It’s a term I made up rather than read, though the principle is an ancient one. To explain what I mean: “marketing” we all know as the planned relationship between company and customer of which advertising, brand management and so on all play a part.
The term “false flag” is mostly used in reference to covert shenanigans by the CIA et al. It refers to people carrying out operations that appear to be by one group when they are actually by another, often with the intent of throwing off the scent for pursuers, but also for implicating the supposed perps. Cassus belli are often imagined to be (or are) false flag operations. It’s a favourite subject for conspiracy theorists. For example, the suggestion that the 9/11 hijackings were a false flag operation by US intelligence agencies to provide an excuse to put a military presence in the Gulf. Even if all the actual perpetrators of the event were non-US citizens and believed they were working against the States, they may still be working for the CIA if the spooks are doing their job properly. The beauty of this type of operation, when done well, is its deniability.
But back to games. False flag marketing would therefore be the idea that you can manage your customer-company relationship by doing a bunch of stuff that’s set up to look like someone else. Of course this happens all the time and probably has a name already if you study the subject at college. But is is as cool a term as false flag? That’s the important thing 😛
In the specific case of the leak of the new edition of 40K rules, we have some intriguing confluences and new developments which have implications. Most important of these new developments is the recent Chapterhouse ruling in the US courts, which changes the way in which companies have to protect their IP. It was a big change, and something of a surprise decision. Couple this with some European laws, and you get the situation where nobody should be showing off illustrations a day before their models go on sale or they run the risk of being sued for producing their own model. All very strange.
These days, movies are routinely pimped to the public with viral marketing campaigns, some of which are obviously linked and others of which are more sneaky.
In games the sophistication is rather less. However, there is no reason why the same principles could not be applied. It’s interesting to note that it was a very similar stage at which the last major leaks came out.It could be that this is the point that the leaker gets hold of the copy. It could equally well be that this is the stage in the marketing plan where GW put it out themselves. Deniability 😉
Whilst it’s the concept I’m really interested in here, let’s look a bit closer at some possibilities with this 40K leak.
Firstly, it could be a disgruntled Games Workshop employee sticking a document on the web as payback for some real or imagined slight (or to make himself look important, or as a public service, etc). On the whole GW uses a system that makes such leaks traceable, at least in general terms, so one could expect to hear of the fallout from this. If this leak is unintentional on the management’s part, then it shows nothing more than the fact that it’s hard to maintain product security completely in a large company, and that it doesn’t take a big leak to blow a big product. On the whole I think GW are pretty good these days at keeping most stuff under their hats till they choose to talk about it. They will know at what stage and which groups will guarantee leaks and rumours, and this is part of their release strategy.
If the “leak” is false flag marketing, then you have to ask why. Well, it generates a buzz around the impending release, gets people interested and talking about things. It’s a way of announcing stuff without actually officially announcing it. If they use false flag then they deny all knowledge, claim it’s not true and avoid the problem of everyone postponing their purchases till after whilst still promoting the upcoming release. Nobody wants a dip in sales. So, false flag would be a win for GW there.
It’s also really cheap. Most advertising costs a lot, and if this is a false flag leak then they get all the advantages of the interest and coverage without having to pay for anything. They already have the document anyway. Another win.
By ensuring that no art is included they avoid the Chapterhouse problem. It’s going to get increasingly hard to trail new releases because of this court ruling, and this false flag leak is one way round the problem.
Nor will the leak harm the sales once the real book comes out. Everyone will want the official thing, with the minor, but important changes they ensure are in (plus all the cool art, photos, etc). So what are the downsides of false flag like this? You look a bit foolish, though I expect the excitement overrides this. I also think that people don’t really expect complete secrecy as they see so many leaks from larger and more powerful organisations in the news.
Whilst I have no real idea whether this is false flag marketing or not, it seems to me that it should be as it’s pretty much all good for GW 🙂