When Microsoft’s Hailey Geller won “Biggest Gamer” as her high school superlative, she had no idea how gaming would change her life professionally. As a Marketing Manager at Xbox Games, Geller helps carry the strategy for Gears POP! And Gears Tactics. In addition, she helped in the launch of Gears 5, which included the management of the Xbox Instagram. After wiping it clean before the release of Gears 5, the account helped accumulate 50 million daily profile impressions, and helped the team win the Shorty Award for Best Instagram for Games.
Geller’s strategy and work led her to her placement on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, tossing her into a deserved spotlight as a leader in the industry. However, her path into gaming began with a huge change in college.
“I began my college career on the Pre-Med track and quickly pivoted my major to advertising after I found myself bored, uninspired, and looking for more,” Geller told Ritual Motion. “At the School of Journalism and Communications, I focused my advertising curriculum on creative strategy and media planning to play on the strengths of both sides of my brain.”
Her decision to switch majors tossed her into an “Ad Team” with a group of other students. The team spent the year developing a campaign for Tai Pei Frozen Food to “pitch, present, and compete with at the regional competition.”
“As a media planner on my team, my job was to deep dive into the mind of our consumers, provide a look into their ethnography, and how that would translate in media placements – whether it was ‘out of home’ or digitally facing,” Geller stated. “After 90+ hours of audience research, the mind of a gamer, and more specifically, one that would actively stream on Twitch for hours on end, became a key focus of mine.”
While Geller’s team didn’t take home the trophy, what she learned from the competition has helped her develop her career.
She added, “the learnings I took away from the experience, whether it be how a frozen food aisle is stocked, a day in the life of a gamer and/or how to create a successful, yet radical campaign, all turned into the soft skills needed to excel in my role today. I think what I appreciate the most looking back at my college career was the creative spark in Allen Hall and the shared community value of swinging big and making cool shit!”
Needless to say, her time with the University of Oregon National Student Advertising Competition has helped her progress into an amazing career in the gaming industry. However, according to Geller, her entrance wasn’t traditional.
“I was part of a rotation program in the Marketing Consumer Business that allows our cohort the opportunity to spend two rotations (one year each) across the Marketing organization and ideally, find your fit and stay full time after graduation from the program. After my first year on the Global Advertising Creative team, I rotated to the Xbox Brand Marketing team for my second rotation. I was lucky enough to find my home on Team Xbox, and still sit on the same team today,” she said.
When she joined the Gears POP! team in 2019, she not only found her first taste of the gaming industry, but of the mobile gaming space as well.
“My day to day involved managing approvals for all creative assets, ensuring the community and partner teams are aligned on voice, tone, and creative strategy, and being the point of contact for our internal and external partners from the Marketing Communications perspective,” Geller stated. “On the flip side, Gears Tactics, our turn-based strategy game launched on PC in April 2020 and then for console with the Xbox Series X|S launch. A lot of my core priorities remained the same for this title, however, given the scale of the campaign, I was able to own and manage additional programs such as our social plans for the Xbox, Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass for PC channels, our media plans and activities, and the web creative and online presence for our product detail and landing pages across Microsoft and STEAM platforms.”
Her advice to those looking to enter the gaming industry? Go big or go home.
“As cliché as that may sound, it is so important to bring perspective, leverage the opportunity to tap into an area that is potentially untouched or could use a refresh, and make what’s next!”
Gaming and esports are open doorways that can lead to some awesome rewards. In Geller’s instance, she was recognized on Forbe’s 30 Under 30 list which opened up a world of new connections.
She stated, “The pandemic has brought me closer to the games industry, as well as the amazing folks that were also honored on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Games list and the alumni across categories. Over the 8+ months, I have fostered friendships that I would have never imagined possible, most of which were born in Twitter or Instagram DMs. So, as wild and not “kosher” as it might sound – reach out to people that inspire you and actively find your people, even if it is just a DM.” Her experience in the industry have really defined just how important it is to “find your tribe.”
“It is so incredibly important to both find and build your community, your board of mentors, and/or a new champion to have your back in a room that you may the seat at the table. You never know where those relationships and friendships may take you in your career,” Geller added.
However, while opportunity in gaming might still be an open canvas to explore, becoming a leader in the industry still comes with challenges, particularly for underrepresented people like women. With more people of color, women, and LGBT+ figures rising in gaming, it’s all about creating a welcoming atmosphere and continuing support.
“There is a lot to celebrate, but also a lot of work left to be done!” she said. “We all have a responsibility to create the safe spaces, opportunities, and resources for the next generation of women in gaming.”
In Geller’s case, it was more about envisioning what a career in gaming looked like, particularly for people who may not fit in the label of “gamer.” She continued, “One of the most common barriers I see, and in some ways faced myself, was the general knowledge of what a career in the industry could look like for me. The notion that you must be a ‘gamer’ to work and be successful in the industry still exists and is just not true.”
Especially now that esports is obtaining mainstream success, more non-endemic brands and people who might not be gamers are looking for a way in. She added: “I’ve seen great marketing and advertising minds across the gaming business, who love what we do and who we do it for, but they’re also tapping into their expertise in their field first, or their shared experiences, and then bringing that to the industry.”
Particularly when talking about esports, it is an industry that has a foundation developed by gamers. Now, the focus needs to pinpoint an audience that isn’t already existing in the gaming and esports bubble. Geller believes it’s about building platforms to welcome everyone. She added, “…representation matters; there is a huge opportunity here for esports orgs and major gaming companies to come together, create free and easily accessible tools, push progressive initiatives to educate and support students and gamers of all walks of life, and truly make gaming for everyone.”