It’s a $135 billion industry and growing, with gaming brands continuing to compete for consumer dollars and the title of most innovative. See how VP Mary Yee – a seasoned vet with previous stints at Clorox, Johnson & Johnson, and Shopzilla – is helping PlayStation reclaim its No. 1 spot in the market and what key traits she looks for in a stand-out brand marketer.
Tell us about your role and why you chose to join PlayStation?
I lead brand marketing for platforms, hardware and digital games at PlayStation. This includes developing our communications strategy to market our products, leading a team to bring the stories to life through our marketing campaigns, and growing our relationships with gamers worldwide.
I jumped at the opportunity to work at the intersection of entertainment and technology. PlayStation is an amazing brand with a heritage of challenging the status quo and continuously surprising consumers year after year. It is exciting to me that video games have become one of the largest consumer categories in the world. It pushes us to think about how we define the brand as a force, not just in video games, but in the broader cultural landscape.
What’s currently happening in marketing that most excites you?
Personalization and customization in the digital world. We are able to develop a deeper relationship with consumers because we have access to real-time data, allowing personalization at scale. This is motivation to raise the bar for the communications we put into the world. Marketers who understand the power of insights and data use it as an accelerator to create value for consumers through their work. We want to inspire gamers and consumers, continuing to prove to them why they should care about PlayStation based on something that matters to them.
What are you working on now that’s innovative?
With the PlayStation VR, we are pushing the boundaries for the next level of immersion by putting the gamer in the center of the amazing worlds that gaming enables. We’ve sold 4.2M units and continue to bring innovative titles to the platform, including the recently announced exclusive partnership with Marvel Games and Camouflaj Teams to bring Marvel’s Iron Man VR to PS VR this year.
How are you approaching the marketing for PlayStation VR?
We’ve really focused on how we demonstrate a different type of immersion that PlayStation VR enables, that is a step above PS4. The campaigns that really demonstrate that are the Skyrim VR and Borderlands 2 VR campaigns. Both stories are told from the narrative of the gamer, transported to the amazing game world through PSVR. The transition from the real world to the game world through the lens of the PSVR headset is something that we really wanted to achieve.
We hold on-site demos, in-store activations and our digital State-of-Play series emphasizing a large catalog of new VR games. We also are thinking about the sustainability of PSVR as a platform. We want gamers to pick up PSVR and continue to engage post-purchase. Therefore, that means we really value the partnership with game developers to ensure that there is amazing content available for the platform.
What big learning moments have you experienced during your career?
In 2013, PS3 held the #3 share position in the market behind Nintendo Wii and Xbox360. It was a dream opportunity for me, as a brand marketer who grew up with the PlayStation heritage, to help the brand recapture leadership in the market. Since then, we’ve recaptured market leadership and sustained continuous growth.
It was great to be on the winning side of that equation… but through that, I learned that market leadership is earned and can’t be taken for granted. As soon as you achieve that goal, it’s in the rearview mirror and it does not give you a free ride into the future. We must continue to look ahead and never be complacent. Through that experience, I always want to embrace the challenger spirit within the culture of our team.
How do you pick and develop the talent on your team?
The key traits that I look for and push to develop in my team are:
- Curiosity. Curiosity drives change, challenges the norms, and seeks the underlying drivers for growth. It also drives a healthy competitive ambition that all marketers need to fight for share in a competitively thriving market.
- Passion for Products and Brands. You’ve got to have passion for what you do to be authentic to the brand. Great brand stewards lean on that passion to stand strong when brand values are tested in the marketplace for short-term returns.
- Desire and capacity to lead. Leadership does not just come from the top. It’s a service-based mentality that I seek out and try to develop at all levels of the organization. Marketers should exemplify leadership attributes across, up and down the organization.
What one thing do you need from your CMO to help you be successful?
Trust. Trust inspires confidence in our work and team. It holds me accountable not only for the business results but how I lead the organization to achieve our ambitions. It’s everything.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My grandfather was a large influence in my childhood. I learned through his example – to strive to be excellent not perfect. A reminder of that continuously helps me reprioritize my efforts and redefines my ambitions. You don’t always have to be the best to win or find success. This mindset often gives me the license to explore different ways to tackle difficult challenges – allowing innovation to find its way into the nooks and crannies of our day-to-day operations.
What’s something that most people don't know about you?
Although I’m often quite reserved and quiet, I’m an extrovert and being around the energy of others is what motivates me the most.
If you weren’t in marketing, what would you be doing?
Teacher or a professor at a university. I love being around young talent and an environment where ideas are explored and debated.
What book would you most recommend to fellow marketers?
I love to hear storytelling from a first-person narrative. The latest batch of my favorites have been from women leaders and comedians: Michelle Obama – Becoming, Tina Fey- Bossypants, RBG – My Own Words, Brene Brown – Dare to Lead, Mindy Kaling – Why Not Me?