Bob Cooney - Case Studies
Today’s category leaders all relied on Bob’s expertise and influence to dominate their markets:
BOB's abundant approach helps companies be profitable
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CREATED A BLUE OCEAN IN A CROWDED MARKET
Differentiated positioning is the key to more sales and profits.
As Virtuix was getting ready to launch their new Omni Arena attraction at IAAPA in 2018, founder and CEO Jan Goetgeluk wanted to make sure that he found the right audience for his revolutionary new product. The VR market had gotten crowded with 4-player attractions. Hologate launched in 2016 and became the category leader. Since then, half a dozen other companies brought similar looking products to market. Jan knew that if he didn’t get his marketing and positioning right, his product could get lost in the sea of similarity.
Bob knew that when customers are confused, they tend to buy on brand or price. Virtuix’s brand suffered from an earlier market entry with a partner that didn’t quite understand how to position, market, and support the product. Their new Omni Arena was designed to overcome all of the challenges of that earlier product. But it was going to be more expensive than the other products in the market. If Virtuix didn’t find some clear air in which to launch, they would struggle to sell to operators who might also be considering Hologate or the myriad other competitors in the space.
Bob flew to Austin to see the prototype and meet with the Virtuix team. He immediately saw the innovation they were bringing to market. This was not another copycat product but might look that way to an uninformed operator. Bob learned early that operators tend to lump all VR products together into one category. “I need a VR” had become a common request, ignoring the fact that different VR products appeal to different types of customers.
Bob helped Virtuix analyze the competitive landscape, looking at strengths and weaknesses. The Omni treadmill has an inherent physicality that some operators saw as a negative. But as Bob mapped the attributes of the Omni Arena to the competition, he found a unique position nobody was taking.
By focusing on competitive players, the active, physical nature of the Omni would be turned to a strength. Virtuix’s Omniverse software enabled them to manage esports competitions on behalf of operators. This would drive repeat visits, the holy grail of FEC attractions.
Omni Arena became the turnkey, high-energy esports platform for FECs. Operators lined up to play and purchase Omni Arena’s for their locations. Virtuix lined up HP and (sponsors?) promoting $100K in prizes for the year. Players created teams, playing over and over to stay on the leaderboard. The average team played 12 times a month. Some players have played over 100 games now. No VR system on the market can come close to that level of repeat play.
If Virtuix had launched the Omni Arena without spending a few days developing their go-to-market strategy, their sales team would have spent all their time trying to sell against well-entrenched competitors. Every sales would have been a struggle.
Instead, by embracing the limitation of the Omni treadmill and their history of competitive VR tournaments, Virtuix created an FEC market niche it’s been dominating since. Virtuix sales continue to outpace their production capacity, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unknown Australian Startup became the star of IAAPA
Leveraging relationships plus creative solutions cut through the trade show noise.
Tim Ruse, CEO of warehouse scale VR provider Zero Latency, was tired of The VOID getting all the buzz. Their first location in Melbourne was operating over 90% of capacity, selling out tickets within hours of release. They had opened a second location in Tokyo with SEGA, that was also extremely successful. Being the first to deploy a commercial free-roam virtual reality system, he felt his company deserved more attention from the market, which would lead to more system sales.
Zero Latency was in a new category of amusement attractions. Operators were sceptical of VR, as in the past few VR products proved reliable or financially feasible. Furthermore, free-roam VR was expensive and complex, costing near US$750K for a single installation. It was also something that absolutely had to be experienced to understand.
Tim wanted the world to experience his product, but they were headquartered in Melbourne, Australia. He exhibited at the big IAAPA Orlando show the prior year with a small setup on the show floor, but it didn't yield the results he was hoping for. One of the demos he gave was to Bob, who immediately recognized the opportunity to change the entertainment landscape.
Bob knew immediately that with the right product launch, Zero Latency would be successful. He flew to Melbourne to experience the full product and spend time with the team. He set his target for a global launch at the next IAAPA Orlando trade show. He knew it was cost prohibitive to setup a full demo on the show floor. Through his network he learned Main Event was building a new FEC at Pointe Orlando, a few blocks from the convention center.
Bob convinced Main Event to purchase a Zero Latency system to replace their planned laser tag arena and reserved the dates of the show for live demos. He secured a platinum sponsorship with IAAPA to gain access to the show registration list. A pre-show email enabled people to secure a time slot for a demo. They also gave away free passes to the expo and offered invitations to a VIP event held at a local blues club.
Bob rented a large van, and with Zero Latency magnetic logos affixed, had a driver shuttle prospective customers between Pointe Orlando and the convention center, removing any friction for people who wanted to experience Zero Latency.
Zero Latency ran more than 800 qualified prospects through their Main Event demo over the 4-day show. More than 120 VIPs came to a 3-hour event where between food and entertainment, Zero Latency executives could spend quality time with the most qualified prospects. Over the next year, Zero Latency’s share of voice in the media caught up to The VOID, with articles in leading trade, tech, and business publications.
On the back of this launch, Zero Latency maintains their leadership position in free-roam virtual reality. At least a dozen system sales came from this show and its follow-on activities. Benefits of that launch are still paying dividends today. Their recent partnership with Ubisoft, leading to the release of Far Cry: Dive Into Insanity, was conceived with a demo at IAAPA.
Today Zero Latency has more than 50 sites worldwide, and recently secured investment from Advent partners, a $500 million private equity firm, which intends to triple the number of locations.
Sometimes It’s Not What You Know, But Who You Know
VRsenal Leveraged Bob’s Reputation and Contacts for their Biggest Sale Ever
VRsenal had a great product but was struggling to get traction with operators and distribution. They launched at IAAPA Orlando in 2018 and created lots of buzz and a few early sales. But they had some initial product challenges and bad PR that was impacting their brand. 9 months later, the product was performing well. Main Event, a large operator, had committed to a chain-wide deployment. But sales were still lagging, IAAPA was coming up again and they couldn’t afford another big show without sales results.
Company founder and CEO Ben Davenport asked if Bob would represent them at the IAAPA show. Bob conducted research with operators who had purchased VRsenal’s Beat Saber product. He confirmed the product was earning well and VRsenal was providing great service.
Bob knew that skeptical operators and distributors would need proof that VRsenal was worth the substantial investment compared to other arcade games. He built a comparative ROI model that favorably positioned Beat Saber against the two most popular VR games to date, Virtual Rabbids and Hologate, integrating into their marketing materials.
Bob met with hundreds of operators in the VRsenal booth. He also held meetings with the leading distributors, lining up representation and facilitating purchases.
Bob also met with Kevin Bachus, the SVP of Entertainment Strategy for Dave and Buster’s, the largest FEC chain in the US. Bob knew Dave and Buster’s had a large media budget. He pitched them on a concept for a VRsenal Star Wars game they could use to fuel their summer 2020 TV ad campaign, driving consumers into their locations.
Two months later VRsenal closed their biggest sale ever, over $5 million. Today Star Wars VR is a fixture at more than 150 Dave and Buster’s across the globe. Dave & Busters is their largest client.