The Power of Human Connection in a Digital Age: Embracing Serendipity

Marketing budgets of $500 million are rare.  And I’m like the ambassador for frugal marketing so I expect you’re a bit surprised to see me ask this. But what if I told you that you could get $2 billion in revenue in 10 months flat? Suddenly the spend seems very reasonable, no? This is the success story of Monopoly Go.

$500 million was actually a frugal marketing budget

In a world where startups invest projected revenue for years on marketing, Monopoly Go was actually cautious. They clocked $2 billion in less than a year. They maximized their campaign by going hyperlocal, and targeting distinct personas with a large volume of creatives.

With AI it is much easier – and cheaper – to create ads, and so you will start seeing way more personalized, hyperlocal creatives. (There will be job losses but also a rise in demand for those who know how to harness AI to create “marketing campaign for one”.)

There was also a big emphasis on influencer seeded content and user generated content. Again, two trends that are not going away soon and which can be used by any brand today. See this example from Bajaj Almond Drops (Disclosure: I’m an Independent Director on the board of the parent firm)

You can read all about the Monopoly GO! marketing campaign at

How much should I spend on a marketing budget plan?

This is the number one favourite question of every CEO by far. You see, marketing, even if it is frugal marketing, is a leap of faith. You have to spend first, benefit later. Funded startups can spend over 100% of their forecasted revenue on marketing. In steady state most tech products, even established ones, would do 25% depending on how they count their marketing spends. The outliers are IT services marketing where it usually hovers at 2%.

TL: DR answer – spend as much as you can afford to.

As an aside, Monopoly Go is ultimately owned by Saudi’s Public Investment Fund. Which sort of explains why they have the funds 🙂 While I saw a lot of buzz on Saudi’s investment in golf, cricket, tennis and Formula 1, I did not realize that they had embraced esports too, with investments in Scopely, EA, and Activision Blizzard. If you wonder what will people do when robots do everything, here’s a potential answer – they will play more!

Why are companies hesitant to do a Monopoly GO!

I’d say it is tied to their ability to take a risk. And also their ability to trust the process. Which is closely tied to trusting the CMO. And also the CEO and Board’s understanding of modern marketing.

Take a look at this tidbit from a Harvard Business Review article “When we asked CEOs and CMOs in the same company what marketing’s primary role was — brand building, customer experience, digital growth, loyalty, or sales support — half the time, they gave different answers. In addition, almost half of CMOs ranked branding and advertising as a top-two growth tool; fewer than 30% of CEOs agreed.”

Uh-oh. That same article talks of other disconnects between marketing and the rest of the organization.

TL:DR – as I say in my book on frugal marketing, Marketing Without Money, many companies are forever building the better mousetrap, but forgetting to invest in the cheese.  Frugal marketing can help reduce the risk.

Could be that they view the CMO as a reckless teen not to be trusted with the family Ferrari. But there are ways to overcome that particular concern – hiring seasoned consultants (like me) to validate the plan, understanding marketing enough to validate the plan yourself, putting in milestones and graceful failures etc. Some day in the future you could probably get AI to do the validation for you, but that isn’t today.  I’ve been trying to train my pet ChatGPT but no matter what I feed it the output is still meh.

Also Read: High Impact Marketing for Tech Brands

Are you a chicken or pig when it comes to frugal marketing?

A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road.
The Chicken says: “Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!”
Pig replies: “Hm, maybe, what would we call it?”
The Chicken responds: “How about ‘ham-n-eggs’?”
The Pig thinks for a moment and says: “No thanks. I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved.”
Most CEOs are only dipping their toes in marketing. The more they have to lose the less likely they will invest big in growth. In the era of AI endless scalability is a possibility so the stakes are even higher for those who capture customer mindshare early.

Resilience is key to risk taking

I am writing this from Zug, a quaint little town outside Zurich. I’m here with the teen, visiting a bestie she has made online. Having overcome my obvious fears of this adventure, I get to write this newsletter away from the heat of an early summer, with a view of pristine snow covered peaks in a beautiful loft apartment. I’ve even got the time to read a book – Atlas of the Heart by Brenee Brown.

Much of frugal marketing – and life – is about controlling the variables to the extent you can and having the confidence of dealing with the ones you can’t. It’s not easy, but there is no other way.


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