Tuesday, 3 November 2009

How everybody benefited from Nintendo’s Wii

There has been a shift in consumer confidence in how electronics manufacturers address social and environmental issues
Giles Gibbons
It is hard to shift the dial on reputation. This is true of the reputation of companies — and often doubly true of that of an industry.
People tend to trust individual companies and brands but remain wary of generalising. Levels of trust in multinationals are always well below those for other companies in that industry.
This is not to say that an industry’s reputation cannot be turned around. In the latest exclusive survey for The Times, conducted by Populus, we have noted a significant shift in consumer confidence in how electronics manufacturers are addressing social and environmental issues. But it requires action — the right kind of action.
Reputational shift

It is striking that 46 per cent of consumers in this month’s survey think that the reputation of the video gaming industry has improved in recent years (see first graph). Here we have an industry that was once cast as the villain. Think back a few years to the horror stories about how video games were making children fat, reclusive and violent.
Things are different now. And, as most consumers agree, this turnaround can be attributed almost entirely to one company: Nintendo. Forty-six per cent of consumers surveyed, who thought that the reputation of the industry had improved, believe this company is responsible, placing it leagues ahead of Sony and Microsoft, its closest rivals, both on 17 per cent.
The Wii effect
The second graph offers two important lessons. The first is that just as one company is often responsible for bringing an entire industry down (certain fast-food chains come to mind), so one company can bring it back up again. The second, more important lesson can be learnt only by looking at exactly what Nintendo did.
According to Michael Rawlinson, director-general of the Entertainment & Leisure Software Publishers’ Association: “In the past, video games have had a bad press ... but today games are not only a mainstream pastime, they can even play their part in a well-balanced and healthy lifestyle. Today’s games can bring friends and families together, get people active and even connect gamers from the four corners of the world to play together.”
When Nintendo launched the Wii, it actively addressed many of the big issues the industry faced and in the best way possible — through the product. In a stroke of genius, through Wii Fit, Nintendo even made sports and physical activity fun and appealing to exactly the people who probably need the exercise most.
As Rita Clifton, chairman of Interbrand UK, the consultancy, says: “The brand brought in a whole new set of gamers, who were many of the people who didn’t approve of gaming.”
The Nintendo Wii has become one of the bestselling home games machines of the present generation and has sales of more than 50 million units since its launch. And Wii Fit was the third fastest-selling video game in history.
Good for the industry’s reputation, good for the business, good for the brand. But while the social issues may have been taken care of, the environmental issues are about to start.
Green reputations
As we see in the survey (see third graph), 46 per cent of consumers say that they have started looking for “greener” products in the past year and 58 per cent have been choosing products with less packaging. Almost three quarters — 73 per cent — say they feel that they do not usually have enough environmental information to make an informed choice about the products they buy. Top of the list of what information they want? Electricity consumption, at 96 per cent.
This is a clear example of an unmet need and a looming issue. Power consumption and packaging are moving to the front line. If that reputational dial is going to remain firmly at its present setting, innovation and action, through the product and in the voice of the brand, is key.
? Giles Gibbons is founder and chief executive, Good Business goodbusiness.co.uk