Eminem’s involvement with a Nintendo advertising campaign sounds absolutely ridiculous to anyone who despises his music. Regardless of how crazy it sounds, I ask that you put aside your personal tastes in music, keep an open mind, and let’s just talk strictly business. This article is not a discussion about the quality of Eminem’s music or whether he has any actual talent.
It’s a well known fact that Eminem’s favorite game is Donkey Kong. He owns two Donkey Kong machines autographed by engineer Steve Wiebe, and he told Rolling Stone that he hopes to beat Wiebe’s record one of these days. His score of 465,800 would bring him close to the top 30 greatest Donkey Kong scores ever on the Twin Galaxies leaderboard. One of his favorite movies is “The King of Kong”, a documentary about Donkey Kong. Rolling Stone says Eminem’s lobby is filled with arcade machines like “Space Invaders”, “Pac-Man”, and “Frogger”.
“I’m an old school classic video game fanatic, I have an entire arcade at my studio… I am actually pretty obsessed with the classics like Ms. Pac Man and Donkey Kong. But I have a Playstation, Xbox and a Wii also. Remember, I’ve got kids at home – so I’m always up for a challenge on whatever games they think they can whup me at,” said Eminem in a May 2009 interview with USA Today.
In another interview with the German press, Eminem explained that he was playing a lot of Nintendo during the years that he tried beating his drug addiction. Perhaps this could explain why there have been more references to Nintendo in his recent songs.
Last year, he released a music video for the song “Rap God” which contains references to Super Mario Bros, Pong, and Portal. On his most recent album, he has a song called “So Far” which references The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo, and PlayStation. If you rewind back in time, he did songs like “Murder, Murder” where he briefly mentions the Nintendo 64, and his hit song “Love the Way You Lie” also contains a line about Nintendo. You may also remember a few references to Guitar Hero/Rock Band in his music video, “We Made you”.
How is it that one of the most famous rappers of all time — an Oscar/Grammy winner with multiple records in the Guinness Book of World Records — has never been asked to promote Nintendo’s products?
Why doesn’t Nintendo try to get Eminem to appear in television advertisements for Wii U’s “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze”? The guy likes Donkey Kong, and he’s one of the most famous musical artists in entertainment history. When I proposed this idea on Twitter, my followers immediately brought up the idea of Eminem doing the DK Rap, or perhaps writing a new version of it. Sure, it would be extremely corny, but it would go viral on the internet and reach the mainstream public — something Wii U’s traditional marketing with Disney actors has failed to do.
At this point, he’s become so mainstream that I really doubt he would single-handedly damage Nintendo’s family friendly image. Sony had Eminem’s music playing for the entire trailer of the children’s film, “Despicable Me 2″, but that didn’t prevent it from generating more box office revenue than the original “Despicable Me”. In the past four years, Eminem’s music has played during ESPN’s NBA Playoffs, NHL Stanley Cup finals, and Ultimate Fighting Championship. His music has been featured in sports video games like NBA 2K and the Madden series on many occasions.
Most people can’t imagine Eminem in a television ad for a Nintendo product, but that’s exactly why it would create a tremendous amount of buzz. Nintendo’s current marketing is boring, uninspired, and doesn’t create any actual discussion about the product. The marketing for Wii U is too conventional for a product that is very unconventional. Those Wayne Brady ads for Wii Party U didn’t create any awareness for Wii U.
Remember those Zelda advertisements where Robin Williams is playing with his daughter, Zelda Williams? Those Zelda advertisements went viral and created positive buzz for Nintendo’s products from the mainstream media. Why not create a similar ad with Eminem playing “Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze” with his daughters? He once mentioned in an interview that his daughter Hailie would play video games while he would record music in the studio.
Eminem has mastered the art of making things go viral on the internet, and Wii U could really use some decent viral marketing at the moment. For example, Adweek says Lipton Brisk’s Eminem ad is one of the top 20 most shared Super Bowl ads of all time. Another instance is when Eminem pulled an Andy Kaufman-esque stunt at the halftime show of ESPN’s Notre Dame-Michigan telecast. His bizarre behavior trended all over social media helping ESPN draw a 5.3 rating with 8.7 million viewers. His half-time appearance was responsible for ESPN’s highest-rated regular season college football telecast in three years. Imagine if Eminem had pulled a stunt like that at one of Nintendo’s E3 conferences? Everyone from Entertainment Weekly to Pitchfork would be talking about Nintendo’s E3 conference.
In 2011, Chrysler was worried about the brand image of their company and products. Too many people were buying imported cars from Japan instead of buying vehicles made by American companies. The company wanted to change their brand image, and they believed Eminem was the person to help them accomplish this.
After airing a two minute Superbowl ad starring Eminem, “Chrysler 200” became the second most searched term on Google, and search engine traffic for Chrysler was 87% higher than in the weeks prior to the game. In 2012, the company discovered that Eminem’s advertisements had significantly improved the brand perception of Chrysler’s products. “This is about the highest point that Chrysler has been at for brand perception in several years,” said Ted Marzilli, global managing director of YouGov’s BrandIndex.
Chrysler said the Eminem ad helped increase the company’s net revenues by 35 percent ($13.1 million) compared to the same time period in 2010. Three months after the ad had aired on television, it had already received over 10.5 million hits on YouTube.
“It (ad) clearly had a fairly big impact also on market levels, with the Eminem Super Bowl ad being extremely well-viewed on YouTube,” Chrysler boss Richard Palmer explained.
You are probably wondering how Chrysler’s situation relates to Nintendo so allow me to explain.
One of Nintendo’s key problems is they struggle to communicate Wii U’s value to the 16-27 year old male demographic. The “Wii brand” has been stereotyped as a brand for soccer moms, grandmas, and children. Unfortunately, this stereotype transcends beyond just the “Wii” brand, and it’s now become a widespread perception of how the entire company is viewed. Nintendo has been unfairly stereotyped as a company that is only interested in making fitness games, mini-game compilations, and children games.
In June 2011, id Software told Eurogamer that they were cautious about Wii U because M-rated games don’t typically sell well to a Nintendo audience.
“The Nintendo market is a tough market for us to get into. A lot of first party games, a lot of licensed games – those are the ones that have done the best on that platform. I’d love it if we can get a hardcore FPS community going and build on it, but it’s tough,” id Software creative director Tim Willits explained.
The squeaky clean, family-friendly image hasn’t done much in improving Wii U’s sales with mothers and children. It has even driven away third party publishers like Take Two Interactive, Electronic Arts, Deep Silver, and Bethesda who don’t believe their violent games can sell to a Nintendo audience.
Deep Silver COO Geoff Mulligan explained to Game Informer,”With Wii U, the Nintendo market right now and their audience is not who we reach best. It’s not something we’re entertaining in the near or foreseeable future.”
Can Eminem repair Nintendo’s image with older gamers similar to how his ad boosted sales for Chrysler? It may sound incredibly wacky, but there’s statistical evidence to suggest the possibility.
Eminem Can Communicate Nintendo’s Appeal to the “Call of Duty” Generation of Gamers
In a November 2013 interview, Activision said they conducted research and found that Eminem was the number one artist among Call of Duty players. Due to this research, “Call of Duty: Ghosts” and Eminem’s album “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” were released on the same exact day. They ran a cross promotion where preordering “Call of Duty Ghosts” would give you a discount on Eminem’s album. GameStop created a video advertisement to promote this offer which you can watch here.
Activision’s chief marketing officer Tim Ellis says, “We know from our own research that our fans have a really strong affinity for Eminem [and] there’s a lot of overlap there. Aligning the two brands is something we think will continue to serve us well into the future.
“Activision have a rabid fan base and their own research shows that Eminem is the number one artist among ‘Call of Duty’ players in terms of affiliation,” said Steve Berman, vice chairman at Interscope.
Hate him or love him, Eminem has made a lot of money from teenagers and young adults for over 15 years. According to Huffington Post, he had the second highest selling album of 2013, and his popularity with young males is why Activision has worked with him to promote three different games: “Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2”, “DJ Hero”, and “Call of Duty: Ghosts”.
“They’ve [Activision] done actual studies about what their fans listen to, and time and time again Eminem comes up as a really big artist for them,” said Paul Rosenberg, Eminem’s manager.
If Activision’s research is accurate then Eminem’s association with “Call of Duty” makes him someone who could help Nintendo reach out to the young male demographic. Nintendo has M-rated games on their platforms, but their marketing has never been able to communicate this. We never see Nintendo boasting that Wii U has “Call of Duty”, “Assassin’s Creed”, “Watch_Dogs”, and “ZombiU”. Outside of gaming forums, most people don’t even know that “Call of Duty” exists on Wii or Wii U. Nintendo could really use an obnoxious loud mouth like Eminem to reach older gamers through the mainstream media more effectively.
Activision’s commercial for DJ Hero featuring Eminem and Jay-Z (Wii/Xbox 360/PS3)
For Activision, a superstar like Eminem helps Call of Duty reach publications and media outlets that don’t normally report or cover video games. His association with Call of Duty means the game will get mentioned in mainstream non-gaming publications like Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, People Magazine, XXL Magazine, etc. The music video “Survival” is one giant advertisement for “Call of Duty: Ghosts” that has generated almost 52 million views as of January 20th, 2014. “Survival” was regularly aired on music channels, providing some of the best advertising that Activision has ever received.
Activision CEO Tim Ellis told Adweek,”Without Marshall [Mathers, aka Eminem], we would never have gotten into Spin, Pitchfork, The Source.”
Didn’t Wii get covered by major non-gaming news outlets and publications? Isn’t that one of many reasons why Wii became successful? The only times we ever see Wii U mentioned by the mainstream media is when Nintendo fails to meet sales expectations.
Complex Magazine wrote about how Eminem is a genius marketer since he understands his audience better than most brands do. His audience is made up of young adult males — an audience that Nintendo has struggled to understand since the days of Goldeneye 007 and Killer Instinct.
Eminem’s Twitter (16.89 million followers) reaches more people than Call of Duty’s Twitter (1.7 million followers) and Infinity Ward’s Twitter (939,300+ followers) combined.
Wii U’s marketing has no personality for consumers to identify with. It lacks the charm and humor of the “Wii Would Like To Play” campaign. It lacks the edginess of the NES’s “Now You’re Playing With Power!” campaign. It lacks the loud, rebellious personality of the SNES’s “Play It Loud” campaign. It lacks the attitude of the Nintendo 64’s “Get N or Get Out” slogan. It lacks the sexual innuendos of the Nintendo DS’s, “Touching is good” campaign.
Currently, we’ve seen Nintendo hiring Disney stars to advertise Wii U, but this has reinforced the stereotype that Nintendo products are only for children. Nintendo used to hire controversial figures like Mike Tyson or the The Wu-Tang Clan to promote “Punchout” and Super Game Boy. These were celebrities that you wouldn’t normally expect to market Nintendo products, and it expanded their appeal to an urban audience. I think a controversial rapper like Eminem could do for Nintendo today what controversial boxer Mike Tyson did for NES in the early 90’s.
In 1993, Don Coyner, advertising manager of Nintendo of America, spoke to the New York Times about why his company had struggled that year against Sega. He says that Sega stereotyped Nintendo as a brand for children, and this forced Nintendo to create the “Play It Loud” campaign to fight that image.
“It came through pretty loud and clear that while we did a good job in our advertising explaining what our games were about, we didn’t do it in kid speak, but like an adult talking to a child,” said Coyner.
Over 21 years later and the Wii U is still facing the same image problems today that it was facing with the SNES. The current Wii U advertising talks down to kids like they are all babies, and the people who defend Nintendo’s Wii U marketing are adults who have forgotten what it was like to be a kid.
Satoru Iwata has said that 2014 will focus more on hardcore gamers instead of families and children. If they are serious about heading down that route, then maybe it’s time to ditch the squeaky clean Wii marketing for something louder and more aggressive.
It’s understandable that not everyone likes Eminem or rap music in general. But when the second best selling artist of 2013 is a Donkey Kong fan, maybe Nintendo should take the idea into consideration for “Tropical Freeze”. What’s the worst that could happen? People will actually discuss something about Wii U that isn’t related to poor sales?
Some older, edgier ads from the NES/SNES days: