Veritas fumbles Scrabulous assessment

Veritas Public Relations puts out an excellent newsletter called Touchdown & Fumbles which is a round up of the best and worst communication plays of the week. I’m a long time subscriber and I’d be lying if I said that the format of Stractical was not largely based on TD&F.

But Veritas’ principal media coach, Bob Reid, missed the boat when awarding a “Fumble” to Hasbro for their actions against Scrabulous (reported on yesterday here). Here’s what he said and why he is wrong with my comments unbolded:

Hasbro Wants Scrabulous Scrapped

Viral marketing buzz is worth its weight in gold these days, and smart marketers are using social marketing websites like Facebook to try and get it going. That’s precisely why here at Veritas we recently launched our com.motion division – Keith McArthur and his team specialize in that stuff. So it’s really kind of astonishing that Hasbro, the company that makes the Scrabble board game, is coming down on Facebook for its wildly popular “Scrabulous” application. It’s essentially an on-line version of Scrabble, though by a close-yet-different name, that Facebook members can play with their friends. Scrabulous has quickly become one of the hottest Facebook applications going, and it has made good ol’ Scrabble kinda cool again – to the point that many Scrabulous fans are going out and buying the old board game. But despite all this cutting-edge buzz, Hasbro has gone lawyer on Facebook, crying foul over copyright infringement and telling them to cease-and-desist or else.

The reporting is just plain wrong here, Bob. Hasbro specifically said they are attempting to come to an amicable solution which includes trying to incorporate Scrabulous into the legitimate Scrabble realm. As well, to comment on the communication strategy, we must take into account that the invention and popularity of Scrabulous may be good for Hasbro. It may be prompting sales of the board game. It may be making Scrabble cool again. It may also be the perfect time for Hasbro to capitalize on this phenomenon.

Scrabulous fans have rallied, establishing countless “Save Scrabulous” groups on Facebook. Why Hasbro would look this gift-horse of publicity in the mouth is beyond me. Even if it’s because they’re in the midst of developing their own on-line version of Scrabble, they’d be much smarter to try and bring the two guys who developed Scrabulous in the first place into the tent somehow, rather than attempting to shut the whole thing down. Should an official on-line Scrabble game come to pass, I predict a major backlash as a result of Hasbro’s Scrabulous scrap.

Again, these rally cries and Facebook groups are only increasing the publicity of this story, and how often does Scrabble make the news these days anyways? Hasbro is trying to bring the Scabulous founders in while at the same time protecting their copyright. Left unchecked, Scrabulous may become so closely aligned with actual Scrabble that consumers can’t make a brand distinction. It is the impetus of the stewards of the brand (chief marketers and communicators) not to let that happen. As well, as I discussed yesterday, the introduction of the Scrabble brand supporters vs. shady copyright violating profiteers storyline is almost epic in its effort, if not entirely believable. Yet the story is getting reported almost exactly as Hasbro has framed it. Backlash or not, every news reader now knows that Scrabble is breaking an official online game. As long as its free, will users decry playing official Scrabble instead of its illegitimate cousin? It says here they won’t. Here’s hoping the otherwise excellent Touchdown & Fumbles reads the defence the next time out.


1 Comment

  1. […] excellent Spark takes up the Scrabulous issue and comes to many of the same conclusions as Stractical: Hasbro/Mattel/other license holders saw a phenomenon rising and jumped on board, legally and […]

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