Looney Labs Icehouse Mailing list Archive

[Icehouse] Marketing (was: What about Volcano?)

  • FromJeff Zeitlin <icehouse@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • DateSun, 26 Feb 2006 16:11:07 -0500
On Sun, 26 Feb 2006 13:03:21 -0500 (EST), Kristin Looney
<kristin@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

>The fact that something is in distribution does not make it available in 
>stores.  If only it was that easy!  Right now there are very few stores 
>around the country that sell the pyramids in stash tubes, our largest 
>distributor orders a half dozen of each color on each restock.  They simply 
>are not selling.

I hate to say it, but I think that part of the problem is that you're
relying too heavily on word-of-mouth advertising.  It's a good way to
advertise, and economical - but I honestly don't think it's viable as a
sole or even principal channel.  I don't claim that the experience that
I've had is typical, but I can see it being common:

Earlier this week, I stopped in to my FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming Store)
in NYC.  I was looking for something unrelated to Icehouse.  I'd already
purchased Ice Towers, Zendo, PWP, and the black and orange stashes
directly from you. Something on a shelf caught my eye, and I discovered
that my FLGS had a shelf devoted to Looney Labs products - all of them.
A grand total of about two-and-one-half feet. Not really arranged to
show things off to best advantage, and certainly not calling out any of
the products. On inquiry, I found out that they'd been retailing your
products for years, and that they'd pretty much always been at that
location in the store - but there was nothing to call attention to them.
Not by placement, not by display stand/poster, not nothin'.  Had I
known, I'd have purchased some of the stuff from them - not only would
it have been instant gratification for me, it would have showed them
that there *is* a market for that stuff. More prominent advertising of
ANY Looney Labs product would have helped - and MIGHT have gotten me
into Icehouse sooner. Freebies like ICE-7 being available there would
also have been encouragement.

Treehouse, 2House, and 3House are all excellent ideas - but I wouldn't
drop single-color stashes or PWP from the distribution channels; they're
what I would consider key items in the line. Some freebies like Mar's
Guide or Ice-7 would also be a good idea to keep in play as well.

Another idea that comes to mind is - assuming you can get permission
from the game authors - pick some of the simpler games from the SLICK
list and/or the wiki and/or other sources, print out the rules, and
stick the rules for one game selected at random into each solid-color
stash sold. Gauge 'simple' on two criteria: (1) Can the rules be printed
completely on both sides of a 4x6 index card or one side of a 5.5x8.5
piece of paper?, and (2) Is the game understandable and playable just
from that information?   Two 'yes' answers qualify the game for
inclusion in the 'stash bonus'.  Obviously, single-stash games that meet
those criteria would be especially cool to include this way.

>First, there is the 11th color of pyramids we just made.  The fine folks at 
>KLON just made a whole bunch of little opaque grey pyramids!  Our mold 
>makes 3 pyramids at a time, one of each size - and we had them cut off just 
>the smalls, and grind up the other two sizes and the runners and toss them 
>back into the mold again. Over and over again. Until we had 5000 little 
>grey pyramids - which will make 1000 copies of a new little product called 
>'Volcano Caps'.    (The last time through the mold, we kept the medium and 
>large grey pyramids - so we will also have full stashes of grey pyramids 
>coming out soon as a Dangling Carrot exclusive.)

I'd buy the grey full stash just for completeness, and probably a set of
Volcano caps, too, for the same reason.  I'm more 'into' creating new
games than playing existing ones; I have two games (Pentamid and
Pach-Ice-i) up on the Icehouse wiki in the roughly two months since I've
gotten involved in Icehouse.

>Anyway...  trust me when I say we care about Volcano.  Getting Treehouse 
>selling in stores is the best step towards the larger mold and the boxed 
>Volcano set that we will publish eventually (and put into distribution and 
>into stores everywhere)...  but first we need to build up the demand for 
>the pyramids - and simplifying the message, with this change in the way the 
>pyramids are purchased in stores, is an excellent path towards this goal.

I'm not necessarily convinced that it is. A brief scan of the SLICK list
(comments on this below) and the Icehousegames.Org wiki suggests that
the majority of the games out there for Icehouse pieces are somewhat 'in
the box' as they assume a single stash of uniform color per player.
What's more, your existing Blab Rabbits and Demo Rabbits likely will be
demonstrating *their* favorite games, most of which are likely to be
those kinds of games as well, rather than necessarily demonstrating LL's
"signature" games like Icehouse itself, Ice Towers, Zendo, or Volcano.
This change could be viewed as LL 'kicking them in the teeth' - "They
don't care about the time we've invested in the single-color-stash
model; why should we stay on?"  There's also the issue of those of us
(I'm a Blab Rabbit) who, knowing of a local retailer that sells your
products, will direct our friends to THEM, rather than directly to your
website, even though it may cost us carrots - because we want to support
our local game retailers, many of whom are operating on VERY thin
margins, to keep their prices at a level that their customer base will
accept, while still paying for their retail space and their stock.  This
change basically kicks those retailers in the teeth as well - since I
now have to direct my friends to your website to get single-color
stashes, that cuts into my retailer's sales of your products, and feeds
the negative loop that leads to ever-lower sales of your products
through the distribution channel.  If your ultimate intent is to go
completely on-line, that may be OK - but if so, it's probably better to
bite the bullet, say so, and do so in one swell foop, instead of this
slow 'death of a thousand cuts' method.

About the SLICK list: Just like word of mouth is currently your best
advertising, the games that your advertisers create are the best
vehicles for demonstrating Icehouse pieces. That creation process is an
ongoing one, and didn't stop in April of 2004, which was the last time
the list was updated.  I haven't tried to see how much overlap there is,
but there's also the Icehouse wiki at http://icehousegames.org with many
games listed - and no mention of it anywhere on the official Icehouse
site. Wouldn't it make sense to at least provide links to as many
third-party Icehouse resources as possible, to show just how extensive
the Icehouse community is?

I think that I can sum things up by saying that I think it would be
better to work WITH the existing Icehouse community, rather than doing
things that look good superficially, but may have the effect of
alienating (some of) them. You already have recognized them as a
resource; why throw that resource away?

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Jeff Zeitlin, Editor
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