This weekend I was doing some thought on the current areas that businesses in eSports are struggling (yes, I think about this in my spare time). Now being the marketing “enthusiast” that I am, I was digging through some old curriculum and came across the “Four P’s” of marketing. This old cornerstone of marketing theory is generally taught in the basic MKTG 101 classes at any business school and it goes as follows: there are four primary areas of marketing and they are product, price place, and promotion. These make up most of what is known as “the marketing mix” and while it may not be 100% relevant to most businesses, it is a great place to start organizing your company’s marketing.
Product: the main thing to remember here is that this is all about understanding your consumer. Does your user-experience match what your target market wants/needs? It also goes beyond just the physical product. Customer service, for example, is also part of your product. You could coin some fancy name for the extra stuff like “meta-product” but let’s keep it simple. This is the most important role for the marketer:
Price: this category has most to do with how you price the product and is usually balanced directly against the product and its quality. Pretty straightforward.
Place: things get a little more complicated here as place can be very broad or very specific. Say you market for a medium-sized flour company. Place refers to both what states you sell your product in, the grocery store chains you supply, and even so specific as where on the aisle and at what height you are located (brands actually pay more to be located at eye-level in grocery stores).
Promotion: this includes any sweet promotional things you do. They add to the customer experience but do not impact the product in any way. Red Bull Flugtaag is a good example of a promotion.
There are a number of fifth P’s like positioning, people or publicity (thanks Alan). It is my opinion that most of these other P’s fit into the original four, but it really depends on the industry. Alan, who is an expert in sports marketing, points out that publicity is so critical in sports that it has its own P.
Applying the P’s
The basic idea behind the marketing mix is balance. In order to properly market a product, you need to be comfortable with where you stand on each. For example: an item that is high quality does well in the product category, but is likely expensive and therefore weak in the price area. Awareness of this will impact place and promotional ideas, as well as give ideas for product enhancement.
Let’s take a look at what we can learn from how others have done well with their mixes.
Twitch has arguably the best product offering widely consumed by eSports today, and they did it through a solid understanding of their target markets: streamers and advertisers. They built their product to make streaming easy and get rid of all of the nitty-gritty. Then they take the resulting massive content wave and sell it by category to marketers who want your attention. What you get are happy streamers who can provide free content to a wide audience and happy advertisers who are getting committed eyeballs on their products. The product efficiently marries the needs of two target markets and still pulls a profit. Brilliant.
Let’s talk tournaments, because they are the most interesting here. Tournaments compete for viewers to sell those impressions to marketing companies. Their Price concern is not how much to charge the viewer, it is how much to charge for the space in front of the viewer. Tournaments sell to marketing companies, and a tournament like NASL will have a pricing strategy that undercuts IPL and MLG without an equal cut in viewer offering, while the others do the opposite. The key point here is knowing what you are worth and, just as important, what your competitors are worth. Understand where you sit in the market and what role you play, then price accordingly.
The challenge with Place stems from a lack of physical presence anywhere. Merchandising is heavily affected by Place issues. Being at a sporting event definitely enhances the desire to purchase merchandise. With eSports, events happen infrequently and have no team affiliation. This weakens the overall effect of the event for merchandisers and makes selling even more difficult.
So who does it right? The short answer is that nobody has so far. For companies that normally rely on physical sales, this presents a serious Problem. The power of in-store should not be underestimated and anyone selling physical goods should take note of this.
Again, if you plan on selling physical goods remember that this P presents a serious issue you will have to know how to overcome.
We have a very dire and pressing problem in eSports: the inability to promote. It is something countless businesses, blogs, streamers, journalists and others suffer from. The current channels of communication are just not enough to handle the breadth of content being produced. On Reddit and community sites, users cherry-pick their favorite content types(even social media gets filtered through these sites), which invariably are focused around personalities and gossip. Unfortunately this prevents any businesses from using the only communication channels to get the word out about their products, cool or revolutionary as they may be.
The combination of this stifling effect with the fact that eSports fans are part of a generation notoriously resistant to traditional marketing spells bad news for companies. Like all things going digital, we need a change in promotional activity in order to make eSports a viable market for businesses large and small. If we do not allow for great ideas to be heard and businesses to get the attention they need, then we will fail. No one will invest if they cannot communicate, and currently it is nearly impossible to do so without a big existing personality behind you.
This is the question I most wanted to address and is the reason I created this site. We need a viable form of promotion that works and that resonates well with the eSports consumer. So, marketers of eSports, I challenge you to be thinking about this, I will be.