Branding as a marketing campaign: the thunderous success of Marvel Snap ⎮ Case Study

Creative Assets

November 15, 2022

Marvel Snap is the latest addition to the Marvel Mobile Gaming universe. This new mobile card game launched only recently and already achieved thunderous success (and without the help of Thor). 

About Marvel Snap

Marvel Snap is a mobile card game that was released on October 18. Developed by Second Dinner in partnership with Nuverse (which is owned by ByteDance) and Marvel Entertainment. The game was released in English, Arabic, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Thai, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, and Vietnamese.The game earned over $2 million in revenue and 5 million downloads in its first week. It’s now been downloaded over 10 million times.

source: AppMagic

The goal of the game is to play against other users, each player has a deck of 12 cards and can place them in three different worlds (one is unlocked at the start and the other two after a few rounds). Each card and area has specific powers and effects. In order to win, the player must take control of at least 2 out of the 3 areas. One battle lasts between 3 to 5 minutes on average. 

According to a poll on IGN, Marvel Snap is readers’ favorite Collectible Card Game at the moment. 

The app stores’ strategy

Marvel Snap chose to go two different ways for the App Store and the Play Store. The biggest difference between both stores is how they went with landscape visuals in the Play Store and portrait ones in the App Store.

First screenshots of the game in the Google Play Store
First screenshots of the game on the App Store

Even though the taglines are the same, they’re not in the same order. As per App Store rules, the Apple version gives more space to actual screenshots of the app with major characters appearing in the background (a big one on the top right part and a smaller one on the bottom left). 

Just as well, the App Store’s visual assets are in portrait orientation in order to match the actual orientation of the game, something that’s always appreciated by Apple Review teams. 

Except for the landscape/portrait orientation, the preview videos are much more similar in both stores. It opens with a few seconds of animated battle with a very recognizable character from the Marvel universe. Then it switches to screenshots of the app (with a visible device for the Play Store) and text screens. 

The dynamic rhythm is set to keep the attention of the user, as well as the action music in the background. Most of the app’s screenshots, instead of showing the actual gameplay, are showing the different kinds of cards (and characters) you can collect and play. The most important part of the game, as per the preview video, seems to be the sheer amount of different cards… and gaming possibilities.

Other ASO tools

Marvel Snap’s ASO strategy is to take full advantage of the stores. On the day of the launch, some users got a notification (without signing up for it) to announce the availability of the game. 

Moreover, they also set up an in-app event coinciding with the release of the movie Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. This gives more visibility to the game and links it to other current Marvel products. All the keywords here are centered on Wakanda, making the link to the new movie more important than a more general link to Marvel as a brand.

Branding as a major marketing strategy

Marvel is already a household name by itself. Its tremendous success with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (each movie keeps breaking records), is enough to make everyone aware of the existence of the brand. Having such a recognizable brand with beloved characters is a great asset for Marvel Snap.

In addition to the great amount of press coverage the launch of the game got because of its obvious links to the Marvel brand, Marvel Snap is showcasing an array of Marvel characters.

No matter which creative asset people will encounter first, they will probably recognize one of the characters showcased. The obvious advantage to such a well-known brand is that most users are already aware of Marvel and its characters in one way or another, whether it be through comics, movies, toys, etc.

This also means that giving ample space in creative assets for well-known (and well-liked) characters to shine through is an efficient way to grab potential users’ attention.

The game’s first trailer starts with a close-up shot of Venom pushing an undefined character. It’s animated as if it was a POV shot, making the viewer feel like part of the action, they’re already clued into the universe and the battle happening.

Venom is a very recognizable character on his own, but he’s quickly joined by more household names: Iron Man and Doctor Doom (for the fans of the classics) and America Chavez (for those who like newer characters like Young Avengers NB: this character was also recently introduced to the MCU). 

It follows up with a classic Marvel fight scene, reminiscent of all the latest Avengers movies. 

One of Marvel Snap’s trailers has even been shared to a bigger Marvel account on YouTube: Marvel Entertainment (which is often sharing movie or movie-adjacent content).

Moreover, the game is linked to what’s happening in the Marvel Universe outside of the mobile sphere. For example, there’s a current in-app event in the App Store teasing the arrival of new characters included in the new Black Panther movie coming out in early November. 

They’re also communicating about it on social media. It helps make all the Marvel products seem like part of a bigger, unique universe. 

This feels cohesive to users and helps them not only get more involved with a product frequently updated, but also cross-promote other Marvel products such as movies or tv shows, tying Marvel Snap into the brand’s bigger marketing strategy. The player is meant to be taking over the character of Nick Fury, implying that Marvel Snap is actually giving the user a very important role in the Marvel universe itself. 

Everyone’s included in their marketing strategy

Marvel Snap took a page out of the gamer motivation book and produced enough creative assets to satisfy everyone:

  • They show a mix of well-known heroes like Iron Man, Groot, and Venom and newer heroes such as America Chavez (who has a pretty important role in a lot of marketing assets) and Riri Williams
  • A series of UGC testimonials of some of the game’s team for those who look for a more social aspect
  • Gameplay centered on cards and their collectible aspect
  • A battle video that is a clear reminder of Marvel movies’ battle scenes
  • A launch video starring Samuel L. Jackson

From YouTube to TikTok, Marvel Snap’s launch marketing campaign covers all bases. Even if mobile card games can appear like a niche genre of mobile games, Marvel Snap prepared a wide enough marketing strategy that could allow them to target different audiences. 

For example, their static visuals are showing characters that are more relevant to Marvel movies like The Hulk, Iron Man or Venom.  While on the video aspect, more recent characters (with small roles in the latest movies of the franchise) have the spotlight. These characters are not yet big enough in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but they are in the comics. This shows a desire to reach a large audience and target them accordingly. 

Even more than that, leveraging Samuel L. Jackson’s presence for a short video ad might seem a little surprising, given that the ad was mostly run on TikTok.

This video ad plays on a music theme reminiscent of Marvel movies’ theme, the name Nick Fury is at the center of the screen, driving attention. Fans of the universe and the characters will recognize the name, and non-fans will recognize Samuel L. Jackson at his entrance on the 6-second mark. 

Besides the fact that the video ad clearly relies on humor, it’s also meant to make the viewer feel included.

Like this scene above where the characters all turn around to face the screen/the user as if the other character was speaking about them. 

A (very) localized debut

Right away, Marvel localized their UA campaign to celebrate the game’s launch. Because it was a global launch (the game was available in 16 languages), it was important for the marketing campaign to follow.

The logo always stays the same, with purple hues to remind the user of the main color scheme of the app and its marketing visuals. The Marvel logo is part of the app’s logo, which places it conveniently as a reminder of the larger Marvel Universe, something most people are familiar with.

Some assets even go further than just localization with a more culturalized approach. For example, the ad on the left shows a Marvel character, Blade, that’s available in the game drawn in manga style, to be a better fit with the Korean audiences it’s aimed at. 

All these social media ads use core elements of the game, but they shine a light on different aspects of the app. You can see the different characters, or even different card designs, that you will need to level up in the game. 

There’s a very wide variety of creative assets, all in several languages to ensure every user is targeted with enough information. 

The most striking difference between localized assets is the characters that are put forward. Venom appears in a lot of creatives in several languages, which may be a sign that it is a beloved character worldwide. The French version below focuses on Iron Man, a beloved character of the franchise.

Keeping the community in the loop

After a successful launch, the key is to keep people invested in the game. Marvel Snap has been cultivating its relationship with its gaming community from even before its launch. They launched the game’s Instagram account with an announcement of their presence at New York’s comic-con, which is a great spot to meet up with people who are already familiar (and most of the time already fans) of the Marvel brand.

Aside from the dedicated website which keeps users in the know of all the latest information about the game. Their early beta launch allowed them to interact with users before the official launch, for which they even made an official countdown. 

With recurrent content and updated news about the game, Marvel Snap is boosting conversations around its mobile game. So much so that not only are gamers producing memes and jokes about the game, but they’re also using memes with Marvel characters. 

More than only joking tweets, Marvel Snap has earned its own fanart from users. And even though people have been making Marvel fan art for years, they are also doing it specifically for Marvel Snap now. 

This helps the games’ online presence, improving visibility, and reducing churn by showing both current and potential users how often the game itself is updated. It also helps them corral their community for other events and keep the game in the conversation. 

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