Play with Celebrities, Brand Registry, and Customer Applications (Business Brilliance #12)

20 May 2019 | 14 Comments

Recently a few people shared some interesting examples with me recently that I wanted to share with you.

Customer Applications (Hunt a Killer)

Nick B shared this subscription mystery game with me in the comments of a recent article. When I went to their homepage to check it out, I was instantly intrigued by their method of accepting new customers.

As you can see in the graphic below, you must apply to be a customer using a form, and the company only accepts 200 new memberships every day (hence the countdown timer). This adds a sense of urgency to encourage a potential customer to act now in seeing if they qualify.

The application itself is particularly interesting to me, as it’s counterintuitive to the way I think about selling products. But I think it feels good to be selected–that’s part of the allure of the Sorting Hat, right? It also gives you the opportunity to set expectations and to filter customers who really aren’t going to like the product (one of the questions is, “How easily frightened are you?”

Also, I wonder if the company decided that 200 is the number of products they can comfortably assemble and ship every day, making it more than just a marketing tool.

Play with Celebrities (Tiny Towns)

Vitaliy F shared this really clever marketing tool with me recently. There’s a beautiful new game from AEG called Tiny Towns (which I got to play at Geekway a few days ago), and one of the modes of play is akin to roll-and-write games in that your decisions don’t impact any other player.

So AEG reached out to a bunch of different gaming celebrities and asked them to play a game of Tiny Towns in that mode on camera. As a result, if I have a copy of Tiny Towns, I can “play” against these people simply by having a copy of the game and watching any of these videos.

I absolutely love this, and I’m not even a solo gamer. I just like the idea that I could “compete” against the familiar faces I’ve seen on YouTube so many times. If Stonemaier ever publishes a multiplayer solitaire game (or mode of a game), I will absolutely use this brilliant marketing method.

Amazon Brand Registry

While Stonemaier Games hasn’t sold to or through Amazon in years, all of our products are on Amazon due to a distributor partner and hundreds of third-party vendors who buy from hobby game distributors. One thing I’ve realized over the years is that Amazon treats all sellers equally (even the publisher), meaning that a random vendor can incorrectly enter information about your product, and Amazon will still make the change.

That’s why I think it’s worth pursuing an Amazon Brand Registry if anyone is selling your products on Amazon. It helps you ensure that you have more control than vendors when it comes to the way your product is presented. This isn’t just about Amazon, as customers may be referencing the information on Amazon before buying your product locally, so it’s really important that the information on Amazon is correct.

Becoming a registered brand on Amazon requires a few steps and offers more benefits than I’m describing here. Fortunately, Zachary Strebeck outlines the process in detail in this article.


What do you think about these techniques? Have you seen other examples of customer applications or ways to “play” with celebrities?

This series features innovative strategies from non-Kickstarter, non-tabletop game businesses as they might apply to creators and entrepreneurs.

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14 Comments on “Play with Celebrities, Brand Registry, and Customer Applications (Business Brilliance #12)

  1. That brings up something I’ve been curious about. Since Kickstarter allows you to have a limited quantity for a specific reward, could you have just that single reward and enforce that scarcity on Kickstarter? Has anyone ever done that?

    1. Definitely, that’s possible. Many creators do that for limited rewards, and some do it for all rewards. A notable one that comes to mind is a project Seth Godin ran a few years ago.

  2. That hunt a killer’s marketing is just a gimmick. I doubt there is a real limit. There’s no real application, it’s only a way of getting you to give them your e-mail.

    I looked into this a year or so ago. When I “applied” there were 76 out of 200 left. They also just happened to have a Flash Sale going on, that day only, and I could save 25%.

    I didn’t join. Reviews elsewhere were not good. It was hard to cancel, and each month was not a complete mystery… you needed the whole 6 months – so that’s $180 for a mystery.

    I “filled out” an application just now. It doesn’t matter what your answers are (even if you do the worst ones – that you don’t like detective stuff, you are easily scared, that if you can’t figure something out you just quit), you’re approved. They just want your e-mail.

    And either I have perfect timing or something, but it just happened that today, a year or so later, when I “applied” there is also 76/200 applications left for the day, and they are also having another 1 day only Flash Sale for 25% off.

    It’s nothing but a gimmick.

    1. Donnie: I appreciate you sharing that, though I’d rather focus on the essence of the idea than on bashing the current implementation. If it was more than a “gimmick,” do you think you would enjoy the “application” method for certain products?

      1. I still wouldn’t see a reason for an application process for most products. I’ll be honest, if I had to fill out an application to purchase something, unless there was some reason why I needed that exact thing from that exact company, I’d probably just go purchase similar from someone else with no hassle.

        Now perhaps if it was asking questions to determine what you would like best, that would be different. I’ve seen that with foot insoles – the company makes a variety of them, and you begin by selecting what kind of shoes you wear the most, then if the shoes have removable or permanent soles, then where your pain is the most, and it comes up with 1 or 2 products that it recommends based on your answers.

        A similar thing could be done for games… Do you like ____ or ____? Then do you like ____ or _____? Do things like _____ bother you? How much do you like_____? etc., and then use that info to suggest games that they would probably like based on their answers.

        But Huntakiller has no application. As I said, it doesn’t matter your answers, you’re qualified. You mentioned how It’s sole purpose is to get your e-mail so that they can send you e-mails later advertising their product. You said that one of the purposes was “to filter customers who really aren’t going to like the product (one of the questions is, “How easily frightened are you?”)” Yet if you answer Nerves of Steel or Scaredy Cat, your approved. The questions aren’t designed to filter anyone out.

        Also, interestingly, both yesterday AND today I filled out an “application” again. How odd that both yesterday (in the evening) and today (in the morning) “ONLY 76 MEMBERSHIPS REMAIN TODAY”, and they are also having a 1 day flash sale, too.

        If you’re going to have an application process, it’s got to be genuine, and not a scam.

        Jamey, have you filled out the “application”? Fill it out several times, with different answers. The result is all the same. And when you did, did you also find that there were only 76 memberships remaining?

        I would hope that Stonemaier would never operate like this. If a company has to operate this way to get people to buy its products, then I would wonder about the quality of its products.

        1. I filled out most of an application, but I didn’t complete it. It’s not a strategy that’s in line with Stonemaier’s business practices, but I thought it was interesting to share in case it gives anyone some ideas. I like that different companies use different strategies.

          1. Go ahead and complete one. You don’t need to give a real e-mail address. You’ll see what I mean.

            I also like different companies to use different strategies. Like recently, AEG sold one of their games for $25 shipped, because they realized they had released it at a bad time (right before the Christmas rush) and even though it was a good game, it didn’t get much attention. So they sold it cheaply, for a time, to drum up interest. That’s a valid strategy.

            But any strategy that is based on deceiving your customers, that’s a very poor strategy. One summer between college I worked for two weeks for a vacuum sales company. That’s how they operated, and I quit.

            I apologize for keep bringing this up but I really just don’t understand how you could think what huntakiller does is a valid business strategy. It’s nothing but deceiving their customer into thinking they only have a limited opportunity to buy something, that there are only so many spots left for the day when that simply is not true.

          2. “But any strategy that is based on deceiving your customers, that’s a very poor strategy.”

            I absolutely agree, Donnie. That isn’t a practice I support.

  3. I’m not making any accusations against SM, but using a Supplier/Partner relationship is one way to obfuscate the fact that a company indirectly IS selling through Amazon.

    The industry has witnessed the rise of LGS’s setting up these type of shadow operations to get around MAP and other business restrictions.

    In my professional experiences, a Supplier/Partner relationship is frequently used to provide the one or both partners a means of culpability and cover for avoiding senestive economic or public relations entanglements.

    1. Tim: I see what you’re saying, but I think there’s a clear distinction between the two. If I’m selling a $100 product directly to any retailer, I’m making $50. If I’m selling a product to a distributor for them to sell to a retailer, I’m making $40 instead (and they’re maintaining the relationships with the retailers, coordinating shipments, etc).

      1. Jamey: From what I have read on various posts, it sounds like other than your direct sales, all your sales are through distributors, not direct to retail LGS either.

        Other than the failed MAP attempt, and the recent false information LGS, it sounds like you don’t direct who the distributors sell to either.

  4. I’ve seen the “scarcity” thing pushed as a great marketing tactic in the Internet marketing circles (selling courses and “inner circle”-type memberships). If you have actual scarcity (inability to assemble an unlimited number), then I think that it can work well for you!

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