How Tomb Raider Brought Their Brand To Life

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To stand out in a busy world, find the snakes and scorpions hidden in your brand, and bring them to life.Barkley

In an online world full of click-through rates, attribution, and constant noise, putting something tangible in front of a consumer can still have a huge impact, especially if that something is a giant snake.

For four days every year, Pop-Culture lives in San Diego. Comic books fans, cosplayers, gamers, and all of geek culture come together to create the behemoth that is Comic-Con. AAA game developers like Square Enix know the event represents one of their biggest opportunities to build excitement around new projectsperfect for promoting their new game, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the third installment in the modern reboot of the Tomb Raider series.

But Comic-Con is a busy place. Just in gaming, Shadow of the Tomb Raider was up against huge names like Spiderman, Call of Duty, and Pokemon. And that doesn’t even consider the attention pull from the rest of geek culture. Even with Tomb Raider’s brand recognition, it wouldn’t be enough to just offer demos. Jon Grant, associate director of product marketing for Square Enix, said they needed a remarkable, share-worthy experience to promote the September launch, otherwise it would be impossible to stand out in the midst of the busy weekend.

“Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the finale of Lara’s origin story and is the biggest release in the history of the franchise,” Grant said. “Given the size of this release, we owed our fans an equally epic experience at Comic-Con.”

So Square Enix partnered with JMP Creative to produce and execute the event, and Barkley, a creative ideas company, to lead the strategy and creative oversight. They started planning an activation strategy wrapped around a simple question: What makes this game special to its fans?

The Tomb Raider franchise is a classic in the world of video games. Protagonist Lara Croft is one of gaming’s first female leads, an empowered bad!@#. In the first game, she is just trying to survive. In the second, she rises to become the Tomb Raider. In the final chapter, she reaches her destiny.

To play on the theme of the game, the creative team decided to test gamers everywhere as part of the launch, giving them the opportunity to see if they, too, have what it takes to become the Tomb Raider.

The result? An event where fans could enter a wild jungle environment, complete with human skulls. One playable demo station held a brave gamer in with a 15’ anaconda. Scorpions, silkworms, and giant water beetles were even served up for fans to eat, with the promise of a chance at prizes and a tangible way to become the Tomb Raider in the real world.

The unique experience helped the new game stand out in the midst of the busy San Diego weekend and garnered media attention including SyFy and IGN. Fair to say, people payed attention, because it’s just not smart to take your eyes off a snake.

This is the sort of experience the modern consumer is hungry for: Millennials have created an experience economy, where they demand more than just a product. Millennials want to do, feel, and remember something, not just buy. It would have been easy to merely set up stations for people to demo the game, but to truly create an event worth remembering, it took some creative thinking.

This one example is indicative of what is going on in the digital world. Just like at Comic-Con, modern brands are not only up against their direct competitors, but everything else online. Every funny video, every post, every ad, every article wants your consumer’s attention, and it takes a compelling experience to cut through the noise.

The Tomb Raider solution is just one example of how smart thinking and creativity can make an impact. How to make something truly memorable? Find the idea that sets your brand apart and celebrates what it stands for, then bring that idea to life. This example was such a success because it resonated with the spirit of adventure that’s inherent in the game. It deepened the brand affinity consumers already had by asking them to take becoming Lara Croft to the next level. To stand out in a busy world, find the snakes and scorpions hidden in your brand, and bring them to life.

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