Every addict needs to start with admitting they have a problem. Well, I can confidently say I had a problem. In fact, they started to pile up. But it’s not what you’d think. Common side effects consisted of: Going through multiple packs a day of daily contact lenses. Sweating through undershirts regularly. Bose QC35’s almost always on an empty battery. You are probably wondering what would cause such an eclectic list of seemingly unrelated problems. I’ll tell you. Red Dead Redemption 2 happened to me. But the long weekend gameplay hours, eye strain, and habitual headaches weren’t all for naught. Pretty quickly I caught on to some sophisticated consumer behavior strategies. And over the course of 100 game hours I’ve studied in detail some of the most innovative and eloquent use cases of consumer behavior theory. Let me explain. Something interesting happened during what had been become a standard Saturday routine; I was combing through Reddit threads for some mission tips and started noticing more and more the amount of people who actually hated the game. They seemed to have seething resentment for Rockstar and Arthur Morgan. The more I read, the more I realized the genius that Rockstar pulled off with this western RPG smash hit. Gamers hadn’t even been noticing the subtle, yet powerful marketing tactics they were spreading all throughout the open world. Even now that I have earned my 100% completion stripe, I am still studying game play and finding new dynamics they’ve introduced. It’s these dynamics, tactics, and strategies that Rockstar deployed that every single marketer and business professional can use with reliable returns in their operation. Rather than end there and tell you to go see for yourself, I’ll save you 6,000 minutes and lay out 4 of my favorite marketing tactics Red Dead Redemption 2 used beautifully in exactly 3,300 words. Marketing Tactic #1 – Behavior Training In Marketing Take action. This should be the goal of anything you do related to your content, sales, and marketing. The number one goal of any campaign should be for the consumer to take some form of action. Read more, discover this, click that, etc. This tactic was by far the most impressive to me because of the deep understanding Rockstar had with designing for action. Their player research team hit a homerun understanding that a game like this requires you to be able to train the end user how to play correctly. Frankly, we see so many clients not understanding the concept that their customers don’t naturally make the decisions they want them to make. But rather than adapt their delivery, they flood their potential clients with even more messaging – not understanding the message isn’t necessarily the problem – they just don’t naturally make that decision. How did RDR2 do it? So many of the players who hate this game cite some the same issues around it boring them to tears: “I can’t even run through camp. I have to walk for minutes at a time just to even get to the place I need to go!” “Why does skinning have to be so involved. It’s a video game, can’t they just make it a cutscene…Why does Arthur take so long to properly collect the hide. every . single. time. “ “I just literally sank 12 minutes in a mission where the entire point was to row a boat. You’ve got to be kidding me Rockstar.” “This game is clunky. And frankly incredibly boring. The fact that it takes an extra 10 seconds to gently hitch my horse. Can’t even make it beyond chapter 1. Fix it Rockstar!” Some of these, I’ll admit, are tough to get used to. When you are an outlaw on the run, you don’t have the time to exit your horse, and perfectly walk beside her, then hold down the Y button while Arthur perfectly positions himself for the slowest walk of all time to a nearby hitching post. But the fact is, this game is an experience. But Rockstar wisely made it so they control that experience because they understand in order to maximize yours, you need to be able to empathize with your character as well as the narrative. This type of behavior shift forces you to slow down and humanize Arthur. When Rockstar gets you to do this, empathizing with him increases the gravity of each of his choices. You start to feel stressed. Or sad. Or angry. Or regretful. There times when you have to stop and go “Wait, this isn’t real I need to calm down.” And that’s the sign of a good, immersive experience. Rockstar has a clear understanding that players who are unable to perform some of the more mundane tasks and boring missions are not going to get far enough into the story to truly enjoy the game. This is where their use of gated content becomes so brilliant. Hiding tasks and skills beyond certain points in the game to reward the player who has trained themself to slow down is positive reinforcement to keep playing. This is ultimately why it becomes so difficult to put the controller down. How can this be applied to my business? This tactic has some very interesting applications that you are likely not pursuing but can begin testing immediately. But first, there’s a formula I want you to memorize and look for ways to implement into your content, messaging, and marketing: Interest + Motivation = Action. In order to achieve specific actions from your customers, you need some elements of interest and motivation. That’s not to say they need to be equal – in fact, they likely won’t be. But the more interested a customer is, the less motivation you need to provide in order to achieve your desired action. If you were to use the scale below, you would need to tilt the scale beyond the Consideration Plane. In this model, we would deem you have achieved desired action when you have sufficiently weighed down the Interest and Motivation side of the scale enough to break the Action side of the plane positively. This has powerful implications on the messages you show your customer and your understanding of what makes them take action.
Marketing Example If you are selling a sophisticated service, for instance SaaS, then offering a complimentary demo is not going far enough. A free 14 day trial may not even be enough. The key to something like this is understanding how to get the action you want from your consumer. In this example you may immediately think the goal is to purchase. That’s not entirely correct. The goal is to get them to USE the software. If you are a SaaS provider, your success metrics and KPI’s must be around application of your software otherwise you risk having complicated software that people are buying and then returning because they can’t use the product. You must be willing to sacrifice upfront sales and invest more into the on-boarding of your existing customers. A more entrenched, power user is significantly less likely to leave your brand but also more likely to recommend you and spend more on your other services. The trick to training behavior is three pronged in this example: First, identify the breaking point in your customer journey where you see the most dissatisfaction and abandon rate. Next, understand what the cause is behind the dissatisfaction and develop a system that counteracts that experience. Last, invest your resources to incentivize a customer to pursue your system developed in point #2. This would bridge the gap in your path to purchase and ultimately increase your customer use rate as well as your lifetime value. Remember, Interest + Motivation = Action. In order to create the best experience possible, guide your consumer to areas in which will make the use or experience of your product/service more enjoyable. Whether that be getting Instagram users to leave the platform for your website or your Facebook audience to watch more videos to convert more webinars views, you can’t expect them to naturally behave a certain way because you want them to. It requires creative execution and a deep understanding of your customer. Marketing Tactic #2 – Variable Outcome Segmentation This one hit near and dear to my heart because because Rockstar’s use of co-creation and storytelling resembled a system we created at DeepBridge. We refer to it as Variable Outcome Segmentation. Our system is loosely constructed around the principles Seth Godin championed with his work on Permission Marketing. The basic idea is the end user selects their journey based on choices they make ORGANICALLY without being prompted. The beauty in this logic is that you are consistently delivering personalized, customized messaging. That adapts and trains itself. All at scale. The result is an incredibly powerful experience the end user thinks was handpicked for them. In essence, it was. How did RDR2 do it? The most significant way RDR2 executed this beautifully was in the freedom they gave the player in choosing the main character’s, Arthur Morgan, play style. This isn’t a particularly new idea… games have been doing this since the dawn of the console wars. But what is unique about this in RDR2 is how the gamer’s choice has consequences that extend beyond even the next immediate choice, or two, or three. Choices made in in chapter one could still be affecting you in chapter 4. They were able to do this through a revamping of the original game’s “honor system” in which the entire character arc is mapped. Most notably, there are two main endings to RDR2 – One of them good, one of them not so good. Depending on how you play, your version of Arthur either dies with dignity, or in disgrace. But either way, he’s dying in a knife fight. Not particularly glamorous for a character you just invested 100 hours in. But there is a third option. If you make enough honorable decisions, the story arc will give you enough of an “honor ranking” that allows you to qualify for a surprisingly beautiful death where Arthur, terminally ill from tuberculosis at this stage, ponders life on a mountain top with the sun fading away along with his last signs of life. The trick here is you are not able to reach this rare ending unless you made choices that set you up with enough good choices to even qualify for this sequence.
The game did an incredible job of mapping out gamer persona and outcomes that are connected to very specific and critical decisions. Thus, certain types of players are statistically more likely to play certain types of ways and make decisions that look alike enough that you could make more broad assumptions about these groups of players accurately, e.g., segmentation. How can this be applied to my business? Where you can apply this type of experience for your customers is through email marketing. For example, DeepBridge offers AMPS, Advanced Messaging & Persuasion Sequencing, to our clients. Taking your current audience, comprised of confirmed users and interested leads, you can segment your audience in order to deliver them messages that apply uniquely to them. Execution Components The way you would execute this yourself would be: Collect emails and begin by creating an autoresponder that includes some form of a survey in which you can draw clear distinctions about your audience based on their selections. Bucket those groups and write email sequences that speak to their objections, needs, and give them value propositions that best suit them. Continuously test and optimize to ensure that you are squeezing the highest conversion from your newly created target system. If you don’t already have some form of sequencing in place to properly segment your client list, take a page from RockStar’s book and invest in your customers, they deserve it. And if that sounds overwhelming, get in touch with us and we’ll make it happen for you. Marketing Tactic #3 – Gated Content Gated content is another tactic that is not new to the gaming industry but there’s a unique caveat that RDR2 possesses that is particularly interesting that a brand’s can benefit from. If you are not familiar with how gated content works, it’s a choice a business, brand, or entity can make that hides content but will exchange for some type of information. This can be anything from cold hard cash to trading for a customer’s email. The interesting thing RDR2 does though is it gates content and will exchange for advancement in a specific aspect of the game. This incentivizes the player to do the things Rockstar wanted the player to do. This is brilliant because you have to guess Rockstar did the research to decide that incentivizing certain actions will lead to higher probabilities a player will develop a unique skill that will lead to a higher completed percentage of the complex storyline. Make sense? Let’s talk specifically how they did it to help clarify. How did RDR2 do it? The game did this in a number of ways. One of the most frustrating was the map. While the main story has six chapters ending in the demise of Arthur, there are two more epilogues in which your new character, John Marston, seeks revenge on Arthur’s behalf. Only as John can you play the southern parts of the map which make up at least 25% of the entire map. Think about that. The game does NOT allow you to even see a quarter of the map until after the character you are playing as has died and you reach standard gameplay conclusion. Not to mention some of the most adventurous activities, such as hunting for legendary animals, can’t be completed (the Legendary Cougar, Legendary Pronghorn, and Legendary Tatanka Bison are in the off limits parts of the map). Now I know what you are thinking. Why don’t you just travel to those parts of the map anyway even though they aren’t technically showing you how to navigate? Great question. The game doesn’t clumsily just make you fall off the face of the earth. They do however make sure to make gameplay so impossible that you are for sure destined to die on repeat. A stubborn me found this out the hard way after about 5 consecutive deaths from spontaneous gang ambushes to running into bounty hunters who just apparently had a REALLY bad week. Either way, they make it impossible. Some other ways they gate content is they lock some of the best weapons and lock skills as well as activities until you progress in those areas. As mentioned, some of the largest and most fun hunts are locked which encourages gamers to progress in the story. Or, satchels that carry the most amount of materials are not even available until you complete tasks that make you better and force Arthur to learn new skills. Keep in mind all these things they are trading for in order to unlock the gated content ensure that the player have a better experience and keep them playing. How can this be applied to my business? Gated content that be applied to your business in a myriad of ways. Some of our favorite at DeepBridge is to gate information in content upgrades. This is a tactic in which you attach a workbook, a checklist, or some other quick win item that gives the customer value but acts as a lock-and-key model. The content should be valuable on its own, but even more so with your content upgrade. The customer will trade for their email and you can begin your nurture sequence. You can also choose to gate your content and reveal content to those who join your membership site. This is powerful as it creates habitual revenue for your business that you can expect if you are more risk averse. There are plenty of ways you can implement gated content. Try gated content like Rockstar and see how your customer base reacts. Trade content for actions that take them deeper into your sales cycle and/or nurture sequence. You can influence customer actions YOU deem to be the most valuable in creating the best experience for them thereby controlling the narrative.
Marketing Tactic #4 – AR/VR Disruption In Marketing Attention. The most important commodity of 2019. Your marketing should always be focused on attention. How to get more of it. How to keep it. How to steal it. Virtual and augmented reality by design presents scenarios that are meant to be appealing. If you are still in denial about the fact that AR/VR technology is the future of marketing, then you are already behind the curve. But what is it about AR/VR tech that seems so promising? It is my position that the underlying consumer behavior principles that AR/VR satisfies is attention and curiosity. It solves the big question of “what if?” the consumer has. Being able to take your marketing to the next level to become experiential is the name of the game here. Here’s some proof in the picturebelow of a personal experience I had. I recently went on a trip to see a Real Madrid soccer match. Like every other tourist and superfan, I went to the stadium in advance and did the most involved tour of the stadium I could buy. I got a lot of really cool pictures and love those memories, but one of my favorite pictures was the one I got using their AR fan experience technology.
It goes to show you that the experience is the most important and powerful thing your customers remember you by. And it’s one of the main factors that influence whether they become a loyal customer advocating on your behalf, or become a shifter who will eagerly seek your competitor. AR/VR can help you attract, close, and delight your leads or your existing customers.
How did RDR2 do it?
Playing as Arthur Morgan reminded me of how much I appreciated this technology in the way I consume. It may seem like a strange concept to cite strong examples of AR existing in a video game, but hear me out. One of the main incentives for a crucial task in RDR2, the hunting of legendary animals, is the outfits you can have Arthur play in. Legendary animals are the most rare and difficult types of animals to catch. You have to use all your hunting skills in order to find, track, and acquire their hide. You use the provisions acquired after successfully hunting the animal to make different trinkets and outfits. The outfits alone are enough to make you want to hunt the animals.
As you can see in the picture above though, you have to not only have multiple legendary animals, you have to always get perfect hides of many other animals to create the outfit. But rather than set out the provisions needed to create the outfit and have the player read it, they let you try on the outfit and see each of the components. This is helpful because it let’s the player decide if it’s worth the handful of game hours it’ll take to have enough of the provisions to purchase the outfit. This may seem small, but when you remember the player is spending so many hours in this costume and that all the cinematic visuals, cut scenes, and interaction with the computer story mode will include your outfit, you can begin to understand how important the end user’s take on Arthur Morgan is to their experience. How can this be applied to my business? You can use this technology in your business in so many creative ways, but the focus must always remain on the user experience. After all, the point of augmenting reality is to delight your customer. Shouldn’t it make some aspect of their journey easier? If you are having trouble still seeing the application to your business, I’ll tell you about one of our client’s use case. Marketing Example We had a client confused how something like this could impact their business and they challenged how this could be relevant. But the fact is, they weren’t thinking creatively enough. Even in something as niche and specific as permanent makeup (microblading), we found a powerful use case. The end user in permanent makeup, and beauty as a whole, has a difficult barrier to entry which is especially difficult to overcome – the unknown of the end result. The objection we must overcome is fear/ramifications if something goes wrong. It’s a very similar barrier a tattoo artist would have. In order to reconcile that, what if you gave the end user the ability to see what their design would look like for their eyebrows before they actual get the procedure? This is a game changer because you are answering some of their show stopping objections while helping them along the path to purchase. You are boosting their trust in your abilities and removing fears which cloud their judgement and ability to receive your messaging. Whether you are B2B or B2C, AR/VR technology has applications for you. You have someone to persuade, and this tactic is about grabbing their attention and walking them down the path to purchase. Conclusion Red Dead Redemption 2 – You either love it or you hate it. If you hated it, you couldn’t adapt to the style the game demanded you to be able to play at. Rockstar may have lost you as a customer, but that’s okay. Because in order to be a brand worth something, it’s not about making the most amount of people “relatively” happy. In 2019, It’s about maximizing the happiness your individual buyers. That requires you to risk not making someone who isn’t right for your brand unhappy. The more you can find ways to use these tactics, the more loyal your audience will become and more sustainable your business will be. What is the most challenging tactic from this post you struggle with? Comment, like, or share if you found this interesting. We love a good dialogue. If you have any questions about the content, shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 513-295-4955. And if you want to be alerted of more interesting content like this, subscribe below and I’ll send all the premium content alerts before anyone else.