Best Advertising Strategy: Warpzone Video Games

posted by Matt Senne

Radio advertising works to solve problems unique to each business or service. The platform's ability to be tailored to deliver messages specific to our clients' goals and needs makes it a powerful medium no matter the industry or market. Warpzone Video Games of Winona, MN is the perfect example of a niche business, and they're our next feature in our Best of Advertising Strategy series. 

Targeting a Narrow Audience

Warzone Video Games Logo

Warpzone Video Games has been in the buying, selling, trading, and repairing business of gaming since 2006. Competing with big box stores on price and availability isn't new to small businesses, and Warpzone isn't exempt from feeling the squeeze. Where the business shines though is in its specialty retro gaming, appealing to gamers from way back when.

Leighton Broadcasting's AE, Paul Ebner, has been Warpzone's go-to radio guy for a handful of years. As a self-proclaimed video game fanatic himself, Paul was anxious to meet with shop owners regarding their branding and advertising strategy for Winona's Top 40 station, KG-95.3. "Winona is an obvious college town so the messaging on that station was targeted toward the demographic who listens to that format - students, millennials. But I had a conversation with owner Wyatt Russell and his team to figure out how to reach the other half of their market, the vintage guys and retro gamers. We added Winona's classic station 101.1 The River to Warpzone's strategy to see where that would take us," he said.

Warpzone Video Games Store Interior

"You Suck at Holding Things"

Small niche businesses typically have a narrow list of products or services they offer customers. Warpzone is a wall-to-wall gamer's dream come true, but for Russell and his crew, they wanted more to offer outside their specialty. As an electronics-based business dealing in steady repair of consoles and gaming systems, tapping into the smartphone world seemed like a no-brainer. While not everyone has gaming as a hobby, nearly everyone has a smartphone. The store began offering screen repair and replacement, and as another pillar of service, counted on Leighton Broadcasting and Ebner, in particular, to get that message out.

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Paul said, "Advertising the gaming side on the radio worked alright, but it wasn't mind-blowing. To earn extra business and become a little more specialized, Warpzone introduced cell phone repair. Now, it's one thing to advertise Oh, you have a cracked screen? Come see us! So I worked with the guys to find a fun, entertaining way to get that message across. The store already had a quasi-tagline of "You Suck at Holding Things. But, Let Us Fix Your Screen" and had that message outside on a sidewalk sandwich board. Now that's memorable. But not necessarily radio strategy-esque."

Radio Branding

He continued, "We developed an on-air branding series centered around a common theme - Don't Get Stuck in the __________dark age/stone age/Renaissance. Two of our station's most popular and recognizable deejays, Tyler and Gabe, adopted the characters. Tyler was the guy "who sucked at holding things" while Gabe was the inquisitor."

It sounded a little like this, Gabe would say - Hey, Bud. Whatcha doing? to Tyler, who:

  • was trying to start a fire to send smoke signals since he broke his phone
  • was training a raven to deliver a message instead of sending a text from his busted phone
  • was connecting wires to send a telegraph, and getting electrocuted in the process

Paul said, "It’s very entertaining radio."

Understanding the Business

Up until Paul and Leighton Broadcasting came into the picture for Warpzone, they’d been doing TV for years. It was the only advertising medium they used. In the past, no one could understand their business. Paul explains, "They couldn’t get around this used video game thing, I grew up a gamer. It was a perfect fit for me to work with Warpzone because I understood the industry. I knew the message they were trying to get across. It was about more than reaching college kids. It was about appealing to gamers of the past.

Remember the good old days? Remember what you loved about video games? We have it all right here for you. Come on down to Warpzone.

Once we started getting that message across and developing a tagline, it exploded. We created an audio file with WARPZONE being said in this booming, almost haunting tone, and people would come into the store and mimic the audio. I told them this would happen – they were skeptical at first."

But, Russell and the store saw it firsthand.

"The proof came when a customer came in with a broken phone for repair. He said he went home with a busted up smartphone and his son said, Go to WARPZONE! In that tone of the radio ads. It was what his son remembered. The store started seeing this increase in business. Customers were shocked to learn Warpzone had been part of Winona's small business scene for nearly 10 years – you guys must be new?! They kept hearing again and again. We started to hit a whole new audience of people – and customers. There was general awareness right off the bat," Paul said.

Why Warpzone is the Best Advertising Strategy

Paul said Warpzone has been consistently running branding on a handful of Winona's stations for two years. Even when off air, Russell said customers are mentioning the scripts. That's powerful proof radio advertising is doing its job.

There are a few things Warpzone does really well in Paul's opinion. "Finding what their niche is and running with that has proven successful over and over. Don't reinvent the wheel. We didn't assume we're going to convert people into gamers through radio advertising. We discussed what we can do to pinpoint the people we know will be lifetime customers," he said.

"Warpzone told us we have faith in you. They have faith in Leighton Broadcasting as a radio group to find the best solutions for their business. They gave us a lot of freedom with their ads' creative. We determined what message Warpzone was trying to get across. Wyatt gave us a few bullet points and told us to go nuts. I find that a lot of times, you get those small businesses owners who just want all that control, and who think that because they know their business the best, know how to market it best, too. It becomes very complicated to create a branding strategy for them that’s successful if they’re unwilling to trust us, or they dissect everything. Or they want to play it safe and the campaign becomes very generic," Paul said.

He concluded, "Warpzone's strategy is this: If it’s a little out there, let’s try it anyways because that’s what our brand needs. Big things. If you’re willing to do it for us, go for it. They’re a business who let go of the reigns of their marketing, had faith in us, and have seen the results.

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