Career Spotlight: Marketing Directors

Katherine Stull
05 / 23 / 18
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Marketing directors juggle many responsibilities, as they oversee marketing for all of the studio’s titles. We talked to Human Head Studios’ Kat Shanahan about the role of a marketing director in the games industry.

 

What does a marketing director do?

Marketing Directors are liaisons in a variety of capacities. They are a central information hub for external partners, the community, publishers, and the development team. In addition, they also:  

  • Coordinate with external partners, publishers, and the community to generate content and marketing assets
  • Alternate between the high-level, strategic direction of the game’s marketing and day-to-day social media posts and community engagement
  • Promote the game via cons, videos, social media, websites, forums, etc.
  • Maintain a consistent image in terms of tone, style, and voice of the marketing messaging
  • Balance development timelines and marketing objectives

 

How can I become a marketing director?

Kat’s path to becoming Human Head’s marketing director included undergraduate degrees in multimedia digital arts and advertising, a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications, and a stint at an educational game development studio. While having formal training in marketing is beneficial, she has worked for marketing directors that earned an English degree and had played games for decades. At a game studio, formal training and degrees take a backseat to what you can do. It’s essential to move quickly, think strategically, be personable, communicate effectively, and have a passion for games!

 

What skills are most important?

In addition to what was mentioned above, Kat recommends that those interested in games marketing practice the following skills:

  • organization
  • being deadline-driven
  • good communication skills
  • good listening (understanding build updates and being able to anticipate what that means for the marketing message)
  • relationship-building (with community members, external partners, publishers, etc.)
  • data analysis (understanding how data can help refine user experience)

 

What challenges do marketing directors face?

Marketing directors face a variety of challenges including working with evolving messages and balancing tight schedules.

  • Evolving messages: Games change and evolve as they’re being made (from ideas that the development team has to feedback from the community), which leads to evolving marketing messages. Important game mechanics, modes, platforms, and end games can change over the course of a meeting. It’s essential to remove yourself from the team from time to time and think like a player. When you’re closely tied to the development team, it’s easy to forget what information about the project has been released and what hasn’t. Sometimes small changes can be made to the game and there’s no need for a messaging update, but sometimes larger changes mean a significant shift and you have to be prepared to relay the changes in a way that makes sense for both the team and the audience.
  • Tight schedules: When Kat was in graduate school, she took nine weeks and prepared a yearlong marketing campaign with a $1M budget. She has worked in places where that’s feasible, but that was never the case at a game studio. Not only does the game’s design change and evolve, assets are created and changed over the span of a few weeks. It’s highly unreasonable to create a yearlong or even six-month long marketing plan for a game. Just like in development, you’ll have milestones and goals, but your daily tasks and the content you generate to build relationships with your audience will change constantly. It’s important to make sure you’re ready to pivot and come up with new ideas in a very short timeline. It’s a tough balance!

 

What’s the best part of working in marketing for a games studio?

Kat says that she loves working with the extremely talented and creative folks at Human Head. All of the departments, from QA to marketing, and programming to art are solving creative problems daily. It’s amazing to work in a space where all employees are thinking about the impact their work will have on players and what kind of memories those players are going to make. She grew up playing games with her siblings (the rare moments where they all got along) and loves being able to contribute to games that might have the same impact on players.

Kat’s experiences aren’t representative of all marketing roles in the game industry, but following her advice can help you boost your marketing skills and make you an even better developer.

 

For a more complete overview of roles within the industry, visit our Beginner’s Toolkit for Game Development.
We’ve included key skills and software for each role at the studio that can help you become the best developer you can be!