Here at Gemba, board games are kind of a big deal. Scratch that, they’re a really big deal. Read through some of our personal bios and you’ll agree – we’re obsessed. Our conference rooms are named Yahtzee, Cranium, and Battleship, for crying out loud.
In appreciation of our board game craze, let’s talk about the greatest game ever invented in the history of time – Settlers of Catan. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s fine. You’re reading about it now, so we can still be friends. If you have heard of it, cheers to you. I hope you own it and play it often.
Settlers is more than your typical roll-the-dice-and-move-your-racecar-pawn type of shindig (ahem, Monopoly). It’s better than racecar pawns. Way better. It’s a strategic battle for land and resources, and each player’s success hinges on their ability to form trustworthy alliances and expand their real estate.
Being the Settlers-fanatic that I am, I’ve discovered five take-aways marketers can learn from the characteristics and strategies employed by Settlers.
Stay with me. This is good stuff.
>> Audacity Is King
Unlike Monopoly or Risk – two games that rely on luck, boredom, and an extra dose of luck – Settlers of Catan introduces a whole new level of board game in that it brings a mix of intellectual strategy, personal relationships, and bartering to the table. In other words, it has revolutionized the world of board gaming and, since its 1995 debut, has initiated a stampede of similar strategic games to follow in its path.
What does this tell marketers? Easy. Embrace audaciousness. Go against the grain and become best friends with unpredictability. If there’s a popular branding strategy going around that looks interesting – great. Read about it, think about it, and morph it into something original, daring, and attention-grabbing. Don’t be afraid to take risks, you might end up revolutionizing the world of marketing as we know it. MasterCard and Bud Lite are two brands who have dominated their surprise and delight tactics, adding a touch of the unknown into every campaign.
>> Stand Out In The Crowd
No two games are the same. Quite literally, there are hundreds of millions of board configurations, which might explain why the game remains so popular more than 20 years after its release. Humans appreciate variety. We like elements of surprise, change of scenery, and excitement.
As a marketing strategist, you shouldn’t promote the same campaign strategy over and over and over again. Your consumers will get bored, lose interest, and eventually take their loyalties somewhere else. Make sure your brand stands out in a crowd full of Monopolies and Risks, and exerts a constant state of change, flexibility, and surprise.
>> Time Is Money
The game-play lasts roughly ninety minutes. In other words, you can finish it in less than a day, unlike Monopoly. Settlers was invented by a man named Klaus Teuber, a former dental technician from Germany. He designed the game with busy parents in mind, much like every other German-style game, and he understood that his target customers don’t have time to sit around a table for seven hours collecting fake money.
In the marketing world, your branding strategies should be quick, to the point, and effective. Consumers don’t want to waste their time on anything. Prove to your consumers that you value their time by developing efficient yet empowering strategies that get the job done in a jiffy.
>> Mix It Up
In Settlers, you should never monopolize on one resource. If you look down at your playing hand and see a flock of sheep staring back at you, you’re in trouble. Sheep aren’t worthless, but an entire sheep army won’t do you much good. Instead, invest in all the resources – lumber, brick, ore, grain, and sheep – the more variety you have in your hand, the more settlements and cities you’ll build.
The same applies to your marketing strategy. Don’t invest all your time and money into one type of media. Your brand should value consistency, but it should also value variance amongst its marketing channels. Install a blog on your website, consider new inbound marketing strategies, or collaborate with an experiential agency to form stronger connections with your consumers.
>> Develop Genuine Relationships
Finally, to win Settlers, you must form alliances with your competitors. Trading resources is a major component of the game, and if the people you’re playing with feel threatened or betrayed by you because you tricked them in to giving you all their wheat, they’re not going to give you anything, not even their stupid sheep.
Likewise, marketing revolves around consumer satisfaction. If your target audience trusts you and enjoys interacting with your brand, they’ll more than likely become loyal customers who promote your product for you. Be personable, respect your consumers by understanding their objectives, their struggles, and their goals, and deliver activations that are tailored to their personality.
The best way to do this? Connect with your consumers on a deeper, more engaging level by providing an impressionable experience for them to enjoy. Experiences make people happy. And if your consumers are happy, they’ll continue to support you, purchase from you, and promote your brand.