The Switch Has Had Nintendo’s Best Marketing Campaign In Years – Forbes
At this point it’s pretty clear that I’m a fairly staunch skeptic of the Switch’s longterm prospects, as I believe that Nintendo will run into trouble trying to compete in the handheld and console spaces with a system trying to juggle both markets.
However, there’s one aspect of the Switch I have to praise unequivocally. The branding and marketing of the Switch has been Nintendo’s best, most effective marketing campaign in ages.
Yes, I’m talking about specific ads, like a recent, much-shared German spot for the Switch which opens with a player using the handheld version of the system on the toilet, but it’s more than that.
The Switch has been a branding home run from the start. At long last, Nintendo finally chose a name for their system that made sense, not both as a word people actually understood, but one that demonstrates the core functionality of the system.
The Wii was never a good name, despite the sales of that console. And a huge problem for the Wii U was continuing on that legacy in a way that was mostly confusing, as most “regular” consumers (ie. not gaming news enthusiasts) didn’t have any idea it was an entirely new console. I talked to people years after the release of the Wii U who still thought it was just a new controller for the Wii.
The Switch name has allowed Nintendo to unshackle itself from A) a stupid name B) one that now comes with baggage thanks to the Wi U. And as an added bonus, in a single word it explains what the system does. You can Switch the system from handheld to console mode. That is the primary function, and it’s reflected in the name itself.
Using the Switch name as a kicking off point, the rest of the campaign has been pretty brilliant. In all Switch videos, there’s the use of that “snap” sound (you just heard it in your head) that’s instantly iconic, and now has trained you to know a Switch ad is coming. Hell, the Switch is such a catchy, memorable name, when I’m writing the word “switch” in normal writing now, I’m automatically capitalizing it before having to go back and fix it. It really has buried itself in my brain.
The content of the commercials/demo videos themselves have been top notch as well. The “debut” of the console was a clear, concise video showing off exactly how the Switch can be used in both console and handheld mode, with or without Joy-Con separation. The console is still a bit complicated because of the different Joy-Con configurations, but for the most part, I think Nintendo has done a great job instructing potential buyers on its many forms.
This is in contrast to the Wii U, where Nintendo was never able to explain what exactly a second-screen was good for because frankly, it barely even used it that much. Obvious uses of the gamepad from a D&D type game to a new Pokémon Snap were never ever made, and the screen was mostly a glorified menu at best. Hell, even the Wii, outside of Wii Sports, had trouble explaining why Wiimotes were worth using in most “normal” games that would always feature some useless “waggle” segment to make sure the motion controls were included.
The Switch is doing none of that. Everything it can do, makes sense, whether it’s playing the system at home, playing it like a PSP, or playing multiplayer with the mini Joy-Cons. You can see it onscreen and imagine doing it yourself. There have been a number of these types of videos now, most recently the toilet one, and though some of them may be goofy, it’s a real look at the valuable functionality of a portable console.
My only complaint about the Switch marketing campaign is the timetable. I still think it was a bizarre decision to tell the public nothing at all for a year and a half, letting leaks about the system trickle out in droves. Then there was that one video in October, then again, nothing until mid-January, which was revealed to be just a month and a half until launch. Because this campaign is such a good one, it seems weird to smash it into the most hurried promotion timetable I’ve ever seen for a product like this.
For all my skepticism, I think that between proper marketing and Zelda at launch, the Switch will indeed have a strong start. Stronger than the Wii U, in any case. What happens in the months and years after that is anyone’s guess, but this time, at least Nintendo is telling their console’s story correctly.