Opinion: Why Dami Im Isn’t Bad for Tomodachi Life in Australia
I’d like to preface this very brief editorial with a disclaimed – I’m not a huge fan of reality television. I enjoy the occasional series of Big Brother because it is an interesting social experiment (at least, in the earlier seasons) that relates to my undergraduate studies but besides that I’m pretty much not a fan of it. I’ve seen bits and pieces of The Voice in what I can only describe as “family collateral” when my parents or grandparents were staying at my place. So with this out the way I’d like to address or talk about something that I’ve noticed ever since Nintendo Australia announced that Dami Im, an X-Factor winner, has been signed on to market and promote Tomodachi Life in Australia.
First off, it’s time to admit something and it’s something that I hate admitting too. A very large majority of the world is enamoured with celebrities. By definition, they are someone who commands a significant degree of attention in the media. The concept has since warped to include people who are “famous for being famous” such as Hilton heiress Paris Hilton and the now infamous Kardashian sisters. All celebrities from all walks of life are privy to having attention brought to them from the media and the public. Whether you think it’s deserved or not, it’s a fact and that’s never going to change in today’s society. So, why not harvest this popularity, exposure and awareness to extend a brand to audiences that might otherwise be missed?
Enter celebrity endorsement – a concept that Nintendo has been no stranger to. On an international level, Nintendo have employed celebrities such as Dame Helen Mirren, Nicole Kidman, Beyoncé Knowles, Penelope Cruz, Kim Catrall and now infamous father and daughter duo Robin and Zelda Williams to promote their products. Looking at that list of people – you can argue that many of them appeal to a wide range of the population. On a much more local level, Nintendo Australia employed Michael Klim, an Olympian swimmer to promote the Game Boy in 1998. More recently, they developed a lasting relationship with Olivia Newton-John, who is arguably a Hollywood icon for her role in Grease, to promote both Wii Fit and Brain Training which were both critical and commercial successes. Newton-John’s involvement was even purported to help boost sales of the game in Australia. Rebecca Gibney, Delta Goodrem and Jessica Mauboy were all utilised to promote products from Nintendo, the latter of which joined forces with the RSPCA to do so.
The key distinction to be made here is that most countries have to market their products differently depending on culture. You would never see somebody like Susannah Carr or Leigh Sales marketing a product overseas because nobody would know who they were. They’re people who are known throughout Australia and their presence and brand is largely unknown outside of there. Sometimes there’s a cross-over from overseas, be it North America or the United Kingdom but we rarely see otherwise. Hence why Nintendo Australia choose to market their products with locally selected and recognizable people.
Enter Tomodachi Life and Dami Im. Tomodachi Life is a weird game, and one hard to properly explain to the masses. As such, marketing using the brand power of celebrities would not hurt to push it into the status quo. In America, the game features celebrity appearances by Christina Aguilera, Shaun White, Shaquille O’Neal and Debby Ryan (who ironically I don’t know of but she apparently has a large following amongst children in North America.).
I don’t know who Dami Im is outside of the fact she won X-Factor. I know she’s a singer, obviously, but I couldn’t tell you what one of her songs is or sounds like or what kind of music she makes. Doing some quick research, she won X-Factor, has released an album and has a second one on the way with a lead single out as we speak (the critical and visible moment for a pop recording artist). She’s also an ambassador for Priceline Pharmacies. This young woman essentially has her brand plastered across 350 different stores in the country.
Roughly anywhere between 1 and 2 and a half million people watched her perform and play live on X-Factor – with said show winning its ratings slot or coming a close second each time it was broadcast. Her debut album sold 78,000 copies in a month – while that doesn’t sound like a lot compare it to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry’s latest albums, releasing in the same period, which both sold 16,000 and 179,000 copies respectively by the end of the year here in Australia. This is a huge accomplishment but I digress – it also highlights how much of the music market has purchased or been exposed to Dami Im as both a brand and a person. This year, she will be the face of Alannah Hill, an internationally recognized Australian designer and has already participated in Australia Day festivities by collaborating on a song with other modern Australian celebrities.
While it might sound like I’m attempting to live through someone else’s accomplishments – I’m not. Dami Im is somebody who has ascertained a large amount of success and a large amount of exposure within the space of roughly eight months. She has a media presence here in Australia amongst a market that Nintendo Australia wants to tap into – so why should we be criticizing Nintendo for doing so? Tomodachi Life is a bizarre game, as our review will attest, but it’s one that has the potential to appeal to a wider range of people in the market just like Animal Crossing and Nintendogs before it. But to get that message and its brand out there – celebrity endorsements from the most unlikely or unorthodox of places will help to push that awareness.
It’s easy to scoff at somebody like Dami Im and proclaim that she’s a nobody. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t think she’s going to be a huge, international superstar anytime soon. But the whole point of Nintendo Australia’s campaign with Tomodachi Life is exactly that – it’s not for the people who don’t know who Dami Im is. It’s for the people who are aware of her, were captivated by her performances and the people who might even identify with her – and while saying it like that sounds exploitative, that’s the whole purpose of marketing and endorsement from the seemingly romanticised world of celebria. And I’m not going to criticise Nintendo Australia for making this decision – because I already knew what Tomodachi Life was, they didn’t need to reach me. I saw it in a bizarre Nintendo Direct that went viral and managed to reach me. Dami Im isn’t for me. But just because it’s not for you – that really doesn’t mean it’s not going to be for everyone else.