Mobile gaming apps are a fast-moving space and pressure is high, particularly if your game harnesses blockbuster IP, to make sure your soft launch strategy covers the bases to be a massive hit from the get-go. Step-by-step, we learn how to succeed in the soft launch stage of your app and benefit from the vast experience of from Rose Agozzino, Senior Marketing Specialist at Ludia, the Montreal- based company that creates and distributes cross-platform interactive entertainment with mass consumer appeal. From the metrics to monitor to the images to feature to the pitfalls to watch, Rose, a Mobile Hero recognized for her app marketing expertise, shares her pick of growth hacks to help you rocket results in the soft launch. Rose also reflects on the traits and talents app marketers must cultivate to reach their stretch goals in 2019.
Hello and welcome to Mobile Presence. I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz, with Mobile Groove, where I plan, produce and promote content that allows my clients to reach performance goals and scale growth. And of course growth is what it’s all about here at Mobile Presence because this is where we talk about how you can grow your app, how you can grow your audience, how you can grow engagement but it’s also where we get the inside track on how you can grow your UA because we’re talking to UA experts, mobile marketing app experts and this is their daily job and we’re lucky because they share it with us in this mini-series inside of Mobile Presence and they are also amazing at it as well because they have achieved success that has earned them the title of Mobile Hero as chosen by Liftoff, a full-service mobile marketing and retargeting platform.
So we talk about growth but of course, it’s all about growing the right way in the right stage of your app lifecycle, a big, big part of that is the soft launch – get it wrong, and you won’t be a commercial success. So we’re going to talk about soft launch, we’re going to talk about what you need to grow your app and we’re going to do both of these with Rose Agozzino, she is Senior Marketing Specialist at Ludia. Rose, welcome to the show.
Hi, welcome, thank you, Peggy.
So it’s great to have you here and I talked about soft launch, I mean, that is the stage, if you can – it’s sort of like New York, New York, right? You make it there, you make it anywhere, something like that. But I want to talk about you first, tell me a bit about yourself and let’s start off with Ludia because it’s a well-known company, for people who know mobile gaming and great titles, great IP, so tell me about Ludia first.
Yes, so Ludia is based on Montreal, Canada, which is actually one of the hubs across North America for all mobile gaming. We have been around now for over eleven years, we’re coming into our twelfth and we started with licenses back on console in 2007. And we slowly made the transition somewhere in the 5-year mark to go purely to mobile only. So we have titles available on tablets and phones across the world, and you might know us really well for our titles like “Jurassic World Alive”, “Family Feud” and our work with Dragons, Dreamworks’ “How to Train Your Dragons”.
And Dragons is really popular and, you know, without spilling it, you have a great launch coming up officially, am I correct?
Yes, we do. I can’t tell you the date just yet but it’ll be very, very soon.
Well, I’ll be waiting for it, I know my nephew will be as well, for that matter. But you, Rose, you’re in this space, it’s an exciting space for marketers, it’s also challenging and it’s also a place where you sort of need a lot of different skills, it helps to have an understanding of data, obviously, it’s really good to have an understanding of marketing but also people. What’s your background?
My background is actually very diverse, I fell into the mobile environment by accident. I was actually working – I’ve worked in payment processing, I’ve worked in face to face retail, I have a very big love for music and everything that the music industry takes and I really, really like pop culture and social media and everything it entails as well. So I kind of fell into this job at first, I began by doing some data entry and working with the product teams to sort of really highlight and focus their descriptions that will be shown on the app stores across the world and little by little, I kept tweaking different formulas, tweaking some of the push notifications and I grew my what was once more of a data entry position into this marketing driven, data-driven position that I’m in now doing user acquisition, helping out with product descriptions and even more.
It sounds though like at some level it’s really what you need to have these days because it’s an understanding of what’s popular in social culture, understanding how to interact with people because you’ve had to do it in so many ways and across so many different channels. Is that what the skillset is now in mobile marketing? Because a lot of people say “This is great, UA people are in great demand, it’s a hot area, it’s exciting” but what do you need to really break in? What do you think that is or how might that have changed?
I think you need to be adaptable, it’s a very, very quick moving industry. There’s new technologies coming out every day, you’ve got networks popping up left and right and each network will have this new feature set that they’re going to want to roll out and they’ll want to get you into it. So, you do have to be adaptable, you do have to be flexible and it’s not so much a jack of all trades kind of experience, you really do need to know and trust your data points, your stats, your experiences but having a little bit more of a varied background is definitely, I think it’s definitely a plus in this industry.
We talked about it and we have this series, this is now, I believe, the third year of the series actually – super popular – talking to Mobile Heroes because what you have done has earned you that title. You have done something, you’re accomplished, you’re seasoned, you know your stuff. What do you think is your biggest personal accomplishment, what do you think maybe earned you the title “Mobile Hero”?
That’s a little tricky and I’ve been thinking about it. I think the fact that I’ve sort of – I’ve been at Ludia now for close to six years and so I’ve been able to not just see the evolution in the industry but actually be a part of it as well and so as the tools came out and as the new feature sets came out, I’ve been able to use them and provide feedback on them, you know, figure out the best way to utilize some of these tools and then bringing it back and kind of sort of hacking it in my own way to make it work the best way for myself, I think, and then being able to share it as well with other people at the company and other people at different speaking events – I think that might be one of my biggest accomplishments.
I have to say, full disclosure, I saw you at Mobile Spree and I’ve been listening when you speak and I can only say the same thing – you have a way of just presenting it that it’s straightforward, very expert but at the same way engaging and I think that’s what’s really important. And you have shared that in many ways including a recent blog post that you’re telling us, you know, and sharing it, I mean you even name names which is awesome – tips and tools to get it right in the soft launch stage. Just wondering at a high level, you know, you’re doing that obviously with your own game – maybe you could give me an idea or the listeners, rather, soft launch is the part where you make it or you break it but what for you decides commercial success in that stage?
I mean, commercial success, so we work essentially, we work a lot with licenses to there are already a lot of statistics and benchmarks that we set even within the pre-production that for us just a financial success are going to be hitting or definitely surpassing these benchmarks that have been previously set.
Personal success is when I’m able to hear people on the street talk about the titles which means that they’re seeing the featuring that we’re trying to push for, they’re seeing our social pages. I actually had a teacher of mine last year tell me that he was at a party and his friend was talking about our AR title “Jurassic World Alive” and he emailed me and was like “This is so funny, it’s coming full circle”.
So time I hear, for me, anytime I hear someone who I’m not directly involved with come back about our titles, I think that’s always a really, really good success.
I mean, they are successful titles, very well known. Is there, at a high level, is there something that when you’re working with amazing IP, you know, licenses, titles that we understand not just games that you’ve developed elsewhere – does that change something about the process for soft launch or where does it maybe add some pressure, maybe some flexibility? What does that bring to the table?
It definitely adds a little bit of pressure because often times when we’re releasing these titles, we do have hard deadlines, often times in promotion or in tandem with a new theatrical release or a TV release so we want to make sure to capitalize on all the buzz as it’s happening. So often times there is a little bit of pressure when we do have these deadlines but we are able to play a little bit more when it comes to the user acquisition – because we have these well-known brands, we’re able to be a little bit looser or kind of play around with our CPIs and our CPAs, you know, and kind of see where the organic will pick up automatically because there’s such brand recognition in our user acquisition.
So, is it a different mix? I mean, you obviously have paid promotion at some point but you start out really trying to pick up on the organics cash-in on that high brand recognition, is that correct?
Exactly. So, that said, we are very much, you know, people are going to search for “Jurassic” when there are theatrical releases or anytime there’s anything regarding dinosaurs, the first thing they’re going to go for is “Jurassic” so when we work with the Jurassic franchise from Universal, we know that right away we’re going to have an uplift.
So we’re talking about the toolbox and we’ll talk about more of that later in the show as well but having great IP means that you’re also using things beyond just the usual UA tools, you’re maybe using influencers, social, you know, and you were going to tell me about how you have done exactly that, that mix with influencer marketing and social in the toolbox of capabilities you have.
Definitely. So, one of the things – not only do we have access to the IP, sometimes they often get access to talent or related to the brands as well so it could be a retweet from involved parties, sometimes if there are some memes going on in the Twitterverse, or on Facebook or other social media, we’ll try to pick up on that too. We have people emailing us almost every day about how they want to help support our titles on their blogs or on their podcasts and they’re asking us “Is it okay – we don’t want to get any copyright, is it okay if we take some video of your game because we really like it and we want to showcase it to our followers?” So, there, they often come to us, anytime they’re like, “This is really cool, we want to showcase this”.
And I want to hear more about this very cool – well, you won’t tell us too much about your upcoming title but there’s a lot of really cool stuff that you can share about how you achieve success in the soft launch and maybe some cool growth hacking tips if we’re lucky, listeners, she’ll share a few of those as well. So, don’t go away, we’ll be right back after the break.
And we’re back to Mobile Presence. I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz with Mobile Groove and our guest today, Rose Agozzino, she is Senior Marketing Specialist at Ludia and a Mobile Hero. And, Rose, right before the break we were just talking a little bit about what it takes to excel in marketing and your love of hacking, finding out what works, finding out, you know, just a little bit outside the box which is great and that’s exactly where I’d like you to take us right now. So, if you could tell me, in a nutshell, your favorite growth hack, what would it be?
My favorite growth hack? I think right now my favorite growth hack is sort of playing on the ASO aspect of things for the App Store optimization aspect. There are a lot of tools, you know, mainly through UA networks like Apple Seach at SearchAds, or Google’s Universal Ad Campaigns where prior to being fully launched or in the soft launch phases, you can start building up your ranking purchasing keywords by spending a little bit up front and then being able to secure those keywords much further down the line when you’ve got the velocity to sort of really rank once you’re fully live. I think that’s my little favorite hack right now and I almost didn’t want to give it away because I really like it but I think it will be fun for other people to try out this little hack.
It sounds the same here. I mean, how far out the window do you go with those keywords because I’ve been listening to a lot of different schools of thought out there and there are people who say, “No, you have to do it the way people search, ask your friends how they would search for your title”. But then I’ve got some people a little bit outside of the norm who say, “No, even take the words that have nothing to do with your app and see what happens”. So, I’m just curious, what camp would you side with?
I think I’m a little bit in between, I know sometimes you will be flagged by reviewers if you had keywords that have absolutely nothing to do, if it looks you’re keyword stuffing, if it looks like you’re just trying to piggyback off of others, so you have to make sure that you’re not towing the line too noticeably but at the same time, you know, one of my favourite keywords that I always see come up for a lot of our titles is our company name misspelled and usually it’s misspelled in many, many creative ways and I always have a really good laugh at that.
So, you don’t necessarily need to misspell it but it does – the systems are kind of smart enough to figure out what this person is trying to type especially with all the autocorrects and the prediction texts that are coming through these days. But, yes, it definitely is a mix of both – try to anticipate what players are people are going to be looking for when they’re searching for your product but don’t be greedy in what you’re searching for either.
I like that, I like that, it’s great advice – do not be greedy. I think that works for a lot of people, straight to the point. And speaking of straight to the point, you know, you’ve written a blog post around the soft launch and what to do and giving just some straightforward advice – you have a love of free tools, you’re a fan of free tools. I mean, why is that, is there a way that you can get the most out of them because of course if they’re free, everyone has them, so if everyone’s using them, it’s maybe hard to compete with that. So I wonder what your advice to app marketers here would be?
So my advice would be definitely to take advantage of all the free tools that the platforms are giving you. They’re there to make your apps better, they’re there to make your games better. They want you to succeed, not just because they’re going to take their 30% split afterward but because it really helps when you have really good titles in the store as well. You kind of as a user of titles, I would want to keep going through and seeing really, really strong apps that I want to download and play.
So, you know, is it leveling the playing field? I think there’s going to be people who are going to be stronger, there are some titles or IPs that are just automatically going to be stronger but this does level the playing field for a lot of smaller companies who might not have the resources to kind of go out and hire an agency to review everything. And I think it’s going to force us to work smarter as well which is my favorite thing. I always like to work smarter than trying to make things necessarily easy or being the best at it, being smarter makes you work harder which in the end I think just makes you a better marketer overall.
Another thing, of course, you need to be smart about is UA and you’re getting a good feeling for the audience, you’re basically understanding my app resonates with this audience, you’re understanding this is the audience that I can acquire once it comes to the full-scale launch. What are some – I wouldn’t say tools but maybe more of the tips to be smart about UA? What would you recommend?
Some of my tips for UA would include just having small budgets to begin with, it’s really, really easy if you’re not sure exactly which direction you need your UA to go in, to start with small caps, kind of see the traffic that’s coming through, see the players or users that are coming through and then make your, reassess using MMP tools – I think having an MMP, if you don’t have a tracker in your title – go do it now. It’ll change everything for UA because you’re able to track exactly the type of events and how much revenue it’s bringing in and you’re going to be able to value your networks a lot better and understand the quality that is coming through these networks as well.
So, MMP for people who don’t know it, mobile measurement platform attribution. What is for you then, Rose, you bring up the topic, I’ll go there – what is the sign of or few signs, the signal that says “Yes, green flag, this is a good network for me”?
You want to make sure that if, depending on the events that you’re tracking, post-install, that they are hitting these events within the timeframes that you set, that match your organic user base and probably even faster for really qualified users coming in. So, if you see that, you know, after two days most of your players have done a certain step but you’re seeing that the traffic coming through a network is not hitting that step at all, you know, maybe that’s something to reassess and go back to whoever your contact is there and see what is going on.
So, how important is that in soft launch? I guess it’s a little bit of a trade-off because it may be that you have a certain tolerance level that even if it’s not like the best traffic, it’s still good data? I’m wondering about that because, again, it’s something I hear a lot in the marketplace which is even traffic that doesn’t do what I want it to do, in the post-event scheme of things, can still be interesting data or prove or disprove some hypothesis I might have about my app, particularly soft launch – you want to find out anything. Do you develop a tolerance for that or do you say, “No, this is the way it really goes” because you do this for a living, not just the people who talk at the conferences.
So one of the things we look at, we want to make sure that our user base that we’re looking for when we do these networks makes sense with the network. Just for example, you wouldn’t necessarily want to put a title that is maybe primarily geared towards men aged 55 and over on Instagram because the personas and the user base of this network doesn’t match the user base that you need for your title.
Again, concrete advice, makes perfect sense, business sense, and that’s why we have you here, Rose, so listeners, you can see there’s lots of tips, tricks, advice, reasons to stay exactly where you are so don’t go away, we’ll be right back after the break.
And we’re back to Mobile Presence. I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz with Mobile Groove and of course our guest, Rose Agozzino, she is Senior Marketing Specialist at Ludia and right before the break, Rose, you know, great tips that you’re giving around the soft launch – what tools, trade-offs, if any, to make around your mobile measurement partners and platforms but of course at the end of the day, it’s all about getting the audience engaged, getting them sold on your app literally. I’m hearing that creatives, that that is where it’s at – it’s like the creative is the core competitive edge but maybe I’m overdoing it. What do you find is the most important? Does creative make it or break it for you at times?
I have seen that at times especially on ad-heavy networks, on static image-heavy networks. It will make or break and there are so many tools now – you can run hundreds of ads at the same time and be able to compare exactly the click-through rates, the cost of installs coming through a certain ad set and really there are going to be usually just things that stand out immediately that’ll grab the user’s attention.
It could be something as simple as the color, it could be something especially again -that we work with licenses and IP just having the trademark or a logo or something that is just very recognizable for the users to come in through these ads, through these ad sets.
And you have, you’ve done that a couple of times, you have an example, you write about it as well – Dragons Titan Uprising – colorful runes that really stood out in the creative. Tell me about that.
So, one of the things that we had the icons and we wanted to really sort of explain that the title was going to be not just a Dragon, a Dreamworks Dragons title but as well it’s going to have a little bit of a gameplay element, so we wanted to add in, we wanted to showcase this and so we had the colorful runes and it helps grab the attention as well.
And of course engagement, one thing is get my attention, the ads have impact, the images, picture says a thousand words, that sort of thing, but at the end of the day, it’s also understanding where to find engaged users. What is an engaged user? I’m just curious for you, you do so much work in this area – what defines an engaged user for you?
I mean, so that’s a lot of – our analysts do a lot of that, they’ll figure out what is an engaged user, how long an engaged user needs to be in the game for, you know, those kinds of – what level have they passed – so they’re going to sort of compare it from the organics that are coming in just on their own volition and then comparing it to what we’re running from network acquisition. And then with these sort of comparisons, we can be like “These are very qualified users, these are engaged users”, they’re continuing past day 7, they’re continuing past day 30, and this is where we’re like “Okay, this is really good traffic source” and then as well it does – you have to take into account not just where the traffic source is coming from a network but actually where they are located physically. There are different technological infrastructures across the world and if you’re a title that relies heavily on data access or internet or wifi, you might not have the same success from US or Canada or Western Europe to even Australia just because the infrastructure might not be as strong.
And just in a word, if you had to name a country that tops your list of places to find engaged users, what might that be? In the soft launch stage, I’d like you to say.
I’m going to go ahead and say Canada and represent a little bit. We have – when you’re doing a soft launch, you want to get players, you want to get users who look as similar as possible to what your worldwide mix is going to be and we believe that like starting with Canada is a really good, it’s a really good step.
And of course, Rose, you’re based there, so it’s got to be awesome…
Yes, I have to call it out…
Have to call it out and I’ve heard it many times, many times at conferences, app marketers say, “Test Canada, it’s the North American market, it’s the most like the US” – sorry about that! So it’s a great place for the soft launch. Rose, great to have you on Mobile Presence today and in the meantime, you know, obviously you’re blogging, you’re sharing, you’re out there talking – where are we going to see or hear from you next?
So, you’ll maybe get a peak of me during GDC in March in San Francisco.
There you go, that’s a reason. And how else – LinkedIn, Twitter, just check out your blog?
Check out my blog, check me out on LinkedIn, yes, send me a note.
Absolutely. And of course the next weeks will be jam-packed with more Mobile Heroes, more amazing companies, so stay tuned and of course, if you want to read up on Rose or any of the other Mobile Heroes in the series, you can check out their dedicated page over at heroes.liftoff.io.
And if you want to keep up with me throughout the week or find out more about how you can be a guest or sponsor on Mobile Presence, then you can email me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
And that, my friends, is a wrap of yet another episode of Mobile Presence. Be sure to check out this and all earlier episodes of our show by going to webmasterradio.fm or you can find our shows on iTunes, Stitcher, Spreaker, Spotify and iheartRadio simply by searching Mobile Presence. So until next time remember, every minute is mobile, so make every minute count. We’ll see you soon.