Monopoly’s monopoly: how the iconic board game created a 21st-century brand
Monopoly’s popularity, cult-like status and strong foothold in popular culture has survived generation after generation even into the digital age. So, what is the secret to its everlasting appeal?
In a world of video games and handheld devices capable of holding thousands of apps with which to pass the time, the board game Monopoly (and its unique instructions such as Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.) remains a firm household favorite.
It is a remarkable result for a game that was launched to the world by Parker Bros in the mid-1930s.
So why has Monopoly continued to succeed when other board games have failed?
It plays to its audience
Initially based on the streets of Atlantic City, there have since been over 1100 variations of the game. From James Bond to The Simpsons, Hershey’s to Horselovers (yes, really), Sydney to Star Wars to Sacramento, if you’re interested in it, you can probably find a Monopoly game based around it.
Of course, the gameplay itself doesn’t really change, regardless of which special edition you’re playing. So, while street and station names, characters and community chest cards may vary, the principle of the game remains the same.
But the customizable aspect of the game has been a masterstroke – tapping into its customers’ interests and creating something collectible for people who aren’t into Monopoly but have a strong love for something else. Such as bass fishing. (Again, really.)
And this customization to audiences is something Monopoly has, in effect, been doing since Year Two, when Parker Bros licensed the game to Waddington in the UK, who changed the streets of Atlantic City to London.
Goodbye Boardwalk, hello Park Lane. A new board, new box, a new collector’s edition and a new icon was created. An icon that has been constantly reinvented and reimagined and that retains a relevancy to the modern age. In contrast to its easily recognizable game pieces, Monopoly is a brand that doesn’t stand still.
You see, it’s not about the game – it’s about the brand.
Its customers make decisions
The traditional Monopoly has some iconic game pieces. The original six were the top hat, the thimble, the iron, the boot, the battleship, and the cannon. The racing car (1935-6), dog (1950s) and wheelbarrow (1950s) are familiar pieces that were added later. The cannon disappeared from the line-up in the second half of the 20th century.
What Monopoly has done superbly with any subsequent game piece changes is allowing their audience to vote on which one is sent to the big Monopoly graveyard in the sky, and what replaces it.
The iron was voted out by millions of people across the world in 2013 – in favor of a cat – while the thimble was ousted in 2017, with a T-Rex taking its place.
Rules, too, have been put to the vote – including which popular ‘house’ rules to incorporate in a special ‘house rules’ version of the game.
That sense of influence given to the general public by the game’s manufacturer, however, is huge – however perceived it may be. People are thinking about – and invested in – an outcome. Players AKA customers have a personal connection to the game and to the brand.
Not only does it generate a tonne of publicity, keeping the game relevant and in the public eye, but it also continues to strengthen the relationship between the game and its audience.
It involves the whole family
If you ask anyone around the world, of any generation, to name three board games, odds are Monopoly will be mentioned. It’s a game that the vast majority have heard about, are familiar with and have played. Which means it’s an easy choice.
It’s also a game that is easy to pick up, and adults and kids can play together.
Hasbro, the now-owners of the game, having purchased Parker Bros in 1991, have also created kids editions. These simplified versions of the game allow children and adults to play together and get children involved in the game – and make them aware of the brand – from a very early age.
The Cheater’s Edition was another launch that deviated from the classic gameplay. Although it met with more than a few raised eyebrows from Monopoly diehards, it created another experience, another opportunity to play, and opened it up to a demographic that may not have played Monopoly regularly before.
The different editions of Monopoly – whether special editions or licensed – have huge pick-up appeal, too. For the gift-buyer, you can’t go too far wrong with Monopoly.
A monopoly for Monopoly
For marketers, Monopoly is a stunning lesson in creating a brand with enormous longevity. While the game itself is good, is it really that much better than some of the hundreds of other board games out there? Probably not.
But it’s not just a board game – that’s the point. It’s created a brand.
A brand that embraces the passions of its audience, has wide, generational appeal, creates opportunities for regular coverage in the media and on social media and – most importantly – lets its customers make (or believe they make) decisions that guide its future.
It’s ironic, because when it comes to board games, it really is a monopoly.
Imagine all the feedback the marketers at Monopoly had to sift through to help guide their product’s future!
In just a few clicks, you can understand what your customers are trying to tell you, and gain that competitive edge, through Interpris.