Chris Erb: From UW Tacoma to taking the gaming industry by storm

Main page content

“If you work hard and show value, good things will happen.”

Chris Erb graduated from UW Tacoma's business administration program in 1996, years before the endowment and inception of the Milgard School of Business in 2003. This was followed by what seems to have been a meteoric rise in the gaming industry, where he now runs his own marketing agency. He might dispute the “meteoric” part, though, attributing his career success to years of hard work and dedication. It also helps that he is truly passionate about his work.

Erb grew up in Federal Way, Wash., and graduated from high school with a 2.0 GPA. He eventually enrolled at Highline College. The turn-around in his academic career was obvious: he graduated from Highline with honors.

With an associate’s degree in hand, Erb knew he wanted to continue on to get a four-year degree. The year was 1993, and UW had opened its Tacoma campus merely three years before. Erb, still living in Federal Way, had a job managing the visitors’ clubhouse for the Seattle Mariners. UW Tacoma seemed an ideal solution: the UW degree in a convenient location. Erb spent the next three years commuting to Seattle during baseball season, and to Tacoma during the academic year.

After graduating from UW Tacoma, Erb landed his first job out of college as the regional marketing manager for GameWorks, the downtown Seattle video-game arcade. He spent two years at Gameworks until being recruited by Wizards of the Coast, the Renton-based company that specializes in physical interactive games such as Pokémon, Magic the Gathering, and Dungeons and Dragons. As brand manager and then senior brand manager for Wizards, Erb spent five years developing and launching trading card games such as Star Wars and NeoPets.

Chris in front of art from Halo Fest, an annual festival held at the PAX gaming convention.

With hindsight, Erb admits he didn’t know how he wanted to focus his career at first. It turns out what he ended up doing worked pretty well for him: Gameworks gave him great exposure to venue-based marketing, while Wizards of the Coast enabled him to dive into the promotional side. After his time at Wizards, Erb was recruited by Electronic Arts, where he would find himself essentially running EA Sports for the next decade.

At EA, he was responsible for marketing Madden NFL, a huge operation that, by 2013, had rung up $4 billion in sales. He ran the franchise for five years. After his work with Madden NFL, Erb was promoted to oversee all EA Sports' brand, promotions, partnership, and marketing. Over the years with EA, Erb gained a wide array of experience, from product management to brand management.

Meanwhile, he got married and he and his wife had twin boys. And he got recruited by Legendary Entertainment, where he served as executive vice president of marketing for about a year, during which time Legendary concluded its agreement to produce, finance and market Warner Bros. films and transitioned to a similar agreement with Universal.

At this point, Erb saw another opportunity in the gaming industry. Compared to Hollywood, there were few agencies serving gaming studios’ marketing needs. Erb took the leap and started TripleClix, specifically targeting the gaming sector. Fast forward to today, and TripleClix has captured retainer clients such as Microsoft, Google, Blizzard, Sega, and Wizards of the Coast. Erb manages lifestyle and partnership marketing for these firms, and also works with brands such as Kellogg's, General Mills, McDonalds, and Taco Bell.

According to Erb, the purpose of TripleClix is to help bring these national consumer brands into the gaming arena. He finds himself operating at both ends of the spectrum. From a product standpoint, he helps gaming studios acquire and develop brand partnerships. From the partnership end, Erb aims to translate brands authentically into the gaming space.

Chris Erb accepting an award from host Matt Leinart at the 2007 Spike TV Video Game Awards.

Erb’s passion for his work is evident as he describes how companies often come to him to understand gaming and how it can help them connect with their consumers. He avoided venture capital and loans when he founded TripleClix, funding it all from his own pocket. The company currently has about a dozen employees. Erb says its relatively small size and simple financial structure allow it to remain flexible.

Erb has lots of advice for students today. He urges those beginning their professional journey to “enjoy every step of where you are. Find a job in the space you love, keep your head down, focus, and all kinds of doors will open. Don’t worry about too many things. If you’re 20 years old, you have 60 years of work ahead of you. Don’t worry about anything, just go. Just experience everything. You won’t know what you like if you don’t”

Erb remembers the time when he wondered how he was going to afford his car payments. He had no interest in owning his own business, and he didn’t imagine reaching vice presidential ranks. Today, he owns his own marketing firm and works with some of the world’s largest companies, but he insists it’s not so much about getting to a C-level office, but about enjoying the professional journey along the way.

One other key piece of advice Erb offers: building a personal brand. “It’s much easier now than before,” he said, noting the proliferation of social media platforms. “Work your tail off. If you work hard and show good value, good things will happen. Leverage technology and the tools out there to build yourself a brand and make people want to hire you. Leverage social media and make sure you’re building an identity and brand to show employers what they are getting.”

Chris Erb will be presenting as a guest speaker at the Milgard Success Center’s "Success Conference" on August 28th here at UW Tacoma! Stay tuned for more details at tacoma.uw.edu/business and follow us @MilgardUWT

 

Written by: 
Trevor Nhan, Edited by Shane Benoit / May 15, 2018
Media contact: 

Shane Benoit

sbenoit@uw.edu