The surprising marketing lessons from Super Mario Run

Earlier this year, Nintendo had a comeback with the smash hit Pokemon Go developed by Niantic. Riding high expectations, the company known for consoles and console-based games has recently released its debut smartphone game. Reactions from the market towards Super Mario Run haven’t been as favourable.

Let’s look at some of Nintendo’s moves and the game itself. What are the good and bad things marketers can learn from?



Nostalgia marketing is an effective tool in a marketer’s arsenal, especially for millennials. Hence, good storytelling would bring out the nostalgic value even more. Super Mario Run already has that value having around for 30 years or so.

The question is: has the game story delivered?  

Source: Nintendo
Source: Nintendo

World Tour – one of the game’s three play modes – seems to capture the idea of storytelling. Instead of having just a single storyline, there are 6 worlds (or themes), each with 4 courses (or episodes). 

While there have been complaints about Super Mario Run being an oversimplified game, the lesson for marketers is: immerse your fans with creative storytelling. 


Influencer marketing

Nintendo went with a pricing strategy that entails an upfront cost rather than a “freemium” like other popular games (e.g. Candy Crush, Clash Royale).

The relatively high price tag makes “reviews by the hard-core fans of the Super Mario series … important, as they will be behind the general opinion on the game that should take shape fairly soon after its release.”

With a lacklustre rating of 2.5 stars on the Apple App Store, Nintendo needs to work fast to combat bad word of mouth

They might already have the right message – that their pricing strategy helps parents avoid accidental in-app purchases by kids. But as marketers would understand, without the right influencer outreach program, the message can get lost amid the noise.

What about a PR campaign? Japan’s Prime Minister dressed up as Mario during the 2016 Olympic closing ceremony as a preview of Tokyo 2020 event. When the negative tide is strong, marketers can look to the bright side and bring out more positive-toned content.  


One platform at a time

The decision to partner up with Apple, making Super Mario Run only available on iOS for now means Nintendo can:

  • Leverage Apple’s fandom and reach
  • Focus on one platform/channel first to test the waters

Apple also launched Mario stickers for iMessage alongside the game’s release, which sounds like co-branded content in the marketing world. 



In the game’s Kingdom Builder mode, players can collect coins to buy buildings and decorations. Although the range is not as big as in Pokemon Go, this potentially can increase game engagement and retention. 

Similarly, marketers have been trying to personalise user experience, or let users feel they own the experience through things like user-generated content. 


Online communities

In the Toad Rally mode, the game gets a social flavour. Gamers can play with friends and other people from around the world. 

As marketers, if you can create a platform that facilitate user interactions, connect people towards a common goal, brand affinity would be strengthened. 

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