Dr. Who and Rockstar: United in brand power

So, Matt Smith will vacate the role of the Doctor at Christmas, following four years of service in the long running sci-fi adventure series. Rather strangely, instead of this being announced at a reasonable hour, the BBC decided to put the news out at 10pm on Saturday night knowing full well that everybody would cover it anyway.

We could speculate all day as to why the BBC chose to do this, however I suspect it would have been down to wanting to announce the news as quickly as possible, instead of letting rumours circulate for weeks without dealing with it. Many companies choose to go down this route, and personally, I think the BBC did right by announcing it as quickly as possible.

Not many brands command the kind of feverish news coverage that followed the Matt Smith announcement, nor do they inspire the incessant rumours that have since followed regarding his successor, with many publications running articles about the front runners for the role, which is due to be filled as the Doctor regenerates during the Christmas special. Despite all the speculation, I think we can safely assume that the next Doctor is unlikely to be Jason Statham, 100/1 to win the role with some bookies.

Not many brands hold this kind of power, especially when you discard football stories like Sir Alex Ferguson leaving Manchester United and Jose Mourinho making his return to Chelsea.

During my time working in the games industry, only one company has held such power and repeatedly demonstrated their mastery of setting the news agenda. That company is Rockstar, publishers of the multimillion pound award winning series Grand Theft Auto (GTA). Rockstar is always able to guarantee a media buzz whenever it decides to utter the words ‘Grand Theft Auto’ on social media or casually drop them into interviews with the gaming press. When GTA 5 was announced, the world went bonkers, in a way that is very rarely seen amongst consumers.

The beauty of the Grant Theft Auto brand lies in its success at appealing to the mass market consumer audience, something most other games struggle to with, unless you’re a blockbuster title like Fifa or Call of Duty. Despite having had many iterations of the game, not releasing a yearly title has paid dividends to the GTA brand, with Call of Duty and Fifa churning out a game every year, resulting in many people suffering from brand fatigue.

When a game like Fifa 14 or ‘Call of Duty: Ghosts’ is announced, there never tends to be the kind of attention that is dedicated to Grand Theft Auto. GTA is a major launch and in a world where we expect to see churn. As a result, the PR strategy needs to be slightly different around the game’s release. The difference between Grand Theft Auto 5 and Grand Theft Auto 4 (released in 2008) will be huge, whereas Fifa 13 and Fifa 14 to the average consumer will look basically the same; no matter how much PR is behind them.

The strategy for Fifa and Call of Duty will have to focus on anything that is new; whereas the message from Rockstar for Grand Theft Auto will be able to take a macro approach, showing how far gaming capabilities have come in five years.

Brand power is an incredibly elusive beast to ensnare, with very few brands able to claim they hold such power. Doctor Who and Rockstar are just two examples of this, and require a radically different PR approach as a result.

This post was written by Tom.

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