A STORY OF MARKETING GENIUS
Contrast Web’s roots stem back to 2005 when our co-founder Michal Birecki was still in his college years. His entrepreneurial drive pushed him to explore the depths of the web, business & marketing. At 19, he had sold his convertible sports car to fund his first venture – which would carve his future web career. This anecdote digs into values of well built web products, inbound marketing & clever online PR stunts.
In 2005, Michal Birecki founded a community named PS3Forumz.com, which was all about the anticipated PlayStation 3 console slated to be released later in 2006. As he built the community, sponsors offered to purchase advertising space on the website, sparking new ideas of growth for the young entrepreneur. In 2006 he sold his sports car to invest in the development of a new PS3 related niche website, in hopes to capture a larger share of the gaming news aggregation market to profit from media buys.
He hired a top level flash designer to replicate the PlayStation 3’s XMB menu, & designed the rest of the website with motives to capture the interests of visitors as they landed on pages. By marrying his new website to the right technology (in this case a content management system named Custom CMS), he was able to design a website that focused heavily on content relations.
The point of an engaging website was to make it indulging enough, so that your visitor spends countless minutes browsing through news, pictures, videos, games & other related pages without even noticing the time fly. Mix these notions with clever marketing triggers at key moments, and you’ve got yourself a new lead generator for your online venture.
So how did he apply these tactics to this venture? It’s simple, he put games at the top of the chain, & started breaking down the related disciplines. What fit into each game? News, articles, screenshots, videos, genres, platforms, publishers & developers. Great, now wouldn’t it be great to see those related assets on the same page while you’re reading an article, or even viewing related screenshots? What if all these related items were just one click away from each other, wouldn’t that make the browsing experience more pleasant?
The system acted like a living entity in which there was no right direction to follow, it was designed for the visitor to go with the flow. Marry such system with a team of writers, editors, business minded individuals & you had yourself an online publication.
A few months following the release of the website, the team was frantically working on creating unique content, maintaining the integrity of the game, picture & video database, strengthening relationships with industry contacts & looking for ways to improve the marketing tool.
With the PlayStation 3 just around the corner, the bootstrapping entrepreneur needed to make some extra bucks, so he decided to camp outside for nearly 22 hours to get his hands on the console on its release day. With pre-orders selling for top dollar valuations, the idea of acting as a distribution middleman for the first round of available PlayStation 3 consoles was not a bad idea. After having spent nearly $800 on the console, he ran home to notice that several thousand like-minded dreamers had made the same assumption, causing the market to flip. Demands were low & supply was high, causing price to drop significantly. The consoles were no longer selling at top dollar valuations, but instead at below market prices. Michal took a step back, looked at the console & made his 2nd most important career changing decision.
Sony had originally created 3 concepts for the console – a black, silver & white version. Michal, having had spent his youth years as an apprentice on the floors of his father’s car dealership, body shop & mechanical repair center, made him adept at taking things apart & applying body work practices to make them look factory fresh. Knowing that he needed a unique selling proposition to distinguish his product from the others, he browsed through the Internet for ideas to setting products apart. He fell on a few stories of people customizing various hardware & that’s when it clicked — he was going to make the world’s first white PlayStation 3. It would also become the next promotional piece to popularize his website.
The product was broken down to two dozen pieces & he was off to sand, prime & paint the console using “A grade” bodywork materials & techniques.
Once the product was ready, he knew he had something special in his hands, so he made sure to take all the steps to make his risk & investment worthwhile:
- He documented the entire process from top to bottom, in anticipation to create a feature article on PS3 Center.
- He waited until Christmas day to post the final product on his website – as a white PS3 on Christmas day just sounded magical.
- He took advantage of eBay’s HTML Editor to squeeze in some inline HTML/CSS to reskin his description section as the PS3 Center website in hopes to draw in some additional traffic to the website while the console was going up for sale.
- He contacted a few large media publications to spread the word.
- He created a video to prove that the console still worked.
Within hours, the white PS3 was the hottest topic in the gaming scene. Bids were flying, press inquiries were pouring in, traffic was spiking causing the website to occasionally crash & ad revenue was increasing. The console sold for nearly $1,800 to a race car driver from France whom had a fetish for white furniture. He followed suit with a silver version & then a Maserati red version whom bids went up to $12,000 on eBay (although it ended up selling for significantly less). Sony also began to manufacture a limited edition "Scarlet Red" PS3... we wonder where the idea came from? :)
What makes this anecdote interesting is that these series of events & decisions grew his PS3 Center publication to new heights over the years. He later went on to acquire the Custom CMS company which powered his website in anticipation to revamp the scene of niche content management systems (as seen in the Couch Gamers Case Study). Michal developed an acute interest in web design & development, business & marketing over the following years & built a team of top level talent to form Contrast Web.
As far as PS3 Center publication goes, it’s still driving tons of organic traffic due to its well optimized search engine architecture. Although staff has outgrown the publication, and little focus goes to the media source, we have hopes to make good use of the brand & its past success for a future venture. In the meantime, here are some friendly statistics to bring hommage to PS3 Center.
Statistics since November 13, 2008:
- Over 1.9 million unique visitors.
- Over 10.3 million page views.
- 3.31 pages per visit.
- 63.52% of the visitors are brand new.
- 16.6% of traffic has been organic.
- 62.5% of traffic has been through referred sources.
- 20.9% of traffic has been direct.
- The most astonishing statistic has to be the bounce rate. It boasts a stunning bounce rate of 4.43%, meaning that 95.57% of visitors stay on the website past 1 page. This proves that a well designed website with deep content relations is the key to engaging users.
- The “World’s First White PS3 Working” video hit over 490,000 views on YouTube.
This anecdote didn’t expand on the ins & outs of the web product built, but more-so on the power of content aggregation, inbound marketing & PR -- which proves to have had successfully generated results with this niche. So why isn’t your business blogging & pulling simple but effective marketing stunts?