Retailers can learn a lot about launching new products or stores from Microsoft’s multi-faceted marketing campaign for Halo.

Game launches have long passed the point where it seemed facetious to compare them to Hollywood film launches.

The UK gaming sector alone is worth almost £4bn, according to trade body Ukie, and worldwide it is set to be worth $103bn (£67.3bn) by 2017.

As the fifth version of sci-fi game Halo is due to launch, Microsoft Xbox has created an interactive experience for fans.

The global campaign covers TV ads, cinema spots and digital and outdoor executions. At the heart of the campaign is a challenge that invites fans to solve a cross-platform puzzle.

“Retailers could look at the way Microsoft is building people up to a frenzy – you can guarantee gamers will be queuing for days in advance outside shops”

Matt Pye, Cheil UK

As you’d expect, this isn’t as simple as answering a multiple choice question. To get to the truth, gamers have to seek out clues in the marketing collateral surrounding the game ahead of its October 27 release. For the winner, there is a truly ‘money can’t buy’ prize as you will become a Halo character.

As a father of a 15-year-old son who is always on Xbox chatting and playing games with friends, I can appreciate how alluring this is. To be celebrated officially would make you a legend among your peers.

It’s not just about the prize though. Microsoft has conceived a clever, tech-orientated competition that is bang on brand.

It’s an innovative game for an audience that loves technology and is very happy to share views socially. It’s also incredibly sticky in the way that a traditional media campaign isn’t. The campaign has the same narrative quality that hooks people on the game and requires similar engagement.

Customer engagement

Retailers could look at the way Microsoft is building people up to a frenzy ahead of the release when you can guarantee gamers will be queuing for days in advance outside shops.

There is almost certainly a secondary market for merchandising that should be worth many millions – Halo has rich potential.

Build up to a physical launch may last many months and this provides retailers with an opportunity to engage with people at a deeper level.

How about getting customers to sign up to loyalty events ahead of time, or drawing them to the ecommerce site before a physical store launch? There’s the opportunity to involve them in dialogue about the kinds of merchandise they’d like to see in-store.

And what about using a more engaging approach to staff recruitment with the opportunity to hire those with a passion for gaming that goes beyond any normal behaviour.

Gamers are an intense and passionate bunch, but by pulling the same levers and engaging with customers in a more multi-platform way, all retailers could learn from Halo’s approach.

  • Matt Pye, chief operating officer at Cheil UK