIG
DH Bodycraft has worked with Geoff Howe for four years providing practical support in the design and build elements of a number of its experiential marketing campaigns.
DH Bodycraft was brought on board seven weeks before the Nintendo campaign went live and was asked to build a 9sqm stand able to accommodate 30 customers at a time.
"We assisted the project from the original design concepts through to the technical specification. We then built, manufactured and operated the equipment," says managing partner, Shaun Waters.
Around 10 staff from DH Bodycraft worked on the project with four dedicated production staff and six catering specifically for the project logistics.
"The challenge was to design an impressive structure capable of handling large numbers of people playing and experiencing the games. The system needed to fit together with ease as it would be shipped around from different locations. The eventual design was made out of five basic elements that locked together and allowed for easy handling," adds Waters.