Brand Essence Insights from the Assassin’s Creed Movie Trailer

Game developers have no shortage of good ideas.  If anything, this is the most abundant resource available to you.  But this can be a problem at times – when you’re putting together your marketing campaign, how do you narrow down those ideas into a succinct campaign?.

A great approach to take, is to look at the essence of your brand – the core concepts that resonate with your customers.  For a new IP, that can be tough to define (as what you think the essence is can differ to how players eventually perceive it – although good marketing can help define the narrative and manage expectations on this front), but if you’re lucky enough to work with existing IP, there will be things that stand out.

This week’s release of the Assassin’s Creed movie trailer is a great example of this in action.  Check it out if you haven’t already seen it:

If we look at some of the components that make up the trailer, we can see they tick a lot boxes for people that are familiar with the franchise.  These components are the essence of the brand and it’s likely that these would have been identified before the trailer (and indeed, the movie) was created.

EDIT (20/5/16) – perhaps my previous assumption wasn’t quite correct.  Eurogamer reported that the movie will take place largely in modern day, which is a shift from the game.  Potentially this could be to lay the foundation for future movies and appeal to a wider audience, but it’s a bold move considering the historical focus of the games.

The Animus

A pivotal plot device, this is introduced early in the trailer, which goes on to explain what it is.  While this isn’t entirely necessary (the movie is aimed at fans of the franchise), it does help reassure fans that the movie “gets” the franchise, which is often a worry for game to film crossovers.

In the game, The Animus sets the scene and immerses the player in the fictional world with ease.  It makes sense it would perform this function in their marketing efforts too.

The Eagle

Found throughout the game, ranging from literal representations, audio, logos and game mechanics, this is really important.  It’s never front and centre of any part of the game, but it’s always there in some shape or form – the eagle’s cry in particular is strongly associated with the franchise.

The Cityscape

The trailer features several sweeping shots of the city, which is hugely important.  The Assassin’s Creed games are all beautiful, so it’s important that the movie is as well – this gives fans a brief glimpse of what to expect.

The Action

Slick fighting, vibrant streets and rooftop action.  It’s very Assassin’s Creed, but with a movie veneer!  It’s crisp and sexy; really capturing the visceral feel of the game.

The Leap

Admit it.  The first time (and many other times) you played Assassin’s Creed, you were in awe of the fact that you could leap off tall buildings into a cart of hay.  It’s a great feeling and one of the key characteristics of the game.  A fantastic move to end off the trailer with this moment!

You can see how, by defining these components at the outset, the trailer can naturally evolve from this framework.  Designers follow this approach by creating “design pillars” and Producers also use this approach by creating “epics” to plan with.  It makes sense that you can do the same for marketing.

  • Tip – different teams may refer to this approach in different ways, but it’s essentially the same.  Having those core values defined at the outset of a project can help you really focus ideas ideas for marketing along the way.

And if you’re in any doubt about what an impact this can really have, tell me this didn’t get you right in the feels…

  • Bonus Tip – marketing isn’t always about revealing everything about your game – sometimes the best approach is to let your players discover great things naturally.  When the first Jurassic Park movie was being promoted, they famously didn’t show any footage of the dinosaurs.  Part of their brand essence was the sense of awe people experienced when they saw them for the first time in the movie (along with the characters).  Under-promise and over-deliver is often the best approach, but you need to balance off how much to reveal (to entice people to buy) versus how much to hold back (so players can enjoy the final experience).  As anyone who has designed a roguelike will know…balancing often ain’t easy!

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