Nintendo: a case-study in brand management
Senior Brand Expert
Nintendo, a company that started by producing card games, has grown to become one of the most well-known and strongest brands in the gaming industry. I was curious how Nintendo became so successful, and how they have managed to maintain that success for over a century. And, most importantly: What are the lessons that we all can learn from this powerful brand?
Today, Nintendo manages multiple strong sub-brands, ranging from the Pokémon to Super Mario. Super Mario is an especially good example of long-term brand asset management: the character was first introduced in 1985, and is still prominent in the market today. Worldwide, Nintendo has sold more than 700 million Mario games.
Experience the brand
This year Nintendo planned to open a real-life Super Mario real-life theme park in Japan, in cooperation with Universal Studios. Unfortunately, these plans have been postponed due to COVID-19. But fan interest is still high in for Nintendo’s augmented reality offering. Once the park is up and running, they will be able to travel in real-life through Mario’s iconic green tubes, collecting coins and playing against other visitors. You’re literally in the videogame - how fun is that!
Similar theme park haves been planned for California and Florida, following the opening of the Japanese Mario park. Whereas Disney sells a theme park as a world “to dream away,” Nintendo lets the visitors interact with the brand and really experience it. If the Mario experience is wonderful, which I have no doubt it will be, Nintendo will set a new trend: that of real-life, interactive videogame theme parks. Without a doubt, Pokémon and Zelda theme parks would quickly follow.
What other brands can learn from Nintendo
Only a few companies, of course, are capable of building a theme park around their brand assets. Nonetheless, in terms of brand growth, there is much that we can all learn from Nintendo.
For starters: Brand preference is important. You have to make sure that your brand is top of mind for consumers – that your brand is, in other words, the first brand to pop up alongside a certain need. You then need to then make sure that the memories of positive brand interactions are there to stay, in the short and long term. How can you achieve this?
Build brand assets and stay loyal to them
At Kantar, we recommend using at least seven brand assets in your campaigns: assets like slogans, color usage, characters, music, and more. Do you already have successful brand assets? If so, don’t modify them - cherish them!
Nintendo has done this extremely well by building a whole family of characters (from Mario and Luigi, to Zelda and Donkey Kong) that have been around for generations. I played Nintendo with these figures myself, and my now children do, too. Who doesn't know Mario's tune? When you hear Mario's signature game music, you immediately think of Nintendo, and the sound cue of Mario passing through the green tube into another world is rightfully iconic.
Select the right channels with the right content.
For your brand, think carefully about which mediums you pair with your content. And stay consistent in this!
Nintendo doesn't just stick to video games. It also focuses on TV series, movies, and merchandise. Across the board, the associations that people have with Mario are playful, fun, and adventurous – and an amusement park fits perfectly with that.
Keep innovating and appeal to new target groups
Nintendo also knows how to innovate – a process it uses exceedingly well to not only delight existing users, but also to appeal to new target groups, both young and old.
Nintendo’s motion-sensing Wii console in 2006, for example, appealed to people who normally never play computer games. It turned the world of gaming upside down for the first time in years. By moving the wireless controller, the player could make an avatar on the screen do the same. Playing video games thus became a physical activity – a development that allowed a new category of fitness games to enter the market.
Similarly, the launch of the Nintendo Switch in 2017 made it easy to "switch" from playing on your TV at home to playing on the go. This functionality breakthrough has given rise to a new crop of brand assets – but just as importantly for Nintendo, it has also given a huge boost to the sales of Mario, Zelda, and Pokémon games.