Creative with Brains

How zombies took over the (gaming) world.

PopCap wasn’t big on a weird little game called Plants vs. Zombies. But despite low expectations and lower funding, our Hotdog co-founder Curtis and the PopCap team helped PvZ garner attention beyond everyone’s imagination: becoming one of the most popular game franchises around, and the darling of not just casual players, but also hoards of hardcore gamers.

Our little secret.

We liked it before it was popular.

As part of a small but mighty in-house marketing team, Curtis helped PopCap define its brand voice, as well as lead messaging and creative marketing strategy for global hits like the Bookworm, Zuma, Peggle, and the Bejeweled franchise. He had seen great games, and he, along with his teammates, were sure PvZ would be the next hit. But despite its fearless approach to making games, the company didn’t want to invest in a game they didn’t believe in. They allotted about $27,000 — maybe a third of what the company had just spent on a launch party for Bejeweled Twist.

How we found success.

Undaunted, the team started by convincing the studio to release a secret end-of-game celebratory music video on YouTube. Soon, it had lots of people talking. Next, the team created a wild series of teaser and launch promotions — from making a paper mache zombie head for “fan fiction” videos to weird and remarkable press kits. A broad array of marketing initiatives across web, social, and PR were all done on the cheap: and the results made PvZ the darling of the game industry and zombie-loving fans across the world.

The Nitty-Gritty

Plants vs. Zombies launched on a tiny budget, but quickly became a hit on PC, then mobile and consoles. And it was a key reason Electronic Arts purchased PopCap for way more than $27,000.

  • Over 10 million Facebook fans
  • Over 200 million views on YouTube
  • One of Ad Age's hottest brands of 2010