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23/03/2011 by

Should CMO’s Skip Ethics To Achieve WOM?

Online video almost equals traditional online marketing in 2011. However, some traditional brands seem to be crunching their brains: Should I as CMO, cross the lines of ethics in order to reach my potential buyers and to get that mighty viral status? Well read along…

A brilliant example can be found at even a not so traditional company as well, namely 2K Games (NASDAQ: TTWO). The company develops games for platforms like PlayStation, Xbox360, Wii and PC. Under their range of products are winning numbers like Civilization, Bioshock, Duke Nukem and we probably could fill multiple pages with success stories. We are talking about a billion dollar industry with millions of brand-loyal end-users.

The games they create have content which has an ESRB rating varying from “everyone” to “mature”. The company’s division 2K Sports has battled with the question rather to promote their new game Top Spin 4 with the following commercial, or not.

The game itself is suitable for the whole family, so to what extend would the content match these criteria? For 2K Sports the gap was huge enough to cancel the launch, despite the fact that marketing budgets and collective efforts were already made. On gaming-website Joystiq 2K Sports made an official statement: “As part of the process for creating marketing campaigns to support our titles, we pursue a variety of creative avenues. This video is not part of the title’s final marketing campaign and its distribution was unauthorized.”

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Unfortunately the ‘damage’ was already done. The other actress Rileah Vanderbilt twittered about the existence of the video and placed a link in her tweet. Resulting in a widely spread and we could even, carefully, diagnose a viral status with more than 100K views in merely two days.

So let us recap what just happened. We had the spicy content for a new product. We had a disapproving advertiser stating that the video was not part of the final marketing campaign and was even flagging the distribution as unauthorized. Additionally there was the actress who did spread the video. It is tempting to state that this could be a marketing-stunt after all. The Top Spin game is on its 4th chapter, so an extra boost could be preferable.

On the other end, the content itself could be graded as being not suitable for younger viewers and therefore making the statement sincere.  

One way or the other, the video created a little storm and that resulted in the WOM about the game. So will 2K Sports be very unhappy about this situation? Tell us what you think!


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Dimitri Bauer
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