November 21, 2013, 12:05 PM

How a software retailer uses search and social data to guide its marketing

It targets consumers searching for “how to play guitar” on the web.

Lead Photo

The Internet is full of unverified facts and dubious advice volunteered by anyone who stumbles across a blog or YouTube video that strikes his fancy. One retailer, video game maker Ubisoft Entertainment, is taking advantage of that to prove to consumers that its advice is not only non-dubious, but worth paying for.

It documented the progress of seven guitar novices who did a 60-day challenge over the summer to  gain at least a beginning musician’s ability using Ubisoft’s new instructional guitar software, the 2014 edition of Rocksmith, which in previous editions was sold strictly as a video game. Now Ubisoft is sharing those videos in 30- and 60-second ad spots at the beginning of YouTube videos, between songs on streaming music player Spotify and on broadcast TV.

“We knew there was a bigger opportunity to move beyond gaming and, in order to do that, we needed to reposition Rocksmith as the fastest and most credible guitar learning software on the market,” Shane Bierwith, Ubisoft’s senior brand manager, says.

Ubisoft hired marketing agency Nomadic to produce the videos. Nomadic learned that consumers search the web more than 20 million times every month using the phrase “how to play guitar,” or variations on that theme like “how to play a chord,” says Dawn Bates, vice president of strategy at the agency. One of the top search engines those consumers turn to is YouTube, because multitudes of guitar teachers and other amateurs post their own homemade instructional videos there for free, she says. Many of those consumers also post in blogs and web forums to seek free advice from other guitar players, she adds. And both of those outlets often prompt further conversation among consumers on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, says Tim Washburn, Nomadic’s executive creative director.

The Scottsdale, AZ-based agency decided to segment Ubisoft’s target customers for the 2014 Rocksmith not by demographics but by their stage in the guitar learning cycle—committed to learn, but just getting started—and the social media they use to find free instructional material and advice online. “For the person who’s in the moment, trying to figure out the solution but frustrated and feeling like it will take forever, this product promises you will get somewhere in 60 days,” Washburn says. “So digital was very key because we wanted to reach this customer target when they were searching for this solution.”

Then Nomadic gave Ubisoft suggestions for keywords to buy and other search engine optimization strategies based on what it had learned about its target consumers for Rocksmith from search and social data, Bates says. The agency did not buy any of the ads on Ubisoft’s behalf.

The campaign is running now through the holidays, Bates says. While the rest of Ubisoft’s offerings, video games, typically have peak marketing periods prior to gift-giving days, many “how to” guitar searches occur on the actual holidays themselves, when consumers have down time and may have just received an instrument as a gift, Bates says. 

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