There’s always more choices for marketing than budget, so how does a company or organization decide where to put their hard-earned dollars when it comes to advertising and promotion? For that we need to think about what the goals of marketing are for the company or organization. With different purposes, there can be different reasons to lean towards different kinds of campaigns and different platforms and media to choose.
The main goals of marketing are to reach an audience and provide them with awareness, needs fulfillment or positive association with a brand or cause. This relies on reaching specific audiences, ensuring brand awareness, conveying product or service knowledge, establishing a lifestyle or concept association and building towards either sales conversion or establishing goodwill. This provides a much broader range of possibilities and goals than peoples default “Buy This!” concept of marketing. Commercial entities want to be known and desired. Non-profits want to be known and supported. This is more about building associations and expressing values than it is about simple propositions, and that makes high-level marketing and award winning advertising a lot more than just slapping a product and price in front of people.
Smart advertisers realize this complexity and plan their campaigns around higher concepts. Good advertising needs to find the right audience and connect with them. The more in-line with their interests and values, the more accurately targeted, the more deep in content, and the longer they can engage with it, the more successful it will be. For all of these reasons we think gaming is the next big thing in marketing, so lets look at some of the specific reasons why you should be investing in advertising games, also known as adgames or advertainment.
My favourite fact about game-based marketing is the engagement times. They are simply an incredible factor to consider. If you go for TV or radio advertising an ad runs for 30 seconds, maybe even less. Internet ads are generally 5 seconds before people skip video ads, or mere seconds to scroll past. That’s pretty much the limit of interaction you get. Games can give you HOURS of interaction. Even at minutes the impact is enormously greater than traditional ads. Make a game that lasts even just 15 minutes and you’ve got 30x the engagement time with the audience. Manage to hit the kind of numbers pro games manage? You could be talking about dozens of hours of play, potentially thousands of times the engagement time. That’s a lot of time to use to achieve your goals. It also means you don’t need to use high pressure, loud or obnoxious techniques that short ads rely on, and risk alienating your viewer with. I’d argue it’s the opposite, you can take your time and they can enjoy everything more, if you build it right.
Television, radio, internet, newspaper, magazine, event, placard guy on the corner, they’re all pay per chance time-limited ads. You’re paying per impression, run, day, hour, when it’s done, you’ve got nothing. Game-based marketing gives you a permanent marketing asset. You can keep hosting and using a game forever. If you design to last your game investment could pay out for decades to come. Folks still play Pacman and other games from the 80s. Games can last for generations. Thought the value multiplier in engagement time was good? How about a marketing campaign that can last generations, not months? A 3 month ad campaign versus 30 years of people playing a game? That’s a 120x time multiplier. Now, of course, the usage drops way down over the years but done right it can still be something. Investing in a game can mean marketing impact and payouts for generations.
The main draw to games for an audience is their interactive nature. They give the audience a sense of agency. They get to explore the experience in their own way. Giving them the power of choice, the experience of exploration and accomplishment. You might give them different ways to engage, as single players, multiplayer, or as groups. They might be provided a storyline to explore, items to collect, tasks to complete, skills to master, facts to learn, personalities to interact with, systems to understand, puzzles to beat. There’s so many options, but they all grab people. The fact that games are interactive make them wildly different then other advertising. Here the audience wants to engage. You are providing them value and entertainment. They can actually want your advertising, not just resent and ignore it like they do with your print, audio and video advertising. This is night and day for marketing. I use ad blockers, but I pay to go see the Cannes Lions advertising awards. Think about that. I’ll jump through hoops to avoid ads, but I’ll literally pay to watch them if they’re good enough. Game-based marketing particularly video game-based marketing can be so good your audience will pay for it. Remember Burger King SOLD 3 million copies of Sneak King in 2006 and had a 40% increase in quarterly sales when it released and people still talk about it and play it. According to Xbox data by 2007 users of the game had racked up time in game equivalent to 1.4 BILLION 30-second ads.
Interactive media allows you to explore meaning and connection. This is all too often an afterthought in advertising. Creating a game requires creating a game world, this provides a deep and meaningful opportunity to provide vision and meaning. A good game will offer the audience something to think about, feel and attach to. The key here is not to inundate the audience with logos and branding. You want them to connect to the world, and too blatant and pushy an approach will only repel an audience. Make a world interesting in its own right, your audience will only be able to get more of it by engaging with your game. You want a game that stands on its own, through your association with it you’ll be associated with what the audience wants and desires, and you’ll be seen as an organization that provides for them and has the vision and capability to deliver. To succeed marketing games need to be good games, then they’ll sell themselves. Thankfully game developers want to make good games, you just need to be able and willing to work with them to ensure the project can stand on its own.
One of the most powerful methods in advertising is storytelling. Games are an amazing opportunity for storytelling. With the massive engagement time potentials, interactive controls, permanent availability, and deep world of connection, storytelling is the natural outcome of games. A compelling narrative is a reason to play, a reason to keep playing, a reason to come back, and a reason to talk to others about the experience. If you can guarantee storytelling you’re almost guaranteed to have valuable promotional opportunities. Again, this doesn’t mean crass and pushy, if your idea of a compelling narrative is hero comes across a tragedy, your product solves everything, everybody lives happily ever after, you probably aren’t going to convince anyone. Again, make the game stand on its own, with its own compelling story and people will want to engage, you then bask in the connection, a thoughtful provider for the audience.
It might be hard to believe but there have been multiple games made for marketing campaigns that have been so successful they earned sequels. If you really invest in making a game the best it can be it can end up being it’s own product line, not just an advertising, but a revenue stream. I know that can be hard to imagine, but Chex cereal put out a game (Chex Quest) that ended up with two sequels and a remastering!
Games are a great way to reach a young audience, which can be a real challenge to reach otherwise. As television viewing continues to decline among youth, gaming can be the right way to find this audience. Internet advertising through streamers and video is also popular to reach youth, but what are they actually checking out on those streams and videos? The answer is mostly video games. Produce good game content and you can not only reach that audience directly, but you’ll also attract the attention of the streamers and video makers that aim at them too!
That said, don’t relegate video games to just reaching children. The majority of the population now play video games, male, female, young or old. The average age of a “gamer” is in the 30s. You need to know who you’re targeting still and design for that market. Video games don’t limit you to a young audience, but they can be a powerful way to reach them when little else works.
Social Virality and SEO
An ad campaign is limited to how good it can be by how well it finds its audience. Games are a powerful tool in this fight. While most advertising is simply bought based on platform, or on keywords on that platform, games present an entirely different level of exposure. As a product in and of themselves, the audience can and will find it to some degree. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still need to promote and advertise the game to give it its best chances, but it ads to your marketing and reach in very interesting ways.
A good game is something that people want to talk about. Compelling storyline, interesting worlds, fun challenges, these are all things people crave and seek out. Add in a sense of humour, or a meaningful social cause, and people will notice. It’s pretty rare for anyone to talk about or share an ad, but sharing and talking about a game is a daily occurrence for millions of people. Games don’t just give people something to talk about, their rich interactive audio-visual environments that give people tons of easily clippable moments to share on social media, streaming and online videos. Interactive systems give all sorts of moments to capture and share – fun, excitement, surprise, silliness, failure, poignancy. When a game is built as an experience, not just a crass tool, people will explore it and share.
Secondly, by creating a game and putting it online or on gaming platforms it becomes an Search Engine Optimization (SEO) factor. It becomes a searchable, referable, interlinking facotr in how people search the web. It can earn its own traffic, directing eyeballs to you without even paying for exposure, it will be sitting there working for you. This is the most direct measurable system of association we have in marketing. What the game includes and offers will be able to extend your internet presence and weight. It adds to the capture of your brand, and the desirability and findability of your products and services. It ensures your name becomes associated with fun and engaging content.
The Bottom Line
Games are simply an amazing marketing opportunity. They have a huge, largely untapped potential, but the few examples we have we can see amazing results. Yes there are definitely pitfalls to avoid, but we know them and a smart company will approach advertising and promotional games the right way. We’ll get into how to design advertising games the right way in another article, but hopefully this has opened your eyes to this amazing opportunity. The key is making them right, and thankfully companies like Massive Corporation Game Studios is here to help make that happen. We’re game development professionals here to help bring your ideas to life. We don’t just design games, we write, we educate, we’ve got the multidimensional talent to make the kind of game products people will seek out and come back to. If you’re interested in game-based marketing and are curious about how a game can work for you, drop us an email, we offer free consultations to help you understand how to move forward. Ad games are an amazing opportunity and we’re here to help!