Tetris reaches record awareness level as it marks 25th anniversary

Blue Planet Software is the exclusive licensing agent for The Tetris Company. Created by Alexey Pajitnov in the Soviet Union in 1984, Tetris was owned by the Soviet government until the mid-1990s.

Client: Blue Planet Software (Honolulu)
PR agency: Grayling Connecting Point (San Francisco)
Campaign: Tetris' 25th Anniversary
Duration: June 2009-June 2010
Budget: Approximately $250,000

Blue Planet Software is the exclusive licensing agent for The Tetris Company. Created by Alexey Pajitnov in the Soviet Union in 1984, Tetris was owned by the Soviet government until the mid-1990s. Video-game designer and entrepreneur Henk Rogers went to the Soviet Union in 1989, won some licensing rights for Nintendo, and met Pajitnov. Today, the two co-own all Tetris rights.

Blue Planet GM David Kwock says Tetris, which never had formal PR support, sought agency representation last year. Grayling Connecting Point won AOR status. It was the only firm, he adds, to see the value in promoting Tetris' 25th birthday on June 6, 2009.

"Grayling got us to understand it was way bigger than we thought," Kwock adds.

The team used the anniversary to reinvigorate the brand by engaging licensees, media, bloggers, the general public, and gamers. Pajitnov and Rogers weren't well known outside gaming circles. Grayling Connecting Point CEO Chris Boehlke* says the effort provided a perfect opportunity to "introduce them to the world."

Tetris introduced the campaign to licensees at a summit meeting last spring. Boehlke explains that licensees were critical to the effort because they are the bridge between the brand and the public. She adds that the team worked closely with licensees to coordinate numerous joint and independent promotion efforts.

PR efforts began with a media event featuring Pajitnov and Rogers at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), held June 2-4, 2009. Global media and blogger relations also built buzz. Boehlke says the team shifted the idea that Tetris was a "relic" by casting it as both classic and relevant to today's consumers.

Grayling VP Curtis Sparrer put together a VNR highlighting Tetris' history and meaning to fans. The team also created a milestones document and worked with Blue Planet to redesign Tetris.com.

At E3, Tetris hosted the press event in EA Mobile's booth, and Grayling and EA Mobile, a licensee, used the latter's Twitter account to drive participation. Pajitnov and Rogers took fan questions from social media outlets and did interviews with top-tier consumer, gaming, and entertainment media and blogs.

Sparrer says Google offered to help create a Tetris doodle to run on its homepage June 5-6, 2009.

At a developer conference on January 21, 2010, Tetris announced it had reached 100 million paid mobile downloads. Outreach continued through June at various North American developer and customer events.

The effort exceeded all of Blue Planet's objectives. In fact, says Kwock, Tetris is "making more money than ever." He adds that 100 million paid mobile downloads makes it the top-selling game of all time on the platform.

Sparrer notes that EA Mobile reported Tetris sales for iPhone more than doubled from June 5, 2009 to June 1, 2010. Kwock says increased awareness has attracted new licensees and interest from "a much broader range" of licensing companies.

Global media impressions exceeded 2 billion in outlets such as AP, Reuters, and Time. Google reported "hundreds of millions" of people saw the Tetris doodle on its homepage.

Traffic on Tetrisonline.com, a licensee that worked with Tetris, increased from 133,528 visits to 498,993 visits from June 4, 2009 to June 6, 2009.

The team will continue to pro-mote Tetris. Kwock says Blue Planet plans to expand the brand into new products and services. Tanya Lewis

PRWeek's View
Kudos to Grayling for recognizing the tremendous value in promoting the anniversary. Though Tetris was wildly successful without PR, the increased awareness driven by this campaign certainly impacted sales and expansion plans. Kwock explains the effort helped Blue Planet understand that people view Tetris in personalized contexts, ranging from self-created videos to furniture. With Blue Planet now clearly realizing PR's value and Grayling understanding Tetris' value, the partnership should prove very beneficial in driving brand expansion.

* A previous version of this article referred to Chris Boehlke as Grayling CEO, when she is the CEO of Grayling Connecting Point.

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