Can Fortnite Fill Your Bar?

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Sunday night was the end of Season 10 for Fortnite. If you hadn’t heard of this video game before then, I’m sure you have by now—because of the game studio’s brilliant marketing play.

I know it’s just a video game, but let’s give you some context. The end of every Fortnite season includes a live event players can observe from within the game. They really hype it up with a timer over the week seen in gameplay. This live event then leads into the next season of Fortnite.

Sunday afternoon was the live event for the ending of Season 10, with 6 million players watching. Six million.

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Much to everyone’s surprise, as soon as the live event completed, a black hole appeared on the screen. That was it. Nothing happened.

Typically, there would be some sort of quick down time to update their servers and then an update to the new season. Instead, minutes turned to hours and that black hole stayed exactly the same. No word from official Fortnite accounts, just a looping video of a black hole.

Memes began showing up on social media. Videos of kids throwing controllers at their TV screens were popping up in newsfeeds. Free advertising.

Famous Fortnite gamers were pumping out their thoughts and opinions all over YouTube and Twitter. They had several hashtags trending on Twitter over the entire day. Then CNN, Forbes, the BBC, and hundreds of other top news outlets picked up the story of the Fortnite black hole.

Every news outlet, every gamer on social media...everyone was wondering, speculating and guessing at what happened to the game. Was it over? Was there a major outage preventing them from relaunching? Was this all part of their marketing plan? Hundreds of thousands of people watched the black hole live on streaming platform Twitch for hours.

All free advertising.

For over 24 hours, Epic Games was silent, leaving everyone in anticipation for what was next. Finally, early Tuesday morning, there was an update. The new season had begun, and I’m sure Fortnite broke records.

What can we learn from Fortnite’s brilliant marketing campaign that will fill your bar events?

  1. Anticipation is key. Instead of making an announcement about your event out of nowhere, you’ve got to lead up to it with anticipation. This leads people to want to hear more, to be the first to know, and be the first to grab tickets. Anticipation leads to ticket sales.
  2. Get people talking. Nothing was happening, yet millions upon millions of people were talking over various social media and news platforms about what might be going on. People speculated, people were mad, people were excited. The emotions that wrapped around the wait made a huge stir.
  3. Let the rumors fly. It’s okay for people to speculate and spread rumors. Don’t comment and don’t squash their stories. Let it play out as people come up with their own ideas of what’s going on. As their ideas spread, more people add to the rumors and fuel the fire. And it’s all free advertising!

The one mistake they almost made…

Fortnite was very close to letting it ride too long. Angry Twitter posts were showing up more frequently and parents were enraged about having spent their dollars on (and in) a game that seemed to no longer exist. But true fans knew the best was yet to come. When the buzz is hot, strike!

How does this all translate for bar owners?

Years ago, for one of my nightclub clients, I was announcing New Year’s Eve tickets over Halloween week—one of the busiest weeks of the quarter. I had posters put up all over the club with a question mark over the DJ’s face.

Throughout the entire Halloween week, people were dying to know about the question mark. They wondered who it could be. I mentioned nothing and told everyone I wasn’t able to say anything about it, making it taboo. Then I secretly told three promoters, with their promise of “secrecy,” three different DJs. I knew it would spread—they can’t keep a secret like that quiet. The rumors and excitement started to gain ground.

A few days after Halloween, the official act was released, and tickets quickly sold out. The anticipation of the announcement, the rumors that went flying, and the excitement that built up over that week were key in making my event sell out.

Sometimes a well-crafted plan—without any ad dollars—is your best marketing plan.

Louie La Vella is a renowned event marketing director with bar, nightclub and major festival clients around the globe. La Vella is also a speaker at the Nightclub & Bar Show and contributor to Nightclub.com. You can connect with La Vella online and download a free copy of his latest audiobook at audiobook.louielavella.com.

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