Marvel and Avatar are two of the biggest entertainment IPs on the planet, and FoxNext is developing mobile games for both. That creates a unique set of opportunities and challenges for mobile marketing campaigns, but Vivek Girotra is ready for them. Vivek recently spoke with Tapjoy to discuss the mobile trends he believes will impact his corner of the marketing world.
What We Learned:
- FoxNext’s growth and engagement priorities – FoxNext places a strong emphasis on ROI, retention, and player community interactions.
- MARVEL games can be challenging to market – While the MARVEL brand has a built-in audience, you’re also competing with every other MARVEL mobile game.
- Reaching new markets – Non-English speakers are a major new market that benefit from specialized creatives, not translations.
Hi Vivek. Can you begin by telling us a little about yourself and your role with FoxNext?
Vivek: I’m Vivek and currently Director of User Acquisition Marketing at FoxNext. I’ve spent over ten years in performance marketing, both on the agency and the marketer sides. I work very closely with our media buying, creative, BI and data science teams to ensure we are all aligned and focused on driving our business objectives.
What sort of KPIs are most important to FoxNext in terms of mobile gaming growth and user engagement?
Vivek: At FoxNext, we want players to stick around in the game for years together; so our focus is always on the long-term when it comes to making decisions regarding growth and engagement.
As a UA team, we’re very singularly focused on driving ROI, and so we slice and dice our data by all possible dimensions. We are constantly testing different partners, buying models, optimization strategies, and creative formats to figure out what is going to get us the best bang for our buck. We work very closely with our data scientists to build predictive models and find early indicators to make decisions that will affect future revenue and growth.
We also keep a close eye on retention and regularity and ask questions like: How often do people come back to the game? How engaged are the players? How does the revenue stacking look like for cohorts month-on-month? Is the user base growing or shrinking? We strive to seek answers to such questions on a consistent basis.
Many FoxNext projects are associated with hugely successful properties like the MARVEL franchise. How do brand tie-ins impact your user acquisition efforts?
Vivek: We consider our association with the MARVEL brand to be a great asset. MARVEL has close to 80 years of history and brand goodwill which is a huge advantage when it comes to marketing a game. Users are already familiar with, and have a strong affinity for, many of the characters featured in our games and creatives. In today’s crowded and competitive gaming marketplace, getting over the awareness phase (using the AIDA funnel: Awareness > Interest > Desire > Action) is the biggest hurdle for most new apps. For our game MARVEL Strike Force, our partnership with MARVEL has definitely helped us to establish ourselves quickly and achieve $150 million in revenue during its first year. That’s a testament to the quality of our game, our team’s marketing efforts, and the power of the brand.
On the other hand, our partnership is not exclusive and there are many MARVEL games in the market. That creates a challenge for us to stand out amongst the crowd, create the correct product-market fit and find the right users and monetization strategy.
What are the biggest markets to focus on in 2019, either for mobile gaming or overall entertainment? What kind of spaces remain untapped?
Vivek: Nowadays we are focusing a lot on culturalization in non-English speaking markets. I am very specific in my choice of words here – I didn’t say localization. By culturalization, I mean making our products appealing and resonant with regional cultures. We are not simply slapping translated ad copy onto creative, but we’re fundamentally changing the creative depending on the region. We conduct research into the popular characters, prevalent color palettes, music etc. in different countries and customize the creative and messaging accordingly. We have seen an encouraging response to these initiatives and plan to continue iterating on this subject. Obviously, it is cost and time prohibitive to conduct this process for a large number of countries and so we restrict testing to higher-volume markets. We are lucky to have a highly competent and prolific marketing art team which has been leading this charge.
I also think the popularity of e-sports and social elements will continue to rise in the near future. For the first anniversary of MARVEL Strike Force, we recently released a new social feature called Alliance Wars. It adds a completely new social dimension to the gameplay by letting players form alliances, design custom Helicarriers and face off against other alliances in intense battles. We’ve been getting some really positive feedback and I can see it becoming an important part of the game experience.
What’s it like working with established brands when designing ad creative? Have you found zeroing in on specific brand characteristics like characters or plot lines to be helpful with campaign performance?
Vivek: Working with established brands is definitely a very different experience versus having your own IP. At my earlier firm, we had our own IP and hence had free rein on taking a lot of creative decisions with our advertising. However, with an established brand, one has to understand the brand history, all the associated elements, and work closely with the brand team to ensure alignment on brand guidelines. We have a strong working relationship with MARVEL and have devised efficient processes for marketing and creative approvals. It is definitely helpful to figure out which characters have more mass appeal as they tend to have stronger performance in direct response advertising. However, it’s important to test everything as sometimes the results can buck conventional wisdom too!
What’s one FoxNext game or project you’d be excited for even if you weren’t part of the team?
Vivek: I’m really hyped up about our new game Storyscape, which is in soft launch right now. It’s an interactive story app where you choose your own narrative, but it’s quite different from what’s currently on the market. It’s adult-focused with high production values and elaborate storylines from known IP’s such as Titanic and the X-Files. I sit next to the team creating Storyscape at the FogBank studio in San Francisco, and it has been exciting to watch the game come alive from hand-drawn flowcharts on whiteboards to a beautifully designed and fully functional mobile app over the last year. It’s completely unexplored terrain, and the feedback we’ve received from users has been incredible so far.