Blue Orb Inc., formerly known as Keybowl Inc., is a company that has a history of developing “game-changing” keyboard and hand-oriented technology for computer users. Pete McAlindon, CEO of Blue Orb Inc., developed the orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard during his studies at the University of Central Florida. The orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard gave users full use of a regular-sized keyboard with little hand, finger, or wrist movement, which made the product interesting for users with little to no use of their hands. From the orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard, Blue Orb Inc. moved to the topic of this case study, the SwtichBlade. The SwitchBlade originally began as freeware available for download that “allowed gamers to play PC video games with a game controller without having to manually configure the controller” (Blue Orb). This technology is especially applicable within the online/PC gaming community as it allows users to switch seamlessly between their favorite games without having to deal with the hassle of adjusting or even changing controllers. Essentially, the SwitchBlade reduces overall costs to the consumer, who will not have to buy multiple controllers, and makes their gaming life easier by saving them time and reducing cumbersome configuration tasks. Finally, Blue Orb Inc. and the initial conception of the SwitchBlade came into formation when McAlindon was able to attracted angel investors who would fund the endeavor. Currently, or at the time when the case study was written, the SwitchBlade had 1,100 subscribers and approximately 15,000 users registered on the site due to SwitchBlade’s original freeware release.
Key Issues, Problems, and Opportunities
Blue Orb Inc. has recently switched from a freeware-based business model, wherein the company’s profits would be derived from advertising revenue on the company website, to a subscription-based model. However, Blue Orb Inc. has been struggling to attract subscribers. The company’s goal is to build a legitimate and loyal consumer and fan base that would serve and tinder for future growth and popularity. Currently, Blue Orb Inc. sees a potential opportunity in organizing a video game competition in which competitors would be able to use SwitchBlade technology with a chance to win prizes and gain bragging rights in the gaming community. The problem they are facing with this opportunity is they are unsure about its potential effectiveness (in terms of reaching their company and marketing goals) and the competition will cost $25,000 they do not have, if outsourced to FightWare.
Blue Orb Inc. is also facing a number of corporate structure problems: “A marketing team needed to be assembled. Sales and customer support infrastructure and processes needed to be either created or made more robust. Promotional themes and copy needed to be developed in support of the value proposition” (Blue Orb). What this shows is that Pete McAlindon is a successful technology developed but a poor businessman. Blue Orb Inc. has some very interesting technology that is completely applicable to the company’s market, but the company seems to have almost no structure. In this case, Blue Orb Inc. is severely lacking in marketing and sales, two departments that are vital for organizing and instigating company growth. Finally, if Blue Orb Inc. is able to establish a proper marketing and sales strategy, then they have the opportunity to capitalize off of a technology that is virtually unique in a market that shows a significant need for it.
Blue Orb Inc. should not invest $25,000 in a video game competition when they say things like: “Do we have $25,000?” “The short answer to your question is no. But I can likely get it from one or two of our investors” (Blue Orb). This is a terrible strategy for a couple of reasons. First, the company would be spending $25,000 to basically advertise its technology to 32 nationally known gamers. This is equivalent to giving approximately $1,000 to each player and hoping they like the technology. Second, Blue Orb Inc. does not have $25,000 and if they did, they should invest that money in developing solid bases for its marketing and sales teams. Next, Blue Orb Inc. shows low effectiveness for investment in similar promotions such as Gaming expos, where investments of $19,950 yielded only $1,201 in revenue (a 0.06 effectiveness ratio). Finally, it is important to point out the board of directors’ alternative marketing approach: “advertise to millions, attract hundreds of thousands, and convert thousands into customers” (Blue Orb). This is simply laughable. How can a company that is struggling to gather $25,000 launch a million-person promotional campaign?
The promotional route that Blue Orb Inc. should take is that of word of mouth (with a few addendums). To start, word of mouth advertising is Blue Orb Inc.’s most effective method of marketing, garnering a 1.26 effectiveness ratio. Blue Orb Inc. should give its technology to every YouTube gaming channel for free. Doing this effectively targets the same type of nationally known gamers (who are valuable due to their influence on the gaming community) for an investment of nearly zero dollars. One thing that Blue Orb Inc. needs to remember when marketing is that their “product” is intangible and therefore cheap and easy to produce; the company can give and has given their “product” away. This is a very valuable asset in that it costs virtually nothing to advertise in the best possible way: giving users the ability to test the product. This approach failed in the past because Blue Orb Inc. made the technology too available. By freely giving the SwitchBlade to social media influencers, Blue Orb Inc. will effectively reach large consumer audiences. This is a far better approach to marketing than paying $25,000 to host a tournament in which participants will likely blame their unfamiliarity with the SwitchBlade software for their losses. By giving the SwitchBlade to the right YouTube influencers, Blue Orb Inc. will be able to attract the loyal followers of the influencers (who will see them play with the SwitchBlade on YouTube) to buy SwitchBlade subscriptions. Further, this route will also give Blue Orb Inc. valuable video content that they will be able to post on their social media pages.
- Blue Orb: A company in Transition, case study. 2010.