Senior Director of Digital Marketing

How Activision’s Justin Taylor Leverages Listening to Fuel the Future of Gaming

Call Of Duty is engrained in the gaming industry as one of the best games of all time with a passionate community that rivals the fan-base of most major sports leagues. Activision's Senior Director of Digital Marketing Justin Taylor applies his learnings from working at top agencies like 72 & Sunny and TBWA/Chiat/Day LA along with his time at Nike Basketball to help push the boundaries of what marketing can accomplish for a brand. Here, Justin shares his tips for success—from learning outside the office to constantly listening to his audience on Twitter, Twitch, and in-game to applying the motivating advice that Kobe Bryant once gave him.

How did you get to where you are today? Any noteworthy aha-moments along the way?

I started working on the agency side, but I had no idea where I wanted my career to go within marketing. I knew I was really passionate about technology, digital media, social networking, and new innovations in the ad space. Every night, I’d come home from work and spend hours learning and researching everything I could so that I could bring that knowledge to the company, which could help set me apart. So I naturally grew in digital until I made the jump to becoming the client at Nike.

What learnings changed the way you view and navigate your career?

“We were only successful because she knew how to bring people together towards a common goal.”

I learned almost everything I know now on how to be a marketer from Nicole Hubbard at Nike. She taught me how to be a good leader, and how to be a storyteller. But the most important thing she taught me was collaboration. We were only successful because she knew how to bring people together toward a common goal. No one ever felt left behind or out of the loop and we built the future together. It’s important to me now to always be transparent with my team and work hard to collaborate and bring as many people along on the journey as I can.

From your agency experiences at 72&Sunny and TBWA/Chiat/Day, and also brand-side at Nike, what’s one thing you learned that you carry with you in your role today?

Know your consumer and know the product. Without knowing those, you’ll never be able to succeed.

Activision and Call of Duty have played a pivotal role in the rise of gaming culture. In your opinion, how has marketing played a role in fueling the rise of gaming?

The gaming community is incredible. And equally the team here is amazing. Marketing at this level requires a total team effort, which combines the contributions from everyone across the organization. The amount of creativity and passion I see every day is what I feed off of. I think the role we play as marketers is really trying to bring our community to new audiences and showing them how they’re missing out on being part of something special.

 What’s currently happening in marketing that most excites you and how is it changing the future of the industry? 

Brands collaborating together. We’ve done some really fun stuff, including a Pusha T Adidas collaboration, and I just get so excited when I get on the phone with a brand and we find something really fun to do for both of our communities. It’s changing the industry for me, helping me think in different ways and bring new ways to experience our games and storytelling to our audiences.

How have you seen the gaming landscape shift over the last couple of years and where do you see it going?

Gaming is now multi-generational. The kids that grew up on Nintendo, for example, are now playing Switch with their kids. I talk to my dad about where he is on the Candy Crush leaderboard, and my mom plays games on her iPad. As gaming continues to broaden, I see it popping up more and more and get phone calls from more and more people at companies that I never would have just a few years ago. Where do I see gaming going from here? Esports will continue to grow, I see the culture continuing to grow as well. I think apparel, music, and art will grow rapidly in and around gaming culture.

What are you working on now that's innovative? 

My team is passionate about constantly pushing ourselves. We’ve been experimenting with augmented reality a lot lately. We’ve done a few really exciting experiences for our fans, and it’s a space I want to continue to play in. We built an AR exclusive card for influencers and press that we’ve been keeping updated with new content that's been really exciting.

How have you adjusted your strategies amid Covid-19 and what do you see as the adjustments that will stick post-pandemic?

Our teams are constantly listening. We are working hard to figure how we bring the experiences we’ve brought to our players at conventions and through our own events online. We are also leaning in more to elevating our community’s content more than we have in the past.

How are you keeping your finger on the pulse regarding changing consumer behaviors and needs during this time?

I listen, A LOT. I spend at least an hour every day going through key search terms related to our games and the industry on Twitter. I have Twitch running eight hours a day. I play games with random people and ask them their thoughts on games.

Considering how different today’s work environment is, what do you see as the most valuable marketing skill(s) needed today and moving forward? 

You have to be a people person. You need to be able to reach across a Zoom and make a connection with people while figuring out ways to solve problems not alone, but together remotely.

What advice can you offer for effectively leading and inspiring a team remotely? 

Be a good strategist. Building a strong strategy to align your team on will allow them to work against your goals when you’re all stuck at home in front of a computer.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I once asked Kobe how he’s dealt with the failures in his career, and he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I’ve never failed at anything in my life because I’ve never quit at anything in my life. So as long as I keep trying, I’ll never be a failure.”