Interview Question: Prompt

This question was posed to me in a recent interview. I was given a limit of 1,500 words or less. My initial outline was only around 300 words, and with so much excess, I needed to add more flavor. I feel my response helped me land an interview, which was quite the ‘gauntlet’ as one of my friends put it. It had been a while since I had to go into essay mode, and I felt it’d be such a waste to simply sideline since the opportunity slipped by me more likely due to the interview. I was ‘too seasoned’ (aka too nerdy for the hip cats) and would get bored of the opportunity. I’m sure this was a polite way of saying I was simply to raw or rigid for their corporate rigmarole . If they truly believed I’d get bored, then they might not of realized that the business of geekdom is really my kick, and I never get bored of analyzing marketing methodology. See my response below. Maybe it’ll help one of you out some day. If you’ve got any suggestions, I’d like to hear it.

Unexpectedly, a key partner has scheduled a meeting in your office and expects a top-level presentation of marketing strategy for a game. Your manager is on vacation. What would you do, and what would you need to know to make your decision?

Unexpected key partner visits can pose quite the challenge, but can be extremely rewarding in immediate and future opportunity. When it comes to marketing strategy, anticipation of such situations would be the greatest asset as this type of occurrence is rather commonplace in professional convention and trade events. Of course, before any other factors are to be considered, verification that a presentation in this circumstance complies with our company policy and the terms associated with the contracts of all stakeholders involved in the project. For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume the meeting is to occur in the company building and it falls in compliance with business and contract terms. As a marketing manager, having a marketing strategy at all levels is an essential responsibility, and ownership of that duty will demand a high level of understanding on the marketing direction that can be clearly communicated to the audience. The presentation of a top-level marketing strategy plan could lead to a discussion that becomes a great base for brainstorming with the partner that might lead to new business. As the visitor is a key partner, it would be in the company’s best interest to cooperate and ensure that when we present our strategy that we do so with the idea that anything less than the best rarely ends in success. To that end, though it is always a good sign to take on what might be an incredible opportunity for a strong business partnership, there are several factors that I would confirm before committing to a presentation. The key factors I find most important in this situation are authorization of materials, preparation of the presentation, and awareness of the company.

The flow of information is now more important than ever as timing plays a critical role in the momentum of promotion and business success in general. With the incredible value of licenses today, secrecy is a highly coveted asset. As this marketing strategy would be regarding a specific game, I would need to ensure that any focused information presented including license assets, schedules, budgets and all other marketing matters be authorized to share by both internal and external stakeholders. The premature reveal of any data before its authorization may present unnecessary risk of jeopardizing our relationship with licensors, distribution partners, and possibly the visiting party if something shown be met with critical complaints when still in development. Learning this lesson the hard way a few years ago, I had built a marketing plan around one of Japan’s most popular monthly release programs of competitively priced figure collections that were originally made to be redeemable through crane game arcade machines. My division was charged with creating a domestic program that could sell figures at a retail level as crane games are not as accessible in North America. Clients and partners were eager to hear more as it involved several popular licenses in the Japanese pop culture genre that had been evergreen or were quickly gaining momentum. These products were promoted to be targeting older teens to young adults who were tech savvy, socially connected, interested in animation and gaming, and appreciated collectibles. All the marketing numbers were set including offer dates, monthly wave release schedule, product copy, negotiated costs, client specific marketing strategies and promotional opportunities. Clients liked what they heard, they liked the calculations, but clients weren’t able to actually see the products or concepts of the actual product as images were not available due to licensor restrictions. This was proclaimed by clients and by our lead sales representatives as the single most critical component of the campaign. The program worked well in Japan as the distribution went to partners who had built a trust with the company in the confidence that the product quality was always going to be of high standard. For the most part, that was true, and that enabled the manufacturer the ability to offer products simply by name in advance of a public reveal forgoing the need for an image. However, when offering this same product line to a national chain store merchandiser in a different global region, success was limited. To resolve this, we had to reassess our strategy with our key product producer in Japan, and create a plan that allowed the proper release of image assets in a timely manner. This alignment laid down a path for our sales division to successfully secure big unit opportunities for future quarterly offers.

In addition to authorization, I would also consider the preparation of the game’s current marketing strategy presentation. Though we may have all the necessary permission for showing assets, should these data points not be arranged to deliver a meaningful story of business opportunity both with visual aid and key talking points, it may not impress upon the visitors the best perception of the prize. By being prepared, unexpected situations will be much more manageable for delivering maximum business impact, and it certainly is a vital element when making any type of presentation. As an example of needing to be prepared, one of my first assignments as a Brand Manager with my previous employer was to quickly communicate critical sales information to the collective sales managers from one of our key distribution partners presenting at the New York Toy Fair, Diamond Comics Distribution. I was two weeks into the assignment, the previous owner of the project left without delivering any copy, and our distribution partner team was going to try and sell our lines without the faintest clue on figure collections’ back story. Realizing this weakness, I arranged pre-event daily stand-up meetings with the managers collectively, and coached them through key sales points that had them presenting confidently and had earned back the trust of the partner who did have concerns about the absence of information. Having immersed myself in the product line details before heading out to the trade event, the preparation allowed me the time to consider the most important elements that I could quickly deliver to our partners in the sales effort. Needless to say, that edge opened many discussions with major clients that hadn’t known the details beforehand with one client that would later sign on directly as one of our biggest customers and product advocates, Hot Topic.

The last factor I would need to consider would be my awareness of the company offices. Should a key partner visit my office, they are not only seeing me, but the company itself. By the time the audience arrives on the premises and enters our lobby, the presentation has already started. Should there be any onsite events whether it is construction, a visit from another key partner, or absence of other key stakeholders of the game property, the impression may not be of our highest caliber. By not properly notifying key internal team members on the marketing project, and by being absent minded about the company environment, we may run the risk of damaging not only the business opportunity of the game, but also tarnish the perception of our company unit. I feel a marketing presentation does not simply showcase a game title and sales numbers, but also represents the efforts of the stakeholders that have worked on it including the company as a whole, and along with that comes the trust shared that if a game is to be featured in a presentation, those who need to know should be made aware.

There are several other factors that I would consider in this situation including the relevance of the title to the key partner and showroom availability, but specifically, regarding a marketing plan for a particular game, the above factors are critical. Under extremely rare circumstances, I may entertain the idea of possibly presenting a marketing plan from a previous title that had been cleared for presentation that the client may have successfully been involved with that has a similar strategy, but this is
contingent on if that type of presentation is even available as today’s marketing opportunity is constantly changing which in turn forces strategies to evolve with every title release. Depending on the strategy in place, presenting something that may be only similar may run the risk of undermining the master plan.

Should any of the above factors not be met, I would strongly move to politely approach the partner, and being honest about the situation proposition them with a later time and date where we can more fully present the strategy with the title. From my experience, honesty goes a long way in business as its part of the foundation of trust. As the visitor is a key partner, paying it forward through openness will save time on both sides and more often supports mutual respect. To present a marketing strategy plan at a moment’s notice does come with high excitement, but high risk on many levels as well if baseline requirements are not met. Once these requirements are fulfilled, we can then follow through accordingly with the highest chances of success.

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