Some time ago, the movie “Everything Everywhere at Once” triumphed in theaters [and at the Oscars®]. The movie is about a woman who finds the key to the multiverse, allowing her to experience and test different professional and private paths. What a great metaphor for a copywriting job! Thanks to working with various clients and topics, I wander into the world of unfamiliar industries and marketing areas for a while.
Perhaps it’s an overstatement that I sometimes feel like a person who has been put in the pilot’s seat, in front of a console full of flashing buttons, who must, in the blink of an eye, figure out how to land safely with a round of applause.
Nevertheless, when researching areas completely new to me, I experience various adventures, just like the heroine of the movie, thrown into a fascinating yet crazy adventure.
But can you say “no” when telecommunications giant, Deutsche Telekom, owner of the T-Mobile brand, asks your agency to create an employer branding campaign that will change the perception of the company in the keenest IT minds? Of course, you can’t.
Our task, or rather quest, was seemingly simple. Deutsche Telekom wanted to recruit candidates for the IT area, using the nostalgia for their youthful years.
Which one specifically? We know from research that practically every IT and technical college student experienced their technological initiation, either playing 8-bit games or trying to write them in the privacy of their room. That’s why we came up with the idea of creating a platform that combines a cleverly crafted recruitment process with promoting the image of a company that understands the wants and needs of candidates. And entirely based on the style of 8-bit computer games.
Here I owe you some explanation. Although we, as copywriters, are practically required to know pop culture tropes and make pop culture sacrifices of various kinds, it is impossible to conceal the fact that I never had much to do with games. Yes, I played the iconic “Neverhood.” Yes, I have experienced crushing defeats in NHL and FIFA. Yes, I played a demo of the shooting game “Blood” once, but a moment later, as announced by an off-screen voice, “I died with a quick, quick death.” Having such a limited experience, gaming appeared to me like the cockpit console mentioned before, full of mysterious, magical buttons that made up a logical whole. I “just” had to switch them on in the correct order.
Given my purely theoretical understanding of the world of games, I had to work out a method of operating not only with such extensive and yet targeted material, but also with our invaluable team.
So how do you weave gaming into an Employer Branding IT campaign, combining the employer’s offer, gamer nostalgia, and recruiting needs… and score some points?
First, proper research. It allowed us to learn about the most important examples of 8-bit games and figure out their story mechanisms. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that’s how our versions were to be created - to pay tribute to the first gaming mini-universes that fired the imagination of future developers.
Second, language research. For me, the most interesting part of learning about a new field is immersing myself in the idiolect describing it. To create something in a gaming environment without knowing the jargon? Never! I may be a noob, but with ambitions.
By the way, a small note - going deeper into the issue of the language of gamers [and any industry jargon] it is worth remembering to be cautious in its use. Because there’s nothing worse than “overplaying” communication with a newly acquired knowledge of insider terms. We can unintentionally lose the focus of the heart of the matter, meaning the activity to which we want to invite candidates, or worse, we can expose ourselves to sarcastic comments from a target audience sensitive to being misled.
Third, insight research among the part of the team that know a lot about games. I am fortunate to work in an environment where synergy of different competencies is visible on a daily basis, and “supportiveness” is one of the most important values. Talking to people who are active players and have gone through various levels of initiation has allowed me to expand my basic knowledge with much more intriguing aspects.
Fourth, translating the customer’s expectations into an existing matrix – 8bit games. What message do we want to convey? Where to embed them? What mechanisms should we create so that the candidate would not have the feeling of pushy advertising but would learn about the employer’s offer gradually, incidentally and in logical consequence?
Fifth, the action umbrella catchword. There comes a point when the client’s expectations and the agency’s tactics have to intertwine into one neat slogan. Fortunately, an English idiom helped us out here, as all communication was in this language. “To love something to bits,” meaning to love something strongly, came to mind and complemented by IT, became a graceful and spot on claim.
Sixth - scenarios. It’s a well-known fact that games use a well-established plot pattern, where the protagonists start from point X to reach point Y. They encounter obstacles along the way, collect various tokens, fight enemies, lose lives. All this is more or less “played out” in every game, even the simplest. It is difficult to talk about some complex transformation of the protagonist in the case of 8bit productions, but… on the “Love IT to bits” platform, each task was somehow related to the protagonist’s influence, which was a reference to the EVP (Employee Value Proposition) of the Company, and the result itself led to job offers.
Seventh, the hero. He had to make a name for himself. It’s one thing to play a dismal pixelated character, whose fate does not particularly interest us, and another thing to play at least an outline of a character. We humans are like that - we want to impersonate someone “performing”, to be someone else for a while, move to a place where we can forge our own path. In our case, Mr. 8bit was saving the world from various bugs or reaching the office in a way that was a consequence of his choices, but most of all our main hero was reminding players that there are real places where you can fight for yourself and where “game is never over.” And Deutsche Telekom’s IT department is one of those places.
Eighth, once again, in the spirit of our synergistic cooperation - the inherent discussion with our graphic designers and developers about the possibilities of creative maneuvering. Because to come up with a game and a hero is one thing, but to make it in line with the spirit of [past] times, possible to design and, above all, playable, is a different story.
Ninth, during the [victorious] struggle with the unknown matter of gaming, I could not lose sight of the most vital aspect - strategy. Creating games and their universes can be a highly engaging activity. However, it would be an enormous failure to forget the EB nature of the task and the EB utility of the created storytelling. Here, our employer branding specialists come to the rescue to supervise if the narrative and goals were identical to Deutsche Telekom’s EVP and values.
Did the work on the present project actually arrange itself into plain levels and chapters? Of course not. The nine steps to create the “Love IT to bits” project are just a writing procedure, a neat way of capturing the most important steps. Did we sometimes need to take a few steps back? Yes. Did I have to revise my own ideas about the nature of games during discussions? Of course. Did we deliberate over the shape of the bugs that Mr. 8bit was supposed to annihilate? Naturally.
It sounds like quite a challenge, but that’s the beauty of working together in a close-knit team - no matter what challenges await the hero in the game called copywriting, he always gets extra life in the form of the support and competence of others.
And last but not least, if you are curious about the effect of our cooperation with Deutsche Telekom and if you haven’t yet clicked on the previous cleverly placed links, I invite you to read our case study
About the next release of EB campaign “Love IT to bits” for Deutsche Telekom, through the eyes of a copywriter.
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