Case Study: “Baltic Sea Games” Brand
A Baltic Sea region (BSR)-wide branding aims to connect, represent and strengthen local hotspots in the BSR under an umbrella identity. This will strengthen the visibility of the game industries of the eight European countries of the BSR vis-à-vis international game markets.
Baltic Sea Games
As a consensus within the BGI1EU-Interreg project Baltic Game Industry: http://baltic-games.eu/ project consortium, the brand Baltic Sea Games as the BSR common identity was created. Baltic Sea Games will act as the umbrella brand for actions to advocate the BSR as an international game hotspot.
The brand Baltic Sea Games was introduced in October 2019 within the BGI project. It is part of the pilot on internationalisation of the BSR game business. The rationale is to test the viability of a common BSR identity.
Undoubtedly, further piloting based on the findings, lessons learnt, conclusions and recommendations of this initial pilot is necessary to understand the full scope and potential of the development of a BSR common identity and to share acquired knowledge accordingly.
Brand Driver Questions
Establishing a common brand for both the game industry and the BSR, entails a set of questions with regard to the drivers of such an endeavour:
- Who creates and promotes the brand?
- Are they the best placed to do so?
- Who do they compete with?
- What are their motivations?
- Which target groups are their priorities?
A brand is a long-term venture. For it to succeed the rationale behind it must be sound. Therefore, all parameters need to be scrutinised for their pertinency. A plethora of aspects need carefully to be taken into consideration, in particular the wide array of target groups whose “emotion” is meant to be won over:
“In addition to being strategically constituted by a multitude of brand constituents, industry branding also addresses highly diverse audiences. Industry branding seeks to transform the image of an industry in the eyes (and pockets) of investors, prospective employees (employer branding), the general public, political representatives, public institutions and regulators, and, of course, the consumers.”Bajde, Domen “Branding an industry?” Journal of Brand Management 2019.
In the case of the Baltic Sea Games as a regional and industry brand, there are several challenges to be met. The most salient one is that of distinguishing the brand from other brands, and thus the entity to be created (in this case the common identity of eight regions) with a common excellent reputation (here of an industry with diverse histories and framework conditions).
- In comparison to “The Nordics” or even “The Baltics”, there is no perception of the regions bordering the Baltic Sea as “one entity” outside the actual geographically based one (i.e. Baltic Sea related) or based on common activities such as maritime issues (fishing, shipping, water, submarine ecosystems). For the creative industries, a perception of the BSR as one would need to be created artificially in a first step, to test if there is enough common ground to empower a common identity.
- In the global game industry, “Nordic Game”2Nordic Game is an organisation (owned by the stock company Nordic Game Resources AB) representing the Nordic Game Community, and organising the Nordic Game conference and Discovery Contest: https://nordicgame.com/about/ is enjoying a high reputation. The Nordic’s mature industries have been thriving on a lot of successful companies, several with AAA status. From their point of view, there is no immediate benefit of widening the regional scope to include the non-Nordic regions of the BSR. To the contrary, it would seem at first glance to be a disadvantage. They would be giving up their stand-out position within Europe.
- “The Nordics” as a benchmark for the new brand Baltic Sea Games has the advantage of a similar level of success and maturity within their industries. They also have a traditionally strong openness towards the global market, with close cultural heritage ties and histories. In contrast, the new brand acts as an umbrella for a pronounced diversity both in levels of industrial maturity and economic success of that industry, and in cultural and historical backgrounds.
With these kinds of challenges to struggle with, creating the Baltic Sea Game brand begs the question of motivation and purpose.
So, who are the drivers of this new umbrella brand? The initiators are basically the incubation partners of the BGI project. They are motivated by their investigation and collection of expert knowledge on game incubation. Game incubators play an interesting and important role in the emerging game industry:
- They have a key role in fostering a thriving game ecosystem as their activities provide new talents but often also events that help create a sense of community, and often act as first stop for investors and publishers.
- Game incubation being a recent practice, knowledge exchange amongst incubators is crucial, but also leads to reflections on the nature of the game industry and optimisation of framework conditions for young entrepreneurs.
- As intermediaries between industry associations, educational organisations, investors and publishers, experts (mentors), young start-ups and established companies (e.g. alumni), they are at the nexus of the ecosystem and best placed to create an efficient, productive network
An Incubation Network
Therefore, it seems logical to embark on the journey of creating a common identity and an umbrella brand with a network of game incubators. Through the network, the brand can gain traction to gradually include other groups of the game ecosystem. A network does not mandatorily require a brand. Though for the success of a game incubation network, a brand will provide an added value and increase its impact. Thus, the brand will be further motivating the network members to collaborate and present their start-ups jointly to international markets.
In terms of motivation, game incubators are in a position to best understand the power of a common visibility. Their incubatees have not reached a scale where they out of their own initiative can easily attract international investors. It would greatly improve the success rate of game incubators, could they gain the trust of investors by demonstrating that they select and represent promising, creative and innovative teams.
Obviously, addressing investors and markets with a common regional brand that heralds exciting new game productions, increases substantially the potency of success than any individual incubator could ever reach with its own brand. The challenge for a regional brand is to find a balance between the “commonality” and the diversity, and to draw strength from both in equal measures.
Brand Development Strategy
The brand development strategy for the Baltic Sea Games brand has been based on the following branding activities (as pilots within the project BGI):
- Baltic Sea Games logo
- Baltic Sea Games website
- First “Baltic Sea Games Award”
- Stakeholder engagement activities (e.g. Panel “Game Investment 101”)
- Joint event booth
The pilot provided the basic features needed to establish the brand Baltic Sea Games. A visual toolkit (e.g. logo, video, etc.) was created that combines BSR identity facets with gaming aspects. This visual component is one key part of the common BSR-wide branding.
So far, the visuals have been used for different publicity formats, e.g. for social media and a brand website. They have also been used for offline events within the pilot of the BGI project. In order to make such a brand sustainable and attractive, many more features and formats will need to be piloted and potentially implemented at a later stage. The visuals are designed to be easily adaptable to any future application, thereby emphasising the goal of long-term sustainability inherent to the nature of a brand.
The Baltic Sea Games logo combines a playful atmosphere and levity with a visually memorable color scheme and catchy shapes. A seal and the “Baltic Sea Games” lettering are at the centre of the logo. The shape, size and layout of the logo allow for easy application in many different settings. Please find more examples of the logo application on Facebook3Facebook Baltic Sea Games: https://www.facebook.com/balticseagames, Twitter4Twitter Baltic Sea Games: https://twitter.com/baltic_games, WordPress5WordPress Baltic Sea Games: https://balticseagames.home.blog/ and YouTube6YouTube Baltic Sea Games: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dt-AWhmiLPk&feature=emb_logo.
Publicity features of the Baltic Sea Games branding include a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, and a WordPress website (see above and footnotes for links). While the social media presence on Facebook and Twitter can act as a suitable gateway to connect customers, investors and publishers to the BSR game industry, the important BSR common identity staging ground, the (WordPress) website, can only be seen as an initial and fragmentary landing page.