Sony and Zipatoni Stand To Lose A Great Deal

by Robyn Tippins on December 18, 2006

The fake blog and fake YouTube videos that Sony and Zipatoni saddled all of us with this christmas may be more damaging to them both than they currently realize. Next Gen was able to get a comment from Sony on the whole sordid affair:

Next-Gen contacted SCEA PR boss David Karraker who answered a couple quick questions. When asked about the magnitude of this PR mishap, he replied, “Buzz and viral marketing is a common practice across the industry. In this instance, SCEA hired an outside agency to create a humorous ‘underground’ PSP site for the holidays. The tongue-in-cheek nature of the site didn’t come across as intended and we have since altered it.”

When confronted about accusations that Sony underestimated gamers’ intelligence with the campaign, he stated, “Sony just released the most advanced console ever developed, so I doubt seriously that anyone would think we are underestimating our consumers’ intelligence. This was simply a marketing idea that was poorly executed.”

Unfortunately, Zipatoni’s reps are still avoiding any comment on the issue:

Next-Gen also contacted Zipatoni’s Dawn Baskin regarding the website, who said that she was aware of the issue, but added, “At this point, we’re not prepared to comment.”

Of course, that was much less insightful than their CEO’s leaked memo:

The internal memo from their CEO that leaked was interesting as well. They claimed:
1) This was all going according to plan.
2) Sony knew the plan and thought this reaction was hysterical.
3) The reaction was “polarized.”
4) The site being mentioned in blogs is a good thing.
5) Zipatoni being mentioned in blogs is a good thing.

While Sony seems to think they will brush this under the rug, most of us understand that this is only one in a series of marketing missteps from Sony. In fact, even with Zipatoni’s moronic website and clearly out-of-touch atmosphere, I wonder if this whole thing was Zipatoni’s idea, or something that Sony masterminded and put the marketing agency up to doing. This reeks of the same poorly imagined and executed fake graffiti debacle that came with their previous system launch, the PSP.

If they think that this is the way to encourage reluctant buyers into spending $600 on their PS3, when compared to a much cheaper XBox 360 which offers very, very little observable difference in gameplay (some would say it’s better, actually) or compared to a much, much cheaper Wii which is innovative and fun, then they need to make a tremendous shift in their talent.

I really hope they can buy a clue at some point, before they risk alienating the base they are banking on…

Zipatoni may suffer worse, though. Because they are the perpetrators and surely the ones that Sony will blame in this, and because they have much more shallow pockets, I’d not be surprised if they aren’t blacklisted for a time. Such a move could cripple the smaller company and force a drastic end to this already dismal story.

It’s sad really when you consider just how easy it is to market to gamers. Look at XBox 360’s Major Nelson’s blog. 100+ comments per post is normal on the blog. All the online and offline gaming media follows the blog and he brings a great deal of traffic to XBox Live when he talks about what’s about to be released or even about upcoming frag parties. And, in those previously mentioned comments the XBox team gains valuable market research that they’d pay a fortune to have pulled from a focus group.

Nintendo’s Wii parties were also quite successful. They chose bloggers and regular people to host Wii parties, again gaining great buzz about how fun the product was to gamers and non-gamers and gaining valuable research data.

Were Sony to actually consider interacting with their customers rather than marketing TO them, they might stand a chance at marketing success. I’ve recently read that they are working on the PS4. Perhaps that is too farsighted…

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Steve January 17, 2007 at 5:10 am

Zipatoni is one of the most creative and successful sales promotion agencies in the world. The talent in their offices would make most video gamers squirm with envy. God forbid that someone would actually try to enter the sacred innersphere of youtube, or some popular blog, with a marketing message that wasn’t 100% real, aimed at people who spend most of their days playing frivolous fantasy games. The horror!
What would your sales promotion agency do in a similar situation? Try to reach the gamers on their way to a college football game? The idea was to reach em where they live and entertain them. Since when is advertising journalism? I’m sure that in-between killing hundreds of people in a fantasy game death match, gamers around the nation paused to vilify Zipatoni. I wouldn’t worry too much about it. You’re writing reads like you got the first scoop on Watergate. Well, not exactly my friend. It sounds more like the whinings of a kid with a sense of adolescent entitlement. It’s nothing more than a game! Now, go do something important and go cut your mother’s lawn.

robyn January 17, 2007 at 12:56 pm

Steve, I’m a 31 year old mother of four…

You ask what I would do? I would emulate Major Nelson and put up a blog that actually required real attention to the demographic rather than a one-time spam-slam campaign.

I think you don’t get it, and that’s the whole point. Care enough about your customers to actually try to find out what they are interested in, not what you want to feed them.

And, by the way, are you from Zipatoni? I hope not with that attitude about gamers. That’s exactly the attitude that came across from the ridiculous campaign…

Ralph emerson July 12, 2007 at 4:56 am

I want a psp myself, and I’m going to get one, but no way would I EVER give the link to that site to anyone I knew that would be a potential source for acquiring it.

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