Gaming publisher King, the company behind mobile phenomenon Candy Crush, will build its use of creators, alongside its YouTube and TikTok strategies, as its focus on creating “niche communities” grows.
Speaking at Social Media Week Europe, King’s director of social marketing and creators Roberto Kusabbi outlined the strategy while discussing the success of the 10-year-old game and its recent Candy Cave initiative to support six creators to realize their ideas while promoting the game alongside.
Over the last two-and-a-half years, the Activision Blizzard-owned company has been leaning into creator collaborations, which recently included working with music artist Meghan Trainor who debuted her latest video for the track “Made You Look” exclusively through Candy Crush in October.
According to Business of Apps data, the game had amassed around 255 million users by 2021 and has reached the release of its 8,000th level. Kusabbi explained that for a platform with a community of that size, social media helps it to retain its player base and keep them engaged while it looks to grow over the coming two years and “finding the next generation of Candy.”
He added: “It’s bringing that tone of voice of when the game loads and says ‘take some time to relax.’ I think that can be a big motivation for people and for our social. It’s bringing out that part of the game into the real world and onto digital platforms and then building those experiences into the game as well.”
One of the key things when working with creators is that their channel and their audience is so important to them.
Roberto Kusabbi, King’s director of social marketing and creators
To enrich the social media experience, the game has been testing across a roster of creators for the last three years. That has become “a big channel” for King as a result, starting over three years ago with small tests to see what exposure could be delivered while understanding the attribution in the process.
“We’re a really fun brand to work with if you’re a creator because we’re so inclusive. We are fun, that is what we stand for… our philosophy is to really let the creators create,” Kusabbi claimed.
In October, the company began its own U.K.-focused Shark Tank/Dragon’s Den-style competition named Candy Cave, hosted by drag superstar Bimini and judged by creators Amelia Dimoldenberg, Munya Chawawa and Chunkz. The show brought six creators’ pitches to life, including a game-inspired edible “Cup Cake” and a Candy Crush Saga-themed musical. The results then ran through the creators’ own channels, promoting the game using its creator fund.
Kussabi explained that the project was the culmination of three years of work and marked its first foray into long-form entertaining content.
“One of the key things when working with creators is that their channel and their audience is so important to them and if you’re a brand, the last thing [you] want to do is put out something that just says ‘download Candy.’ That’s not really how it can work well,” he admitted as the company sought to engage with the next generation of players. “They can see through it when it’s a fudge and we are trying to make something that is standalone entertainment.”
Explaining how the platform decides which creators to work with, Kusabbi said that “it takes time” with “a lot of rigor” invested up front to discover the right people who will help it reach its targeted desired audience and who fits the brand and vice versa.
Ahead of launching Candy Cave, the company worked with creators to discover how it could best use its creator fund to motivate the creation of content that would be watched.
“Once we have got that direction then you have to let the process go and that can be quite scary and quite risky. But I think if you do the rigor upfront, then actually that’s kind of where the actual game-changing work can come,” he said before later praising the work of the company’s legal team for their support in agreeing to the partnerships.
Longer term partnerships with creators are also important, he said, in order to make better content once the two parties understand the audience and the essence of the brand.
The explainer video—running at over 12 minutes—is the platform’s most viewed video this year with 7.3 million views on YouTube in a month, while the resulting creator content has been viewed over 25 million times in the space of weeks.
The three-year process started with “a really small spend” as the team built the business case for the creator strategy through the mantra at King—“test, learn, scale and be really agile”—and developed a vision that would work, stated Kusabbi who added that he is “happy” with the decision to date.
The company tracks its brand as a measurement of success with an aim of being front-of-mind for players who engage while traveling or when they have time to relax. Situated within the communications team, the aim is to build coverage of its creator partnerships and social media mentions while also utilizing paid media to drive performance.
He explained that internally creators are classed as “a channel” through, for example, the Candy Crush TikTok strategy, which Kusabbi said is “hugely influenced by creators” which allows it “to shortcut pace” in reaching audiences. He advised that partnerships should be “mutually valuable” and that when negotiating the contract with talent, brands should be honest and direct with the creator about the aim, which will help attribution and also “avoid any nasty surprises” when the final content is produced.
This was true of the partnership with Trainor, which helped to reach her fans and bring them into the game to grow its audience.
Of the different social media platforms, Kusabbi explained the brand hasn’t “cracked Twitter” as it endures its post-Musk takeover acquisition; for King, it isn’t a priority platform like YouTube or TikTok are.
He also said that he sees a growth in “niche” communities as it searches for new places to engage with potential players, with decisions driven through data insights—for example having different content strands tested on TikTok to understand where might be best to place its budget, which it is currently in planning for over the coming two years.
“If a content strand isn’t performing, that’s when we’d look to move that somewhere else rather than pull out the platform,” he added about decision making on platform spend.
Meanwhile, there are plans to scale Candy Cave and similar long-format ideas with the aim to “add fun to audience’s lives” while targeting the next generation of players aged between 25-35 years old.
“Creators are definitely an area where we are absolutely going to be focusing a lot more on, for sure,” he stated, underlining the determination to continue this focus in the long-term.