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How to integrate IP licensing into your marketing strategy

Clipwire Games' Mary Kaye Fraser explores IP licensing for mobile, and what studios should know before taking the plunge

IP licensing is a powerful way to engage existing players in your game and gain new users. Over the last two decades, I've had the pleasure of working with dozens of well-known licensors from Disney, Dreamworks, Tetris, CBS, and Lionsgate, to name a few.

At Clipwire Games, we've teamed up with The Price Is Right to provide a deeper level of engagement for the players of our game Bingo Story. If you're thinking about licensing an IP for your studio, our partnership can provide guidance for you and your team.

IP licensing is one way [to] increase brand recognition, improve engagement with existing players, and attract new ones

In today's crowded mobile gaming space, it's important for studios to think strategically and creatively about how they can stand out from the competition. While building a high-quality game is important, developers have the creative opportunity to do more and bring value to players while strengthening the longevity of their games.

Intellectual property (IP) licensing is one way studios can increase brand recognition, improve engagement with existing players, and attract new ones.

Understanding how to properly leverage an IP and having a strategic plan of what you want to accomplish helps put your team in a better position.

Clipwire Games and The Price Is Right

When you have an established game like Bingo Story with a loyal and engaged player base, it's important to provide them with new experiences. We wanted to fine-tune our monetization and retention strategies while also offering a fresh experience to our users. After many successful years running Bingo Story, we decided to offer our players a new take on the game they know and love.

Partnerships with an IP license are a great way to address this challenge, which is why we collaborated with Fremantle Media's franchise The Price Is Right. For this partnership to be a success, we needed to make important considerations before merging the two distinct brands.

During the collaboration process, we made sure to align our goals and expectations both internally and with Fremantle.

Brand recognition and audience expansion

Successfully partnering with an IP requires a clear roadmap of what you want to achieve through an IP deal. If you have a specific demographic that you want to target, for example, and believe the IP will bring you that, licensing may make sense for you.

We focused on increasing engagement and retention with our existing users. We also aimed to reach a larger audience with The Price Is Right's brand, which has a longstanding reputation and is a household name. Ultimately, Bingo Story is a strong title and we were confident that our team could deliver an integrated experience both from a creative and technical standpoint.

Successfully partnering with an IP requires a clear roadmap of what you want to achieve through an IP deal

The partnership was a move that mutually benefited both brands to grow their reach. The following were strong considerations in moving forward and factors your team should also think through:

- Audience: The demographic and their spending power for both brands were properly identified and evaluated. You should be able to answer: Will the IP help encourage the audience to spend money and improve overall lifetime value (LTV)?

- Expansion: There were consistent overlaps and similarities in audiences, which indicated a strong chance for higher engagement and reach. You should be able to answer: What does the IP's audience look like and who are you reaching?

- Timing: We already established a large enough player base with Bingo Story and it was a great time to try something new and different. It's also important to note-a sizeable player base may have a better chance to grab the attention of an IP licensor.

- Value: This was a unique way for existing Bingo Story players to engage with the game-it was our way of recognizing our fanbase.

Establishing expectations with an IP partnership

Setting the proper expectation with our team was important. Rather than expecting instant success-gaining a ton of new users, for example, we thought of the collaboration as more of an accelerator to make Bingo Story more successful and engaging.

Don't expect IP to generate organic downloads -- in fact, it may end up being more costly upfront

Don't expect IP to generate organic downloads -- in fact, it may end up being more costly upfront, simply because of the amount of competition.

Having a licensed IP might increase click-through rates (CTR) on your ads, but you still have to pay to reach people. Through greater brand recognition with a well-known IP, LTV and retention rates may improve over time.

Use the brand recognition of the IP to optimize each step of the roadmap that outlines the promotion of the collaboration via social media, within the game, and other channels such as a newsletter.

Promotion of your IP license to your audience

It's not enough to simply update your App Store assets with IP focused images. It is vital to build as much multichannel messaging as you are able to. Many IP owners already have established audiences you will be able to leverage before and during your event or launch. Create the schedule for how often you want to communicate this new partnership to your audience and through which channels. Do you want your teaser campaign to start a few weeks or a month before launch? After identifying the timeline, segment your audience.

For example, your target audience can be:

  • New players
  • Existing players
  • Non-active players
  • Fans of the IP you are targeting

Then figure out your communication strategy. After our audience segments were set, we took steps to make sure players could anticipate this exciting new partnership through email, push notifications, and social media channels.

Be mindful of active vs. dormant audiences -- you don't want to bombard users who have not engaged with your game. We mostly targeted active players to get them excited about the IP.

Also, make sure your messaging and tone are tailored specifically to each segment. For example, in your email subject line to your dormant segment would likely use language that captivates and sparks curiosity so they open the email, vs. emails targeted to your active group.

We looked at the overlap between Price is Right fans and our fans to make sure that the messaging we put out to them was not only aligned to both brands but created interest for these fans not only in the brand they love, but also in playing a new game. Because we were running a Price is Right event we wanted to make sure these fans would fall in love with Bingo Story and keep playing even after the Price is Right event ended.

Make sure you completely understand the IP so you know if it makes sense with your game

Finally, how do you want to present this exciting new campaign through fresh visuals and creatives? Make the emotional connection -- what would evoke feelings of eagerness, enthusiasm, and suspense? Then, tie to any fun themes in your game.

Since The Price Is Right is known for unveiling crowd-pleasing prizes behind a curtain, we used a similar idea in our teaser by progressively showing what the event was. It started off with closed curtains, and each creative would reveal a little bit more, without giving the whole thing away.

A thriving partnership

Make sure you completely understand the IP so you know if it makes sense with your game. Do your research and become an expert in the IP you are considering.

For The Price Is Right, our team thoroughly researched what games the contestants play, including the ins and outs of the Showcase Showdown that culminates each episode.

This allows you to bring the IP title to your game in a meaningful way and make the branded experience more immersive, so it's not just adding a logo or colors.

As you continue to explore whether an IP license makes sense for your game, the potential increase in brand awareness is just as important as your demographic, and core game mechanics.

Also, keep in mind that an important takeaway in working with a well-known IP is to make sure to discuss how you can leverage their marketing team. Often, established companies have powerful marketing resources. If you can discuss this ahead of time and figure out a marketing plan, it may allow you to reach a significantly broader reach for your licensed game. We worked closely with Fremantle on all our marketing for this event. We made sure to ask for and use the art assets Fremantle already had for the property and were able to create some really spectacular and high performing interactive campaigns the featured Price is Right themed interactive Bingo.

Once you're ready to move forward, an IP licensed partnership can be an exciting time in your game's lifecycle. The partnership with The Price Is Right was well-received, and we're excited to hear feedback from our players.

Mary Kaye Fraser is the head of studio at Clipwire Games and a games industry veteran. She oversees the company's strategic growth including production processes, product design, hiring and team structure, training and mentoring as well as business development.