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Opinion: Three Things That Helped Fatal1ty to Build a Strong Brand

In a recent episode of my podcast, Conquering Geek Culture, I spoke with Johnathan Wendel, better known by the name of Fatal1ty, which he used to compete under as a professional athlete. By now, the name has been turned into a well-known brand for gamers, which sells peripherals and other gaming hardware. During my conversation with Wendel, we touched on a couple of things I personally consider essential basics of marketing, and I decided I wanted to write them down with the very concrete examples we discussed. For the following examples, I will not mention that esports is all about the community as it was the community that turned esports into what it is today. If you do not understand the significance of building, interacting, and understanding communities for esports, you probably want to do your homework.

Here are the three things that stuck with me: 

#1: Know What Your Consumer Really Wants or Needs

When I asked Wendel why he started to sell gaming products, here is what he said: “To me it seems so simple. While I looked at the gaming market, you had all these people making gaming products, and they had no idea what they were making.” As a professional gamer, Wendel was on the hunt for equipment that would allow him to push further and stay ahead of his competition. Doing so, he encountered challenges, he started to fix himself, as he understood what he and gamers who wanted to be like him, needed.

Following a methodical approach, Wendel started to develop his own products. Did you know that mousepads used to be small tiny rectangles back in the days? Wendel started to use printer pads (yes, the pads people used to put their printers on) as mousepads. A larger mouse pad allowed him to use a lower sensitivity on his mouse and to keep the mouse on the device to track his opponents for a longer time – two things that allowed him to win. Working with the company that created the printer pads,  Wendel used the opportunity to create Fatal1ty Gaming Gear, buying them for $3.25 USD and selling them for $20 allowing him to make $5K-$10K a month through the shop on his website. When talking about keyboards, he recalls: “I predicted the backlit keyboard” as it would allow people to see what the buttons they were pressing in a dark environment late at night.     

#2: Keep it Simple

After being successful with the mousepads, Wendel describes how he felt he could create more products like headphones, keyboards, mice, etc.  Some products, like motherboards, were way too technical. Instead of doing it himself he again started reaching out to companies who were already good at building these products and were interested in working with him on a co-branded product line. As gaming was always about “bang for the buck”, Wendel still remembers using an Abit BH6 and BE6 motherboard as it allowed him to overclock his 300MHz CPU to 450MHz, providing a bang for the buck that was “off the charts.” If this sounds too technical and cryptic for you, you’ll understand what happened next. Wendel describes it as follows: “I remember going to Micro Center and just looking up on the shelf and I am like, you know, B105, T3000, […] Z521A. […] How am I supposed to buy a motherboard for gaming if I can’t even understand it?” The follow-up question he asked himself to solve this problem was pretty simple: “Why can’t it just be Fatal1ty motherboards? […] I make three versions like an entry-level, pro and champion level, and just sell that.”  Wendel saw the vacuum left by an absence of dedicated gaming brands, who would only produce hardware for gaming and esports, and used it as an opportunity for collaborations under his own name. Wendel ended up working with Abit in what he describes as a successful collaboration at the time.

#3: Speak the Language of Your Audience

Typically companies build products they want to sell. To tie this into Wendel’s story, he created products he himself needed to be successful. Since he actually was successful using them, people wanted to buy the same products. He did what he considered “common sense” from the angle of the person using these products.

You can listen to the full episode below:

From my personal experience working with an esports team that has partnerships with hardware manufacturers, I recall engineers being very proud of their features. If your target audience does not speak your language, don’t force it onto them. Look at promotions today. The people you follow all of the sudden tweet or post about a very specific feature in a language they typically don’t use. It often appears to be fake and is one of the reasons why I have never been a fan of scripted promotions. Find people who use your products and let them tell others why it’s great in an authentic way – in their own words, in their own language. If nobody uses your product, there is probably a reason for this. People might not understand it, or sometimes they might ignore it as your promotion is too sales-y. Your audience knows when they are being advertised to, so make it fun, engaging, or authentic. 

To use a recent example: Compare Ducati’s tweet mentioning the “e-game League of Legends” with some of Riot Games’ brand integrations during the Worlds games, e.g. having a sound break sponsored by Spotify or the Gold Count by MasterCard. What do you think resonates better with an engaged audience of gamers?

If you don’t only want to listen to my full discussion with Johnathan Wendel, but see it, you can watch the video here.

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