The imitation game: Graeme Fraser-Bell on the rise of Accentuate

Robert Hutchins

By Robert Hutchins

February 5th 2015 at 12:30PM
UPDATED March 3rd 2015 at 3:14PM
The imitation game: Graeme Fraser-Bell on the rise of Accentuate

For years, Accentuate was only ever played at the Fraser-Bell household. Now, the game is on sale at John Lewis and Firebox.ToyNews talks to Accentuate co-creator Graeme Fraser-Bell about the fast rise of the game

How long did you have the idea for Accentuate before it became a reality?

For a long time we just thought of it as a fun get- together game between our close friends and family. We produced a simple mock up of it in 2011, but it had no depth or engagement beyond the simple premise of mimicking accents.

The key challenge was to create fun, enduring and engaging gameplay from the initial concept and that really didn’t develop until the end of 2013/early 2014.

The next issue was the selection of key branding partners and the assimilation of our DNA into their design ideas to produce a visual representation of the game we were trying to communicate. We have been very fortunate to align ourselves with partners and agencies who have as much passion for the game as we do, and this is reflected in the quality of their work.

What was the turning point for Accentuate?

Playing the game at our first visit to Board Game Club in Clapham in July 2014, not realising there would be trade press, influential journalists and retailers there: that was our Adam & Eve moment.

We spent the evening playing Accentuate with representatives of Firebox and ToyNews, the beginning of great relationships right there. The evening fitted our strategy perfectly: the need to get the game into people’s hands.

We had press, public and buyers all experiencing the game first-hand and subsequently helping to make things happen.

As a newcomer to the industry, what have been your early impressions of it?

A wonderful camaraderie, that special eccentric British feeling that none of us are competitors and all are creating new niches in the games world without impacting on each other’s market space.

It’s unlike any other industry I have been involved in. Our journey is about fun and if we can’t have it, we will stop. But everyone we meet in the industry seems to support that ethos too – even the ‘big boys’ don’t act or behave like big boys and I have worked with some 600lb corporate gorillas in the past.

What makes John Lewis a good fit for the game?

Our initial expectations of John Lewis were a short meeting with some suited executives in a boardroom style venue and a sanitised atmosphere. Instead we were met by a bunch of energetic, empowered, young people who had a genuine enthusiasm for their role and our game: incredibly astute but wonderfully engaging.

Our DNA was intertwined and we just hit it off – the fact that they were playing Accentuate throughout the office was no little help. It was vital to us to secure a High Street position that matched and supported the Accentuate branding.

We didn’t shotgun round samples to everyone we knew; we wanted John Lewis and our challenge was to prove to them that they should want Accentuate.

What does 2015 have in store for Accentuate?

Our focus will be on building our portfolio of High Street, independent and online retailers within the UK, whilst diversifying Accentuate geographically – first in the US in Q2 2015. This will be followed by a German version in Q3 2015.

Our objectives are to secure licensees in North America and the EU, but in order to do so we need to anchor our position in the UK market by expanding our above the line marketing activity.

As well as the geographical extension of Accentuate, we’ll also be investing in junior product line extensions, plus various expansion packs.

What advice would you give struggling inventors?

Focus your spend on getting the product looking fabulous. A great concept with a sub-standard look and feel will require an exceptional pitch to gain support. No one will beat a pathway to your door – it’s essential you create a beacon to draw them in.