“Anonymous Leaks” – Brand Nightmare or Marketing Genius?
Shared by admin Friday, May 26, 2017

Hey there friends, HEILBrice Art Director Michael Hain here! When I’m not creating the latest and greatest ads for our clients, I like to kick back, relax and play video games. One of my favorites is Call of Duty®, among the most popular video game franchises of all time. Amidst building anticipation for the newest release in the series, the internet has been blowing up with rumors about what the new game will hold. Many speculated that the newest installment might go back to familiar territory, World War II – the world in which the original Call of Duty (2003) took place. Over the last few weeks, images of promotional posters and packaging concepts started popping up online after being “leaked” by an anonymous source on Twitter.

Then on the heels of these “leaks” Activision, the publisher behind the game franchise, released a trailer revealing highly anticipated information about their new release: Call of Duty WWII. The game is scheduled to be released this fall and most assumed it would be officially announced in a couple weeks at E3 (an industry trade show) – so this unexpected “teaser” was a surprise to everyone. Which what got me thinking – was Activision ready to make this announcement? Or is it possible the information was actually “leaked” by the company itself? And if it wasn’t planned, I can only imagine what kind of firestorm the marketing team and their agency partners went through to roll out a campaign so quickly.

“Planned leaks” or not, the question is: how should marketers embrace and/or react to these rumors, in a way that’s in the best interest of their brand? Apple is probably the first company that comes to mind when talking about “leak marketing”, as they’re constantly dealing with information and images of their new products getting “leaked” to the web. But most of the time, a leak creates hype around a brand or product – a hype that ultimately drives sales. Which is why we don’t often hear about Apple and other brands combatting these “leaks” or taking action to stop them. After the Call of Duty “leak”, social media and internet forums exploded with more chatter about the game than it’s had in quite a while. Sales of the franchise have been declining due to poor reviews of the recent releases, but this “leak” has created an excitement I haven’t seen for the Call of Duty series in several years. Often times the brand takes to social media saying “they can neither confirm, nor deny” the source of the leaks and if there’s any validity behind the rumors. But with a simple screenshot “anonymously” uploaded to the web, a firestorm of chatter is created – generating more “buzz” than most marketers can dream of; all at a fraction of the cost compared to traditional marketing strategies. So whether the “leaks” are intentional or not, our perpetual thirst for the “latest and greatest” is here to stay – and it’s safe to say the “Rumor Mill” will continue to churn for the foreseeable future. I for one, will continue to sit back and relax with my popcorn while I enjoy the show.