Caroline Miller is founder and managing director at Indigo Pearl, an award-winning PR and asset management agency specializing in video games.
She founded Indigo Pearl in 2000 and prior to this worked in-house within the games industry.
You have been in the games industry for some time. And you have seen many trends come and go. From the beginning of your career to today: What has changed most positively in the industry, and what bothers you about the current situation?
I think one of the most positive changes has been how we’ve become a more diverse and inclusive industry compared to 20+ years ago. Both the talent within the industry and the characters and scenarios on screen have progressed over the years. However, this does also bother me about the current situation too. It’s important that we continue to increase opportunities for more underrepresented communities – both on screen through representation, and in real life through career support and progression. It’s something we’re very passionate about and we try to champion diversity through everything we do.
Which key learnings in marketing can other industries draw from the games industry?
As an industry, we’re really good at engaging with our audience and fans – we were one of the first industries to do this and it continues to form a huge part of our marketing strategies. It’s not unusual for bigger games companies to have in-house community managers but not many other industries do.
As an agency, this community-is-everything approach is now so much a part of everything we do that it’s as natural to us as writing a press release. With this comes its own challenges and we always have to be one step ahead because dedicated fans quite rightly have high hopes – especially when waiting for that remake news or being unable to download a game on launch day. A big part of games marketing is relationship and experience management. I think other industries can draw opportunities from this.
Who are your role models in the industry?
All the females who have blazed a trail in this predominantly male industry, people like Dr Jo Twist who heads up UKIE, or Debbie Bestwick who has retained her personality whilst building a very successful brand. Cat Channon who is, let’s face it, a PR Legend at this point. And of course, Anita Wong the head of PR at Indigo Pearl for being so professional under fire!
How did the marketing and promotion of games change in recent years? Where are we headed in games marketing in the next years to come?
If you look back to the mid to late 2000s, games makers and games media were some of the first to identify, adopt and utilize online video- and social-platforms. At the same time, fans also began using these platforms to create their own content, with games such as FIFA and Minecraft benefiting from very early influencer marketing. For the first time ever, followers and subscribers thrived on how they could engage with fellow likeminded fans.
These organic influencers will continue to be a huge part of any game campaign’s armory and I think this will continue to grow as more social platforms are born. The industry is fortunate to be built on rich content and video will continue to form a huge part of marketing strategies moving forward.
Which social media channels do you see as key for the games industry?
This is a really interesting question because the initial obvious answer is to say the usual suspects such as YouTube and Twitter. These are crucial to any campaign and Twitter in particular is key for getting news out there ahead of any other platform. But we’re increasingly looking at individual audiences to help us identify the best platforms for game campaigns. We like to work with Instagram as it lends itself well to the visual side of games, and it’s good for identifying audience segments such as retro, cosplay etc.
We’re seeing an increasing number of developers and publishers launching Discord communities, and if you start early on in the campaign, then the platform can really offer some solid marketing momentum for you. We also continue to use and monitor Reddit for all campaigns. We’re also big fans of TikTok but mostly for our own enjoyment!
About the current trend on creators and influencer marketing: The trend towards more micro and macro influencers with a smaller reach and less fans, but more authenticity and engagement: How can the Games industry leverage that trend in your opinion?
Yes, the games industry was one of the first to benefit from influencer marketing and we quickly saw huge celebrities within the world of YouTube, and everyone was quick to add x, y, and z to their influencer marketing campaign. These mega influencers are still key but the micro influencers – the kind I’ve just mentioned across Instagram – are hugely important for engagement. It really depends on the campaign brief and subject matter as to how you go about enlisting and using these influencers. With a little bit of time and effort, it can easily be managed in-house, and there’s no reason why these micro influencers can’t sit alongside your media list. I guess the most important aspect is, where payment is part of the agreement, that there is a contract in place that covers the games company for a guaranteed level of engagement. It’s also important for the influencer to be transparent about the relationship and if any payment for promotion is in place. Micro influencer audiences want authenticity so it’s important to be clear.
The media landscape has changed massively in the last ten years. However, PR is still one of the most important communications tools in the games sector. Where do you see PR in the next five years, what will the challenges be?
The games industry has its own dedicated media sector and regardless of all the new platforms out there, it’s as important as ever to get that front page carousel, the front cover, the podcast special. As we all know, there’s a lot of fake news out there these days, and both the industry and the gamers who read, watch and listen to these outlets know their stuff and check their facts. I don’t see this changing in the future and specialist games media will continue to be at the center of games PR moving forward.
Our relationships with the media remain largely unchanged, but what has changed is the flow of information. To help overcome the challenge of working with more media and more influencers, we built our own in-house platforms to help manage the flow of assets and codes. These platforms are now used by some of the biggest global publishers, and they’ve been instrumental in helping us reach more people with official news, assets, and codes.
Looking ahead, more media platforms and channels will launch, and it will continue to be very fragmented but as long as the core marketing messages and assets are strong, and as long as we can spread that information in a streamlined way, then it’s only a good thing for getting the word out there.
Bonus question: Which project / topic in your career are you particularly proud of?
How long do you have?! This is such an amazing industry to be a part of and there have been so many moments that I’m proud of – too many to list. Working as part of the Games Aid charity team was a big highlight for me as it was pure joy seeing how the industry was helping raise money for children who needed additional support. From a PR perspective, I’m really proud that Indigo Pearl was chosen to help launch huge success stories such as Fortnite, Pokemon Go and Fall Guys. The same is true for all the work we’ve achieved on events such as EGX, Rezzed, and the London Games Festival. It’s testament to Indigo Pearl’s strong PR team and I’m exceptionally proud of all of them.
I’m also really proud of what we’ve achieved on the asset management and code distribution side of the business. We’ve built these tech platforms from scratch, and they’re used by some of the biggest names in the industry so I think we’re all really proud at what we’ve achieved, and how we continue to progress these platforms to keep up with the changing pace of the industry.
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