News & Views

Interview / The Fanchise Model

by Contagious I/O

This Insight & Strategy interview originally appeared in full on Contagious I/O, our intelligence tool featuring the most creative and effective ideas in marketing from around the world. Below is an edited and condensed version. 

To increase sales on its Design Lab website, which sells customisable controllers, Xbox gave gamers ownership of the designs they created. As part of The Fanchise Model campaign, created with McCann London, the Microsoft-owned brand offered gamers a cut each time someone bought one of their customised controllers.

The designs were then promoted through print and outdoor ads, as well as in store. McCann reports that the campaign led to a 350% sales increase, it also picked up the Grand Prix in Creative eCommerce at the 2018 Cannes Lions Festival.

Contagious caught up with McCann London creative directors Sanjiv Mistry and Jamie Mietz to find out more about how this campaign encouraged gamers to buy customised controllers, even if they were more expensive.

What was the business objective behind the campaign?

Mietz: They basically had three main objectives. The first was to create awareness of the Design Lab. The second was that they wanted to create engagement with the platform and the third, and the most crucial one, was to grow sales. The issue with the Design Lab controller is that it actually costs quite a bit more, almost a third more than a normal controller, but you’re paying extra for almost the same thing. You’ve already got a functional controller.

Mistry: You’re paying the extra for the cosmetics.

Mietz: So the clients’ primary ask of us was: ‘How do we increase sales?’ Increasing awareness was part of it and getting people to play around with the site was part of it. But the real question was: ‘How do we get people to buy more controllers when controllers are a bit more expensive?’


How did you come up with the idea?

Mistry: We saw it as a couple of steps further than what the Design Lab was already doing. Think of the journey of buying a normal bog standard controller and then you get the Design Lab controller. Already you’ve infused it with a bit more personalisation and humanity. What if we could take that approach to the nth degree? What’s actually happening here is that the gamers, when they’re engaging with the platform and designing a controller, they’re actually acting like designers. So what if we start treating them like actual designers? What are the benefits that real designers get? And that’s where we hit upon the Fanchise Model, where people can essentially get a stake in what they’ve made.

Mietz: The idea of treating them like professional designers became our north star. It pushed the content for everything around the campaign, even the art direction, where we looked at how luxury magazines treat designer watches or shoes. We took art direction cues from high design concepts, like a Prada store.

The artwork in the print and outdoor ads definitely had more of a design focus than a typical Xbox ad

Mietz: That was by design. It was part of the strategy to hero the audience as designers.

Mistry: It was a way for us to give back to those fans who were already engaging with the platform. You’re putting all this thought and all this effort in creating this for us as a brand, this is a way for us to give back to you. And we give back in two ways. One is a stake in your controller, you can earn money through sales. The second is more of a psychological boost. They get treated like designers and they get their designs heroed in our outdoor and print ads in a way that you would expect luxury goods to be treated.

Mietz: Already giving people ownership of a design is something that they could feel proud of but then to see some communication with you design heroed, with your name on it, just takes it to another level. We found the most interesting designs, we interviewed these people, we asked them for the inspiration behind these designs and we created bespoke pieces of art for the communication.


So the main reason they weren’t buying the controllers was cost, right?

Mistry: The primary barrier was cost. The controllers were more expensive but the functionality wasn’t any different. So we had to get people to get over the cost. This solution reinvented the buyer-seller dynamic, because they thought: ‘I’m not a purchaser anymore, I’m an investor, so it’s worth the extra cost now.’

Mietz: The sales increased by about 350%.

Did you do any research ahead of the campaign?

Mistry: We were looking into our millennial audience and looking at their behaviour and we noticed that something like 70% of gamers tend to wait for the price of these sorts of electronics, like game consoles, to come down before buying them. So we know that cost plays into their mentality. We also discovered a study that found that millennials, as a consequence, will do an extra job on the side and earn money to fund these sorts of habits like gaming.

Mietz: We had a hunch that people were going to run with the campaign and put some thought into it because the more they sold, the more they would make, but we didn’t realise the lengths that people would go to. They really were entrepreneurial. They would look at things that were topical at that time [to inspire their design] so they would become bigger sellers. 


Was it evident that people were strategising to make more money?

Mietz: Absolutely. We did some interviews afterwards and we had some people that were just making things for money. One of the examples we used in the case study was the Minions. It was a huge movie, number three at the box office, so they knew that if they created a Minions controller people would buy it.

How did you encourage the designers to do their own marketing of their designs?

Mistry: Once you designed and claimed the controller as your own, as a participant, you were given a piece of artwork of your controller that you could then share and create your own ads with. Particularly on social media, we saw a lot of people trying to flog the designs to their friends and family.

Within the site there was messaging to encourage the designers to share their controllers far and wide. But it was in their best interest. The more they spread the word in their own communities or communities likely to be interested in their design, the more likely they were to personally benefit. Some people were very active in the selling.

For the full story, including the challenges of this campaign and how other brands could adapt this strategy, log in to Contagious I/O. If you don't have an account, you can find out more here.