Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

“Sugar Crush!”: Learn how this “Marvel” matched his way to sweet success! [Monday: Marketing Marvels]

August 28, 2023

Miles Everson’s The Business Builder Daily speaks to the heart of what great marketers, business leaders, and other professionals need to succeed in advertising, communications, managing their investments, career strategy, and more. 

A Note from Miles Everson:

Hello, everyone! 

Happy Monday! 

Let’s start the day with a dose of inspiration from our “Marvels.” In these articles, we feature notable industry figures and highlight their experiences, contributions, and insights.

Today, we’ll talk about one of the founders behind this addictive puzzle game loved by millions of people around the globe.

Keep reading to know more about this person and what you can learn from his outstanding leadership skills and marketing strategies.

Miles Everson
CEO, MBO Partners
Chairman of the Advisory Board, The I Institute

Marketing Marvels





“Sugar Crush!”

Do these phrases ring a bell to you?

Here’s another hint: These are all about a colorful puzzle game where players switch and match three or more candies of the same color.

By now, you likely have guessed it.

After all, this application took the world by storm in 2012 and became one of the most popular games on Facebook. It’s almost impossible to have not heard of this legendary puzzle game:

The “Candy Crush Saga!”

Photo from Little Black Book

Developed by King, an interactive gaming company in the mobile industry, “Candy Crush Saga” transcended from being a casual match game to a global phenomenon, capturing the attention of millions of players worldwide.

Since its launch in 2012, “Candy Crush Saga” has been downloaded over 3 billion times, broken various popularity records, and consistently dominated the application leaderboards. In March 2013, it became the most played game on Facebook with a record-breaking 405.6 million average monthly users, surpassing “FarmVille 2.”

Besides its stimulating graphics, easy-to-learn mechanics, and free-to-play feature, the colorful world of “Candy Crush Saga” wouldn’t come to life without one of King’s co-founders…

Riccardo Zacconi!

Photo from CNBC

Born in Italy, Zacconi is the co-founder and former CEO of King Digital Entertainment. He studied Economics at Luiss University before starting his management consulting career.

In 1999, Zacconi explored the tech startup world during the dot-com boom. He became the managing director of Spray, a Swedish Internet company, marking his first Internet venture.

He left Spray to become Vice President of European Sales and Marketing at uDate,” an online dating platform but left shortly after Match.com acquired the app. Following his initial digital triumph with “uDate,” Zacconi was eager for a new challenge.

A Literal Challenge

In the midst of the dot-com crash in the early 2000s, Zacconi co-founded Midasplayer (former name of King) using the money he received from the “uDate” sale. It wasn’t an easy feat, as he and his co-founders had a hard time raising additional funds. They all had to rely solely on the money from their pockets. In fact, Zacconi had to sell his car and live on a friend’s couch for two years after investing his own money in the new venture.

However, this didn’t stop him from building Midasplayer from the ground up.

Right after Zacconi and his co-founders secured funding from Melvyn Morris, the founder of “uDate,” Midasplayer began to develop over 200 games. By 2005, the company had enough money to acquire the domain name “King.com” and rebrand the company.

Under Zacconi’s leadership, King created one of the most popular games ever appearing on mobile devices, the “Candy Crush Saga.”

According to him:

“We launched the game in November 2012. And by the end of the month, the game… skyrocketed. I never experienced anything like that my whole life.”

“Candy Crush Saga” is more than just a mobile game. It’s a worldwide sensation that has yielded billions of dollars in revenue.

So, how did Zacconi and King “crush” the mobile games sector?

Below are some business and marketing strategies he and his company applied: 

  1. Social media is “king.” 

A year after its launch, “Candy Crush Saga” was downloaded over half a billion times on Facebook, iOS, and Android. Accordingly, the game made at least USD 600,000 a day through in-app purchases.

Upon Facebook’s expansion to include game developers, Zacconi implemented a strategic division within King, dedicating half of the company to experiment on the popular website. The teams then focused on generating fresh concepts for games on the site.

Zacconi utilized the power of social media to generate buzz and organic growth for his company’s products. The strategy also fueled organic word-of-mouth marketing and community creation of loyal “Candy Crush Saga” players.

  1. Candy Crush could be seen and played anytime, anywhere.

By adopting a cross-platform approach, Zacconi and King ensured “Candy Crush Saga” could be easily accessed and played across various devices, including desktop computers and mobile devices. This strategy played a pivotal role in driving the game’s remarkable success.

Furthermore, Zacconi capitalized on the existing player base of King’s other successful games to cross-promote “Candy Crush Saga.” 

By incorporating in-game advertisements and other promotional content within existing games, King effectively captured a larger audience, leveraging current user engagement to drive the adoption of the puzzle game.

  1. Candy Crush Saga” was made to be sweet, simple, and addicting.

The idea for “Candy Crush Saga” was invented by King’s co-founder, Sebastian Knutsson, in the bathtub. According to him, Zacconi challenged him to come up with “the best match-three-game ever.”

According to Zacconi:

“The game itself is easy to start, but difficult to master. You have to match three candies of the same type. And then they disappear from the field. And they create a score. And there are many, many levels. To achieve a level, you have to achieve a minimum score. And you can also play with your friends.”

Simply put, “Candy Crush Saga” was strategically designed to be simple.

The game’s level design was carefully crafted to offer a gradually increasing level of challenge, a sense of accomplishment, and satisfaction when levels are conquered, easily hooking players.

The game’s addictive gameplay mechanics, coupled with limited lives that naturally incentivized players to continue playing or make in-app purchases to progress, helped create a compelling and addictive experience.

  1. King ensures constant content updates.

The company regularly updates “Candy Crush Saga” and introduces new levels, challenges, and features to ensure players always have fresh content to engage with. This helps maintain their interest and encourages long-term retention.

A new update also builds anticipation among players, ensuring loyalty and attracting new users to the app.

  1. “Candy Crush Saga” has one of the most visually-appealing sagas.

In a competitive gaming industry, visually pleasing games tend to attract more attention and stand out among the vast array of available games. Visuals also play a crucial role in evoking emotions and creating a connection between the player and the game world.

Based on these insights, “Candy Crush Saga” creatively uses the power of visuals and colors to entice players. 

The game displays the words “delicious,” “sweet,” “divine,” and uses eye-catching fonts and designs to motivate players and make them want to play more.

There you have it—some of “Candy Crush Saga’s” marketing strategies that led to its sweet success under Zacconi’s leadership! 

… and just to let you know, in May 2019, Zacconi stepped down as the CEO of King. He is now the company’s chairman, with approximately USD 19.8 million in earnings from 2018, including bonuses and stock option rewards.

Way to go, Zacconi and King! 


When it comes to taking risks, Zacconi’s advice is:

“If you have a passion, if you have a desire, the only risk in life is not to try to pursue it.”

Think about this: His company nearly went bankrupt. He sold his possessions, put his money into the business, and spent Christmas Eve thinking he would have to abandon his Internet venture. 

Clearly, Zacconi’s story with King was not an overnight success. It took lots of challenges and hurdles before he propelled the company to unprecedented victory and transformed “Candy Crush Saga” into a global gaming phenomenon. 

The bottom line? 

Never let your setbacks and failures hinder you from achieving your sweet success in the business world! 

Remember: With the right mix of creativity and determination, you can craft a marketing technique to make your brand, product, or service stand out in an ever-changing business landscape. 

We hope you learned useful marketing lessons from today’s feature!

Stay tuned for more inspiring stories of individuals in our next “Marketing Marvels” articles! 

(This article is from The Business Builder Daily, a newsletter by The I Institute in collaboration with MBO Partners.) 

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Mondays: Marketing Marvels”

Too often, industry experts and the marketing press sing the praises of some brand or company’s marketing strategy. 

… only for the audience to later find out that its product was a flop, or worse, that the brand or company went bankrupt.

The true ROI in marketing can’t be separated from the business as a whole. 

What good is a marketing case study if one can’t prove that the company’s efforts actually paid off?

At the end of the day, either the entire business is successful or it isn’t. And the roles of marketing and communication are always paramount to that success. 

Every Monday, we publish a case study that highlights the world’s greatest marketing strategies, marketers, and communicators. 

However, the difference between our articles and the numerous ones out there is that we will always make certain that the firm really did generate and demonstrate earning power worthy of study in the first place (compliments of Valens Research’s finance group) in keeping with a person’s leadership skills in the area of marketing and/or communication.

We’ll also study the greatest marketing fails and analyze what they did wrong, or what they needed to improve. We all make our mistakes, but better we learn from others’ mistakes—and earlier, rather than later.

Hope you found this week’s marketing marvel interesting and helpful. 

Stay tuned for next Monday’s “Marketing Marvels!”


Kyle Yu 
Head of Marketing 
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities 
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