Since launching their hit mobile game Best Fiends in 2014, gaming company Seriously has been at the leading edge of marketing and social media trends. Working with influencers on YouTube before most of its competitors, Seriously found a way to connect with audiences and attract new users and fans.
This week, Seriously released “Best Fiends Boot Camp,” an animated short created with some familiar characters from the Best Fiends world and voiced by Mark Hamill, Kate Walsh, and Pamela Adlon, among others. It’s the first of four animated shorts that will be based on the Best Fiends games. Seriously is making its way into more original content, but a focus on influencer marketing remains central to the company’s plans to build the Best Fiends brand and shape the future of the entertainment industry.
We spoke with Philip Hickey, Senior Vice President of Brand & Marketing at Seriously, about the new animated short, the company’s influencer marketing efforts, and what’s coming next in the world of Best Fiends. Read the interview below:
Congratulations on your first animated short film, “Best Fiends Boot Camp.” Can you tell us a bit about the short?
“Best Fiends Boot Camp” is our first original animated short from our Best Fiends franchise and features an all-star voice cast of Mark Hamill (Star Wars), Kate Walsh (13 Reasons Why, Grey’s Anatomy), Pamela Adlon (Better Things, Californication) and more.
The short is produced by Reel FX (known for The Book of Life and Ice Age among others) and is the same quality as a feature animated film. This is our first major effort to extend the Best Fiends brand beyond our mobile games and demonstrates the brand’s potential to be developed into an entertainment property.
You’ve experienced and attributed much of your success to influencer marketing. What have been some of the challenges you’ve experienced with influencer marketing?
One of the biggest challenges with influencer marketing is finding the right influencers that will connect with your target audience. It is critical that influencers’ content is true to their own brand and that you allow them the creative freedom to do what they do best. Influencers know how to speak to their audience, so it’s about integrating your messages in an authentic way.
We’ve also found influencers and their audiences get very excited when they are integrated into the actual game or a campaign. For example, with our “Don’t Download Best Fiends” campaign, we released an in-game update which featured the World’s Biggest Mobile Treasure Hunt into the game itself, where Kate Walsh, Joey Graceffa, and Rosanna Pansino and 12 more of the biggest YouTube stars such as Rachel Levin, Fine Brothers and VanossGaming each hid personal themed symbols in the game for players to find.
Players that found all 15 symbols won a new character in the game. This had a real business impact as the campaign directly led to more than 1 million downloads over the first week and over 2.35 million daily active players.
How have partnerships helped you overcome challenges you’ve had with growing and scaling your influencer marketing efforts?
We’ve partnered with a number of multi-channel networks (MCNs), agents and talent directly across countries including the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Russia and Mexico. Working with different partners has allowed us to enlist various influencers for our campaigns and reach global markets more effectively. We are always open to forging new relationships with partners that can help advance our brand.
Best Fiends took on YouTube & influencer marketing when most of your competitors only marketed with traditional user acquisition channels. You recently did your first Facebook Live integration. Is there a push for Best Fiends to experiment with emerging and non-traditional forms of advertising and if so, why?
At Seriously, we challenge ourselves to be as creative in our marketing campaigns as we are in our game design, story, characters and world in our Best Fiends games. We’re always innovating in our marketing campaigns and will continue trying new strategies to stay ahead.
When we first started, everyone advised us not to market ourselves via YouTube, but we did it anyway and were able to cut through. We now have more than 368,000 subscribers on our YouTube channel and more than 2 million fans across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. To date, our Best Fiends games have been downloaded over 70 million times.
Prior to your success with influencer marketing, what were the primary factors or considerations that lead to your decision to go “all-in” with influencer marketing?
There were a number of factors that led to our decision. For example, a Variety article featured the most popular influencers, and this list included YouTubers mixed with Hollywood elite. Additionally, 70 percent of YouTube views are on mobile, so viewers are only one click away from downloading our games. Influencers also provide the ability to target highly niche audiences. And, there’s a long tail of video views over time.
How has the influencer marketing landscape changed since you first began in 2014? What do you think is the next big evolution in store for influencer marketing?
I think we will start to see more mix between traditional celebrities and influencers. With our “Don’t Download Best Fiends” campaign video, we combined the best of Hollywood talent, Kate Walsh from 13 Reasons Why and Grey’s Anatomy, with the best of YouTube talent, Rosanna Pansino and Joey Graceffa, to create a hilarious campaign poking fun at our fans’ obsession with playing Best Fiends. Combining traditional and YouTube talent also allowed us to reach different demographics. We were excited that the video won one of “YouTube’s Ads of the Year” for 2016.
How do you think Best Fiends has helped shape influencer marketing and how other businesses approach and use it?
Influencer marketing is a huge part of our marketing strategy at Seriously. We spend more than 50% of our marketing budget on influencer campaigns and we’ve found a lot of success in working with influencers both in downloads and in building the Best Fiends brand. Every business needs to analyze its target audience and decide if influencers are the right way to reach their specific business goals.
What are some benefits of influencer marketing you feel most companies fail to acknowledge or recognize when evaluating it for their marketing needs?
A lot of companies fail to recognize the strong engagement these influencers have and the impact that less well-known influencers can make on your campaign. We have worked with big name influencers like PewDiePie, Joey Graceffa and Rosanna Pansino with millions of followers, to smaller influencers with a fraction of that number.
When assessing which influencer to work with, companies frequently think they need to work with big name influencers to reach their objectives but often, smaller influencers can be just as effective. For example, we’ve found a lot of success working with niche influencers such as those reaching the LGBTQ community.
Any upcoming developments your audience should be excited for?
We’re really excited to be launching our second animated short titled “Visit Minutia” later this summer, as well as the third game in the Best Fiends trilogy later this year.
What do you see as the future of the entertainment industry?
At Seriously, we believe that future entertainment brands will be built on mobile first, given the audience shift from traditional platforms like television and movie theaters and mobile’s ability to offer a direct-to-fan connection. Media consumption is rapidly changing and we feel like our Best Fiends brand is in the right place at the right time to cut through and build a global entertainment brand.