Beatles Rock Band: an America's Hottest Brands Case Study

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Beatles 'Rock Band'
All they needed was a marketing plan. And for the launch of the Beatles "Rock Band" video game Nov. 9, the plan was as coordinated and multi-faceted as the legendary band itself.

A massive PR campaign, cinema trailer teaser, multiple digital advertising efforts, social media, day-and-date co-launch with the first-ever Beatles digital album releases, and a TV launch spot with real images of the Fab Four musicians built both anticipation and sales, resulting in a No. 1 music game spot for its first full month of sales in September.

Paul DeGooyer, senior VP-electronic games and music, MTV Networks Music Group, said the key to the video game's success has been the tight coordination with the Beatles and their heirs, to maintain a high level of authenticity.

"We've been very respectful of the Beatles and very respectful of the product, and everything else led from that respect for the music," Mr. DeGooyer said.

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, in fact, were so impressed by MTV and its game division Harmonix's work on the game that both of the surviving Beatles enhanced the public relations greatly with atypical enthusiasm for media interviews. Both men, as well as Beatles widows Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono, and producer Giles Martin (son of "Fifth Beatle" George Martin), were interviewed for a New York Times Magazine cover story in August that MTV execs describe as a "watershed" PR moment for the game. Cover stories for the game on Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard and others followed.

Anticipation played a key role in the marketing as well. The Beatles game was officially unveiled at the seminal E3 gaming show in June, during the first 10 minutes of Microsoft's traditional convention-opener conference, with a surprise appearance by the four Beatles shareholders. A two-minute cinematic trailer launched there, with animated game visuals of the Beatles playing 10 songs spanning their career, and became a widely praised, viewed and passed-around video.

Paul DeGooyer
Paul DeGooyer, senior VP-electronic games and music, MTV Networks Music Group
The estimated $20 million ad campaign also included a popular TV spot that debuted the week before the game, which featured the original Beatles images mixed into a crowded Abbey Road street scene created by MTV Networks with the help of RDA International.

Phase two of marketing for "The Beatles: Rock Band" will continue through the important holiday season, with more digital download content and promotions. The first downloadable song, "All You Need Is Love," with much of its cost donated to the charity Doctors Without Borders, was the fastest-selling "Rock Band" downloadable song to date. "Abbey Road" followed as a full album top-seller, with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "Rubber Soul" planned for this year.

Mr. DeGooyer said, "The decision was made early on, if the music is true to the band, it will do what it's meant to do."

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