It took insight for Kinect to get it right

As Xbox Kinect creative director Kudo Tsunoda revealed in Cannes last week, audience insight can deliver more than your own hunches can.


I’ve just about got over my trip to the Cannes Lions festival last week, where the who’s who of marketing and advertising make their annual pilgrimage to discuss excellent work, current big issues, and future development.

I’m sure you’ve seen my copious coverage from the event but I just had one last nugget I wanted to mention.

The Xbox presentation by charismatic creative director Kudo Tsunoda highlighted how wanting to target a new audience isn’t as simple as putting yourself in their shoes and coming up with ideas – you actually need to talk to them, find out how they behave and how your product might be able to add to their lives.

Tsunoda humbly admitted that the first pitch to Microsoft execs for a Kinect console that would move the Xbox brand into a broader demographic apart from their traditional core of 18 to 35 year old men was less than fit for purpose. He and his team were duly sent away to actually do their homework and come up with something better than a cheesy video that made no sense.

“The things we messed up showed us how we had to change our creative process as our knowledge of our customers and their experiences grew,” he said. “We had to immerse ourselves in the world of customers and content more.”

It was refreshing to hear Tsunoda’s humorous critiques of the brand’s previous attempts to reach new audiences such as women: “We realised we had to go further than just making a controller pink.”

Tsunoda’s team set about educating themselves on human movement and connecting natural movements and expressions to the virtual world of gaming. They discovered that bringing family and friends together via gaming would require a platform that was not only physically enabled and easy to use, but that would contain a variety of experiences within one single title.

The learning didn’t stop there however. For non-gamers, barriers to take up still included the use of large menus, and a range of voice commands and unnatural gestures to learn. Reducing these would be key.

The Kinect team then introduced new features such as head tracking to make the device more sensitive to movement. The development of a Kinect community and a beta testing “Funlab” also allows the team to gather further insights around what strikes a chord with users.

Admitting that you don’t know what you’re doing isn’t easy, but as Tsunoda showed, it can be a necessary step to creating a product that is more than relevant but can change a market landscape. The Kinect consoles you see on the shelves are not just the brainchild of gadget and gaming geeks but of years of customer insight gathering to transform narrow understanding into something potentially groundbreaking.