Dreams within: why storytelling was key to the launch of Xbox Series X|S
Edelman UK & Ireland and Unit 9 won ‘Innovative Experience of the Year’ at The Drum Awards for Experience with its work for Xbox. The launch of the Xbox Series X|S, and the accompanying Game Pass offering from Microsoft, was the brand’s most important event in seven years. Here, the team behind this winning entry explains how it executed the successful strategy.
After a seven-year silence in the region, Xbox was finally ready to launch its powerful Xbox Series X|S and a package of games with it. Along with this, its parent company, Microsoft, was launching Game Pass - a subscription service that ties together console and PC offerings with added mobile game streaming capability. This service brought a new consumer-friendly approach, with a low price point.
Xbox tasked Assembly with delivering the Xbox Series X|S launch, which would involve communicating the accessibility, innovation and excitement that the console, games, subscription service and mobile streaming would bring. A complicated ask, especially considering Xbox’s diminished status in market.
On top of this, traditionally successful methods of launching, in particular large-scale live events and product demos, for the media and gamers alike, were understandably out of the question in 2020.
That being said, the demand for gaming has massively increased in the global lockdown, and with new audiences came uncertainty and opportunity in equal measure. How could Xbox and parent company Microsoft re-establish themselves cut through and show themselves as market leaders in this unpredictable lockdown market?
Xbox’s ask boiled down to two key objectives:
Execute a unique, multi-faceted product launch and communications strategy that would deviate from the norm and make Xbox stand out to new audiences and the media.
Engage and excite a core audience with a spectacular launch moment, with the normal rule book thrown out the window.
With a wealth of experience in the games sector, we knew that a long-term approach was needed in order to land the best of feature stories across multiple audiences. Businesses, consumers, tech media and enthusiast gamers, as well as key content creators, wouldn’t respond well to one off press releases. It was vital that we educated consumers gradually about the Xbox Series X|S key differentiators and built relationships.
From prior experience we also knew that analysts, regularly called in at launch to provide points of view across a variety of media outlets, would be relied upon heavily too, so educating them even ahead of everyone else and incorporating them into our core strategy was a must.
We also knew that the best way of communicating the strength of games products was by letting users experience them - with this not being an option, we needed an impressive platform to showcase the key games content and power and USPs of the Xbox Series X. From this platform, we would use advocates and content creators to engage a core audience remotely, allowing them to evangelize it to a broader consumer base on our behalf.
Introducing, ‘Dreams Within’ – an audio-visual showstopper installation, 14ft high and featuring four 4K projectors replicating the iconic design of the console, that could showcase the console's power from a distance. This fell within the global Xbox Series X tagline of ‘Power Your Dreams’ and would be the centerpiece for a livestream that drew upon our extensive experience working with owned Xbox content channel Xbox On, which delivers regular streams that connect with the core audience.
Our first task was to lay the groundwork for Xbox’s brand narrative, with a targeted advocacy and media strategy. In particular:
- Educating analysts and building relationships with the media was a must. This would involve buy-In from senior execs globally for off-the-record briefings, as well as full interviews at launch.
- Media training for the Xbox’s UK market leadership would be vital in order to carry this messaging at launch.
The ‘Dreams Within’ activation
The Dreams Within installation would demand many elements of planning, including the buy-in of our closest third-party partners, publishing the games that would feature in the livestream and that would connect most with consumers, and choices made as to how to artistically showcase the product's USPs in the most eye catching and beautifully crafted way, all in absence of consumer testing within the physical installation itself.
Stage 1: The Briefings
We arranged background briefings with the Xbox CFO, who would then educate analysts and business media. This provided a foundation on which they could base in-depth stories, ensuring they would deliver every key news beat of the campaign.
Consumer media outlets then received briefings from other relevant Xbox execs, having trained up local Xbox leadership to deliver our key messages. Each outlet was then engaged with an on-the-record Interview with a relevant executive at launch to land depth stories across our key media targets. These included the BBC, The Economist, The Guardian, Wired, Eurogamer, GamesRadar, Edge Magazine and Press Association.
Stage 2: Social Strategy and Partnerships
Working in partnership with both Twitch, taking over its homepage the day of the stream, and Twitter, across three custom media buys including a dedicated auto-response and speed-test, we guaranteed share of voice and engagement from gamers across the UK. The livestream was teased ahead of time on social channels, with a media alert announcing it three days before to a wide spread of media. Images and video from the event were sold into media on the day of launch.
Stage 3: The Livestream
We delivered a six-hour livestream, broadcast from the Xbox On Twitch channel, that counted down to the launch of the Xbox Series X|S. This livestream then culminated in the visual and aural show in and around the Dreams Within Installation.
We armed the 14ft high monolith with four 4K projectors and a specially recorded binaural soundtrack and situated it on the roof of One New Change with St Pauls Cathedral in the background, creating a spellbinding, state-of-the-art digital scene that transformed the London skyline into a truly magnificent spectacle.
We executed the biggest Xbox launch on record, with Xbox Series X|S selling out in minutes, and a record level of engagement at launch.
- 20M+ views of livestream
- 1M+ interactions on ‘Dreams Within’ content across social platforms
- #DreamsWithin trended on Twitter in the UK
- 26 earned media articles about or containing ‘Dreams Within’ content, with a combined reach of 282m
- 18 pieces of interview-driven content at launch
This campaign was a winner at The Drum Awards for Experience. To find out more, including which competitions are currently open for entry, visit The Drum Awards website.
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