This week on Product Marketing Life our fabulous new host, Mark Assini, got together with Abigail Rodrigues, Product Marketing Manager at Gameloft, professionally trained chocolatier, and former colleague of Mark’s. Abigail shares her route into the industry, her passion for gaming and the challenges of working as a PMM in such a unique sector, her tips for others, and as always, heaps more.
(Psst... you might notice the audio cuts out for about 8 seconds towards the end of the episode. We're super sorry about that. 🤦♀️ The joys of technology, right? 🙄)
Mark Assini 0:03
Hey everyone, and welcome to the Product Marketing Life podcast brought to you by the Product Marketing Alliance. My name's Mark Assini your new host and Product Marketing Manager at Voices. As part of the series, we're connecting with PMMs all over the world about various product marketing topics.
My very first guest as host is Abigail Rodrigues, Product Marketing Manager at Gameloft and a professionally trained chocolatier. At Gameloft, Abi owns and drives the go-to-market strategies, product positioning, and marketing campaigns for some of Gameloft's biggest mobile titles.
Even if you've never heard of Gameloft before, there's a good chance you've downloaded and played one of the immensely popular mobile or PC games. With 18 studios around the world and over one and a half million downloads per day, Gameloft is a leader in the gaming space with hits like Asphalt, Oregon Trail, and Modern Combat.
They've also formed some amazing partnerships with brands like Disney, Marvel, Hasbro, and Mattel. In other words, if you want to get into product marketing at a global company that reaches millions of people every day, there are few better places to work than Gameloft.
I'm really excited to have Abi on today because she and I actually worked together at a small games studio in southwestern Ontario, we even studied business at the same school. She's an incredibly talented and creative person so I'm excited to hear what she has to say about product marketing and gaming.
Alright, with that out of the way, let's get into it. Abi, how's it going?
Abigail Rodrigues 1:28
Good, how are you?
Mark Assini 1:29
Good. Thanks so much for joining me today.
Abigail Rodrigues 1:32
Thanks for having me.
Mark Assini 1:33
It's nice to have a fellow Canadian product marketer on the show. I've got a couple of questions I'd like to ask so we'll just get started. How's that sound?
Abigail Rodrigues 1:42
Mark Assini 1:43
Great. So I gave a bit of a brief overview in the intro about what you do at Gameloft, but would you mind telling our listeners a little bit more about what you do as a PMM there?
Abigail Rodrigues 1:52
Yeah, sure. So as a PMM at Gameloft, what we're really doing is we're making sure games and development are ready for launch on various platforms, and also really thinking ahead in terms of game updates. So you're working closely with everyone from production to creative teams trying to get trailers and cool marketing collateral out.
And you really want to make sure that you're establishing your presence out on the app stores, different mobile platforms, making sure to find the right audience, telling them that this is going to be their next favorite game. Also overseeing the spread of marketing efforts over influencer campaigns, social media, and just like your user acquisition.
Mark Assini 2:27
That's incredible. Sounds like you've got your hands on a little bit of everything.
Abigail Rodrigues 2:30
Yeah. You're definitely busy.
Mark Assini 2:32
That's great. So obviously, gaming is an industry that a lot of people are fascinated with, people love playing games, everybody, at some point, I think has touched a game at some point in their lives. I'm sure people are always asking, how did you get into gaming? And seeing as gaming isn't a traditional destination for product marketers, what was it about product marketing in the gaming space that appealed so much to you?
Abigail Rodrigues 2:55
Honestly, I got really, really lucky, I kind of stumbled into it, working on a thesis project with another game studio that had a business need. I didn't even consider working in games at all, outside of art and development, I am neither of those two things, I didn't think I had a shot. But obviously, they need marketing people, they're creating trailers, and they're communicating with you.
But when I was working with the studios, and even all the other studios that followed, what I love the most about the space is that you get to use what you're traditionally taught, you get to use what you've learned and then also take what you love about games and what you know as a consumer and then really flex your creative chops. I mean, I don't know if I'll be able to find another job that's so creatively demanding.
You get to work on everything from amazing marketing trailers to foundational stuff, getting your positioning, your USPs, KSPs, all of that fun metrics. You're also working so cross collaboratively, that is never going to be a dull moment and you're never going to be bored. That's something that really appealed to me because you get to work on so many different things all at once.
Mark Assini 3:58
Yeah, that sounds incredibly challenging but also super exciting at the same time. So you mentioned just as you were chatting there, about this need to flex your creative muscles, how do you balance that against some of the more, let's say, traditional logical approaches that we're often taught in business schools to be very objective?
How do you balance that creative side against that need to be very much about what do the numbers say? Or what are our customers saying? Let's be very direct. How do you balance those two things?
Abigail Rodrigues 4:26
When you're trying to solve these problems using your traditional methods and you have such a creative space, what I try to do is always try to zone in on the audience and trying to see what it is that they're doing, what are they responding to? What else are they playing? What available data do I have in terms of how they're behaving with other similar competitors? Or things like that. I always try to frame it through that lens. I always want to make sure that what we're producing makes sense for the game.
I mean, you've seen in the mobile space, there's a huge trend for creating dishonest fake game ads and things like that. They just don't make sense but they are driving numbers and they're obviously driving droves, so you're trying to contextualize that. What I do is I look at where those games are, are they early in their game development? Are they late? Does this move make sense for us? And oftentimes no, it doesn't.
Because you want to be able to showcase the game in the best possible light and really be an advocate for the product. It's really just a question of balancing and trying to establish what is it about these metrics that are giving you those numbers? Why is that happening? Do those rules apply to you? And if they don't, it doesn't make sense to lean into that. I don't know if that answers the question.
Mark Assini 6:32
No, absolutely. I was just gonna say it's interesting and kind of like you're having to distil the noise between what your competitors are doing or other games are out there and what the numbers are telling you against what your customers and your players are telling you. I think that's a problem that a lot of product marketers find in their own industry anyway. I think that's a common pain point that a lot of us feel so happy to hear that it's not...
Abigail Rodrigues 6:54
You're not alone.
Mark Assini 6:56
Exactly. Others are feeling it too. So aside from again, that need to balance the logical side of things and the creative side of things, and all that noise. What are the other more unique challenges specific to gaming that you feel you face as a product marketing person?
Abigail Rodrigues 7:13
Going back to the creative thing, this is going to be a common thread throughout your whole PMM career in games. One of the challenges is like I mentioned, you work cross-collaborative, you're working with people on production, you're working with people from your IP stakeholders, everyone - working on that with everyone.
And you as a PMM have to keep both eyes on the creative landscape, you have to check out your trailers, your ads, your competitive landscape, what the mobile marketing trends are, what the general video game marketing trends are, and you have to take all that noise and truncate into something that's going to be able to be applied to your product. When you're translating all of that information into slick marketing collateral, you have to get the plus one from everyone and communicate all of this information out to people, which is very difficult.
Because sometimes, if you're working with a developer who's working a feature, they might not be as creative, or they might not understand the value of showcasing one feature over the other. So you have to communicate that out and that's often very challenging. When you're putting things together and trying to get the plus one, everyone's gonna have their own take, and everyone has such a subjective eye for quality.
So trying to take all that information and give everyone their say, but then also trying to keep in mind what you know for the trends, it's often very challenging to come together to drive something. But it always works out in the end and honestly, everyone is just trying to make sure that we're all putting our best foot forward. It often works out really well but it's just a very long process and it's definitely a challenge.
Mark Assini 8:41
Oh, I can imagine. As you said, it is nice and one of the unique things about working in games, I think you and I have both experienced, is this common goal of just wanting to put your best foot forward or the best game out there for your players, because everyone's so passionate about games. I wanted to just focus on something you said because it kind of made me laugh.
I think as product marketers in traditional, let's call them B2B spaces as I find myself in, we're so often being given features or updates to our products that are kind of like 'meh'. It's easy for the developers and the product team to get super excited about them because it's this really hard maybe development challenge they had to solve, but we know it's not really gonna move the needle for the customers. And we're then asked to go market it and go get some excitement.
But it sounds like your experience is almost the opposite, where you're focusing on this feature that you know your players gonna be really excited about but the developers might just be like, "Yeah, I don't know why you're gonna want to build a marketing campaign or some marketing messaging around this, but I guess so" you kind of have to sell them on that creative aspect, which I think is interesting and like you said, very unique to games.
Abigail Rodrigues 9:40
Mark Assini 9:41
Cool. So you talked about creativity being a throughput of this whole conversation because the gaming industry is a super creative space. And you often have to work with creatives in your organization and externally as well and I noticed even in your job description at Gameloft you partner with some external creative agencies on different creative campaigns.
So can you tell us a little bit more about how product marketing fits into that relationship?
Abigail Rodrigues 10:08
Yeah. So whether or not you're working with external agencies, or even in-house so at Gameloft we have quite a few in-house teams across the globe, so you're working with a large number of people on creatives, this is where the foundational stuff really shines. This is where things like your positioning, your audience segmentation, and your core marketing pillars are really going to come through, and I almost look at it as sort of creating sales enablement documents for your sales team.
Because these guys are going to take what you're doing, as from a strategic standpoint, and translating them into actionable things that people can actually digest and understand within the first three seconds because some trends show if you don't hook them in three seconds, they're out.
So you really want to make sure that you're telling everyone you're working with exactly what kind of feeling you want to evoke, what it is you're trying to say per segment and trying to make sure that all of these creative and collateral actually reflect that. Because like I said, you have three seconds to get your hook, and then they're out. So you have to make sure that you have all your foundational stuff down pat, and that you can stand by it 100%.
Mark Assini 11:09
Yeah, and I commend product marketers in general in the gaming space, because I think you're exactly right, because people are often scrolling through their phones or the App Store, or they're seeing a mobile ad as an interstitial, you really only have them for those three seconds.
Whereas in the B2B space, maybe you've got more of a sales pitch lined up, you've got someone on the phone, or you're going back and forth through email, so you have more time to make that sell. So like I said, hats off to you in the gaming space, because that's a challenge I think would scare a lot of product marketers away.
Abigail Rodrigues 11:40
Yeah, I mean the good thing is that there are so many trends out there, and you have a very clear example in terms of what doesn't work. I mean, there's even a subreddit on shitty mobile ads, as long as you don't end up on that, you're fine.
Mark Assini 11:52
That's awesome. So stay away from that space. As long as you're not there you're good. That's awesome. So you're working with these creative external agencies but also you're working with some pretty huge global brands. How does working with some of the world's most well-known and closely guarded IPs change your go-to-market or positioning for your specific title?
Abigail Rodrigues 12:11
Normally, with games, if you're going to be making a non-branded game, you can create your positioning, you can create your space, and you're good to go, you have your segments, you're good. But when you're working with brands, typically they have their own positioning within whatever genre of IP that they're in.
Then they often have their own audience that is attracted to that IP, then when you're making a game for them, you typically have a subset of an audience that isn't normally attracted to the IP, but they are attracted to the genre. Then you're trying to create essentially a position that's going to capture both and trying to do right by the brand, fit in within their own creative guidelines, and their own guidelines for their marketing positioning as well.
There's going to be a lot of dialogue and a lot of back and forth to be able to establish your positioning, it's not something you can do on your own and then on launch day say, "Okay, here it is." You have to make sure you're checking in with them a year in advance, six months, honestly, monthly even. It's something that you really have to work really closely with your partners on and you're gonna get challenged a lot in something which is great because it helps really build a robust positioning statement.
With the go-to-market again, it's not like if development is behind, you can be like "Okay, well, we're just gonna launch it next month", it's not as simple as that, these things are often locked in a year in advance, if not more. A lot of these IPs tend to have their own products coming out that may not be game-related but they may be a book related or something within that space, or whether it's a product itself.
They might have the next instalment coming out so you want to make sure that you're not gonna step on their toes. It's so hard to lock down a flight, but you're gonna hear the word synergy thrown out a lot so as long as you can open up a dialogue with them early and often you can find something that works with everyone, but it's not something that you can just own by yourself. We work very closely with our brands.
Mark Assini 14:01
Yeah, I'd imagine you'd have to, and you don't have to get into the specifics here and put anybody on blast but have you had those experiences where you and the team have been working really hard on this specific go to market plan or positioning or piece of messaging, and you bring it back to your person and they're just like, "Yeah, that's not it." Has that ever happened to you? And how do you pivot from that?
Abigail Rodrigues 14:18
Yeah, I mean, that's happened at every level I think, whether I'm just showing internally to my managers or out like to the partners that has happened. Because sometimes for me, maybe it's just you don't recognize the value of one particular aspect of the brand.
I mean, we're not always going to be experts in the brand. Or they'll tell me "This is not going to work. This is a nonstarter", and that's fine. I think it is a challenge and it is a bit disappointing cuz you're like, "Damn, I worked really hard on this", but then you realize there's obviously a good reason and they're more than willing to share why it's not going to work for them.
You can take that and find yourself being more creative because you have clear constraints, and then you can obviously find something great that works.
Mark Assini 14:58
That's awesome. Cool. I want to shift gears a little bit because you mentioned and we talked about earlier, this sense of the competitive landscape and what other games are doing. So I really want to ask a couple of questions about this sense of competition in the gaming space as a PMM.
I think it goes without saying the app stores are incredibly crowded, everybody's got an app these days, everybody's on the app store, you can log into either App Store and scroll for days and days and days.
As a product marketer, what do you do to ensure that your studio's games stand out amongst this giant crowd of games that are all battling for your players’ attention?
Abigail Rodrigues 15:34
The thing that most PMMs in the mobile space are going to do is what we call App Store optimization or ASO. That's the biggest thing that you can do. It's almost like SEO for apps.
With app store optimization, it's quite a complex ecosystem, but what you're going to do is you're going to make sure that your game or your app is ranking well and that it's going to show up high on the homepage, that it's ranking well in this category, or subcategories. For example, a banking app obviously, you want it to rank high in banking, but also maybe in productivity because that is going to help you manage your life better.
Then you also want to do things like making sure you're getting the right keywords, and then you're updating your collateral often and core in the game updates. But there's also another back-end thing where you're gonna work really closely with your game teams, or even your developer team if you're just generally in mobile because you want to work on things like getting featured. Featuring is a huge thing for apps, everyone tries to get featured and that creates a huge uplift for installs.
That involves making sure you're working with the game teams to make sure you have great... your crash rate's not high or everyone's able to install it well. There's a lot of small user-friendly things that PMMs don't typically work with every day but you still want to remind the game teams like "Hey, let's make sure we're good with that".
But yeah, the App Store is where you want to stand out for sure but then also, there are other things you can do like a lot of awareness and brand awareness for the game. People are trying to do amazing things with influencer campaigns, so many game companies are trying out different things. We have so many more platforms, and with Tik Tok, there's great collaboration to be had. It's really fun to see where the games are going.
Mark Assini 17:13
Before we move on to our next topic here, this concept of competition I think is really fascinating in gaming, because it's not like, again, traditional B2B, or even B2C in some other industries, where you can pretty quickly easily identify who your direct competitors are, maybe they sell the same product as you, maybe they sell an alternative solution to yours, but still somewhat similar.
But with gaming, you're really competing for people's attention. How does that change or complicate things as a product marketer? If you look at competing for attention, that could be almost anything, how do you approach competition with that in mind?
Abigail Rodrigues 17:48
Yeah, it is a very crowded space. The way I see it is not that I'm competing with other games, you're competing with entertainment generally because what you really want is people's time and you want their passion and their input. It's a really hard one, and it is very competitive. But in spite of that, I still feel very optimistic about it.
Because the good thing is with games and stuff is that you can very easily download the other competitors, and you can do your own research and then you can decide, is this something you want to lean into and capture that audience as well? If there are similarities. Or do you want to just actually use that as a differentiator and lean as far away from it as possible?
What this means is that, for me, I have a lot of conversations with producers or the game teams, try to get involved there. It's a bigger conversation that you have to have strategically together, it's not something that PMMs can just own on their own, I don't recommend owning it on your own. But working with the game teams to understand is this something you want to compete with directly? Or is this something you want to just differentiate yourself from?
Then create your cases and more quickly identify where it is you're able to win. I don't think it makes sense to try to win everywhere so it's helping you laser focus where you want to compete in.
Mark Assini 19:00
Awesome, thanks for that. Moving on to our last topic here before we wrap up, I read a couple of questions around how do you approach your customers in this gaming space? And how do you manage that relationship? Because you and I, as I said earlier, worked together at the same studio and the players of the games that we were fortunate to work on, were incredibly passionate.
I'm talking about people who played the games for upwards of a decade or more. In product marketing, we always talk about being the voice of the customer, but I think being the voice of the customer for a B2B solution that someone's maybe touching once or twice a day is a lot different than being the voice of the customer for players who are playing your game several hours a day, sometimes every day of the week, if not even more than that, in some instances.
So how do you manage and balance that passion and feedback to uncover actionable insights for the titles that you support?
Abigail Rodrigues 19:50
As you said, I think games are never gonna not have feedback. There is such an overwhelming feedback that we get. The thing is, whenever we do a base revenue launch, you're going to get a slew of feedback. They're quite vocal from the players so sometimes it's very easy to feel like they're the vocal majority, when, in fact, it might be a vocal minority. What we do then is, we have to be gatekeepers to the feedback so we don't stress out the game team - we reduce the chaos.
What I always try to do is get into the back end of the games and understand the player behavior and corroborate the feedback that I'm getting. There are lots of different tools that I have, we have our insights tools that we build, or that we integrate into the games, we have our customer care that we can work with, and see our usage spike or anything like that.
Then work with the product managers to see if it's an issue of things like rebalancing, or people finding it too difficult, and how many players this is affecting, really. Just working with as many teams as possible to problem-solve before you start escalating things before you start building out your roadmap because one thing I've noticed is that if you take in all the feedback that you're gonna get, and if you don't prioritize it, your roadmap is going to change significantly, and then it's just going to be really hard to manage.
That's something you obviously want to avoid. So trying to just use whatever tools you have, and corroborating the feedback that you're getting is a really big help for our teams.
Mark Assini 21:14
Yeah, I find that so incredibly fascinating, because like I said in the B2B side of things, we're craving customer feedback sometimes, we're dying for it, sometimes we have to beg customers, we even have to incentivize them and sometimes offer Amazon gift cards or coupons just to give us 10-15 minutes of your time.
But in the gaming space, as you said, you're almost being bombarded constantly with feedback. So for people on the B2B side, the grass isn't always greener, sometimes you go from not having enough feedback to getting so much you don't know where to begin.
It's interesting to hear some of the tools you mentioned, and how you cut through that noise. Because, as you said, I feel like it can be overwhelming at times,
Abigail Rodrigues 21:55
Especially because game teams put a lot of heart and soul into it, and you obviously want to see it be a success. When you've been working on something that you've created day in day out, the feedback, you want to make sure it's constructive and that you can act on them.
But what I love about being in the game space and getting all this feedback is that it almost trains you to become a product manager, you have to learn how to work with them, learn how to use a tool just like them. So there's a lot of overlap and skills, and I really enjoy that about the role.
Mark Assini 22:21
Oh, I can imagine. I think you hit on a really interesting insight that I just want to focus on. Like you talked about earlier, these are incredibly creative people working on this game, whether it's the artists, whether it's the developers, whether it's the marketers, these are creative people, and they're all so passionate about that game being successful.
For anyone who's played a game and has been frustrated, or who's complained, or who's wanting to return to the studio and not say very nice things, keep in mind, these are people who just want to put their best product out there. I think as a product marketer, sometimes we look at the product we're selling as the job, you show up, you put in your hours, you go home, you don't think about it afterward. But I feel like people in gaming especially, they're thinking about theirs all the time. Any feedback can almost be soul-crushing.
How do you I guess, as a person, even beyond a product marketing manager, manage that? Because I feel like at times, that might be a little bit... When we worked at the studio together I know there were days where you see the feedback and you're like, "Oh, man, you tried so hard and this is how they're reacting". So how do you deal with that?
Abigail Rodrigues 23:26
When you mentioned that the product is a job I was thinking, "No, I've never not thought about the game after work". But yeah, it's so hard not to. I mean, it's not even that you're taking it personally, but it's really hard to not see that as a critique of your performance or a critique of your efforts.
The good thing about being the PMM or being one of the people on the marketing side is that you see that oftentimes it is a vocal minority. The thing is, it's so much easier for people to give feedback when they're upset and it's very hard for people to give feedback... there's no incentive to give feedback when you're not upset.
Seeing the vocal minority side of it has been reassuring and what I try to do with my teams, I always remind them, "Hey, this is like 5% of your player base which in the grand scheme of things is not a lot, so don't take it personally". What that's done for me actually, when I give reviews, I will positive positively review more now that I know what it's like to see all that negative stuff. For anyone listening, if there's a product that you love, go give that five star, make some PMM's day.
Mark Assini 24:29
Even podcasts, if you're listening to this podcast, if you want to give a five-star review, hey, it'd really helped Abi and I get through these tough days. Okay, so I've got one more question before I get into my closing question.
When it comes to your customers or your players do you approach segmentation and personas in the same way, let's say a product marketer in the B2B space would? Or does it look slightly different because you have the genre, then you have the IP, and fans of that IP are different for people who might be fans of that genre, and all that can get kind of mixed. What does segmentation look like on your side of things?
Abigail Rodrigues 25:05
Yeah, it's fairly similar to B2B, I would say, I think the one difference is that we might be more aggressive in our primary, secondary, tertiary audience. That can help us, the game team, product marketing included, build features that relate specifically to that primary, secondary, tertiary. Other than that, the first thing I do is build up my segments. I know that for some of the games I build, you have your game audience segment but for me, my marketing segment might look a little bit different...
[Audio cut off... 😟 *insert elevator music*] 25:35
Abigail Rodrigues 25:43
...segment very similarly to other industries, it just means the way we execute and prioritize might change. Then we also have to be flexible and agile enough to see how our performances over time, then maybe switch it up again in time for the next update and try to reevaluate there. So it isn't something that's going to be... it is locked in terms of the macro-level but in terms of execution, it might change from day-to-day.
Mark Assini 26:06
Great. All right, we've got our last question here, it is one that we like to ask all of our guests on the show. What advice or tips would you have for people looking to get into or build their career in product marketing?
Abigail Rodrigues 26:18
I would say honestly, I think, for me, had I known about PMM as a job earlier on, I would have probably sought out more roles and projects that will put me right in the crosshairs of everyone. What I mean by this is, if you're looking to get into product marketing, find projects that are going to leverage you talking to people from various disciplines.
One of the things that we do the most, especially in games, is that you have to be able to talk to your product manager, talk to a creative director, talk to a marketing artist who is working on 3D software and is gonna give you very, very specific technical things that you might not know anything about.
Just talk to as many people as possible and try to take on projects that are cross-collaborative, because that is a skill that is severely underestimated in terms of PMMs. What we do the most is to try to bring all the disciplines together to communicate a single message out, which is so difficult. So if you have projects that you can share that you've worked with many people with, that would be a great foot in the door for product marketing.
And if you want to get into games, I would say honestly, play games, play a lot of games, and be ready to talk to death about your favorite game. I've never had an interview in games where we didn't talk about one of many games that we're playing. That's actually what makes the interview really fun because you're just talking about something that you love to do, which is play games.
So play as many games as possible and understand what it is that game is trying to sell you. What are they talking to you about? How do they talk to you? How do they talk to the naysayers? And just be ready to talk about that and pay attention to that because that is what you would hopefully be doing in your career as well.
Mark Assini 27:58
Yeah, absolutely. I think you hit the nail on the head when it comes to that shared passion, I think of any of the industries I've worked in, working in games was the easiest to get comfortable with people because like you said, you all have that shared passion and interest. At the same time, I think that shared interest makes our lives as product marketing managers that much easier. because like you said, you have to be in the middle.
But if you're starting from that place of commonality, where everyone has that same passion, it approaches those conversations with teams that maybe you've never interacted with before, maybe you don't even know what they do, you can at least start from somewhere where you all understand. I think that's advice any product marketing manager can apply in other industries, if you're working with people across these different functions or teams, look for the things that everyone's gonna have in common with one another.
So you can start from that shared place of understanding and shared interest or passion. That way, whether it's a project, whether it's the first time starting at an organization, it just bridges that gap and makes that first interaction that much easier. I think that's some phenomenal advice. Thank you for sharing that, Abi.
Abigail Rodrigues 29:01
Mark Assini 29:02
Awesome. So with that, we're all set. I loved catching up with you, Abi, like we said before we started recording, it's been a while since we chatted, but it's great catching up with you.
I'm sure our listeners, even if they are casual players of games learned a ton, and all of our product marketing listeners I'm sure took a tonne away from this conversation. So thanks so much for your time and for your insights.
Abigail Rodrigues 29:24
Oh, no problem. Thank you so much for having me. I had a lot of fun.
Mark Assini 29:26
Awesome. Take care.