By Amber Hudson and Luke Sklar
Welcome to the Everything is Marketing blog. We are here to prove that every single issue in life, every person, story or event, has a marketing lesson. And we want you to join in the conversation. So crack those knuckles and weigh in on the discussion, share your thoughts and ideas, agree or disagree. Bring it on; we want to hear from you!
Who would have thought a video game could bring back an entire genre of music. That’s what Guitar Hero did. It arrived in 2005 at a time when rap ruled the charts and those shoot ‘em up games (or First Person Shooters to actual gamers) ruled the controllers. And it brought back Rock. By 2008 plastic-guitar wielding Eddie and Slash wannabes pumped $1 billion dollars into the brand. The game made the player, many of whom couldn’t play a chord if their life depended on it, feel actually weirdly talented while slamming on that tiny whammy bar. Who didn’t love that!
These days…not so many. Activision has pulled the plug on Guitar Hero. Chief Executive Eric Hirshberg recently said, “We simply cannot make these games profitable based on current market and demands.”
Activision was smart enough to know that the show was over. So, rather than pulling a David Lee Roth and try desperately to hang on to past success, they kept their dignity and drove their pop culture-changing tour bus off into the sunset, allowing Activision to focus on its core brands like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.
So what’s the marketing lesson?
People who work on a brand inevitably become emotionally attached. And with it comes denial. They’ve fist bumped each other over “we-met-our-year” bonus cheques. And have thrown back a few shots rock star-style before entering the boss’s office to deal with poor results (figuratively speaking of course). But there are times when you just have to let go, cut the cord, bury it, move on for crying out loud. A dog is a dog; know it, see it, remove it. Great leaders do this better than anyone. Yes, it will very likely mean a short term financial hit, but by sinking more money into a dying brand it’s at the expense of growing brands. I mean, there are really two options: gamble a reinvent-the-brand Hail Mary or proceed with a dignified wind down. We applaud Mr. Hirshberg for making the emotionally difficult but financially prudent move to kill the dog. Like the great feeling you get during spring cleaning when you dump a bunch of your crap in the garbage, I bet Mr. Hirshberg was all, dude, that felt goooood. It is liberating! Freeing! Energizing! Hey Gap, Paula Abdul, Nokia, Survivor, time to kill the dog. Can I get an amen!
We’d love to hear what brands you think should just give it up. Or have you had to lay a brand to rest and if so, how’d that go for you?