Gamefly: It Speaks to Me

This week, we have been asked to think about a product or service that was introduced to us via some form of social media or advertising. Sounds easy, right? Advertising surrounds us at what seems to be every waking moment of our lives. Surely, it should take no time to come up with a handful of examples.

And yet, as I sat down to consider all of these products, nothing came to mind.

I know advertising works. I know I have bought products after learning about them through advertising. But I found myself unable to make that connection in my memory. I think it is a function of the ubiquity of advertising in our culture. It has almost become background noise. We do not even consciously notice it unless something makes it “pop” for us.

I finally thought of an example of just this thing: Gamefly. This is a video game rental service, which works much like the original Netflix concept. You choose a queue of video games on the company’s website and they mail you a game. You keep it as long as you like and you pay a monthly fee.

I learned about Gamefly through its advertisements, specifically the “bad game” ads. These began with a number of people screaming, crying, and throwing tantrums. The climax came when an old television came sailing through a window, followed by the tagline: “Don’t Buy a Bad Game Again.”

I did not run right out and sign up for Gamefly. In fact, I probably waited about two years before buying it as a gift for my son. But I remembered the ad, and I remembered thinking, “that is something I could use.”

So why did this work? The ad was funny, but there are plenty of funny ads. I think the reason this one was so memorable for me was that it spoke to me on a personal level. I have known the frustration of buying a video game—not an inexpensive proposition—and learning that it was, well, bad. I also have a son who can finish a game in about a day and a half of intense play. That is nearly as frustrating. I don’t particularly want to be in the business of continually downloading and deleting games from my hard drive. For me, this service is a great solution.

That quality of connection strikes me as a key element of effective marketing. A marketing strategy can be funny, poignant, or informational. It can involve television, social media, or point-of-purchase. But no medium will work unless the message is one that resonates with customers on a personal level. MBA students talk a lot about addressing “pain points.” As much as I hate jargon, I must admit there is something to it.

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