4 things to consider for video game-based marketing

The focus of Games-Based Marketing, a board term which extends past simple Gamification, is on making the consumer’s experience of interacting with a brand engaging, enjoyable and memorable. One way that brands can do this is by incorporating a game into their marketing strategy.

Games are a fantastic tool for brand awareness – something that McDonalds figured out in the 80s – as those that are well designed and well supported will excite and fascinate their users. This means that a well-designed game has more reach and is capable of spreading brand awareness further through word of mouth than any kind of above or below the line advertising could achieve.

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Of course, the question then becomes whether or not you should be using games as part of the marketing strategy for your brand and whether it is a good fit for you.

The good news is that games are a great opportunity for most brands but – like any marketing tool – they work best when created with the target audience in mind, are supported on social media platforms that the brand owns, is given enough room in the budget to build something great, and that the brand’s personalities and goals are incorporated.

Let’s consider all these points individually.

1. Target Audience

Many brands don’t realise that they actually have the perfect target audience for a campaign that includes games. The assumption is that the only people playing games are 35-year-old software developer men with a lot of spare cash to spend. While it’s true that this group are highly likely to be playing games, this group is actually going to be the least like to engage with a game you make. This group spends their money on AAA game titles that cost in the region of US$100-million dollars to make and are solely focused on entertainment.

A huge portion of the population, however, do not fall into this category – and may not even consider themselves “gamers” – but spend a great deal of time playing games, often on their mobile devices. You have mothers who pass the time with games on their phones waiting to pick up their children from school, you have younger children allowed to play games on their parents iPads while the adults chat at restaurants, and you have the young adults passing the time in shopping queues or while watching TV on their phones. All of these individuals represent potential target markets that would be a great fit for a game-based marketing strategy.

2. Social Media Support

And, of course, if these people are on their mobile devices, they’re definitely Tweeting, Facebooking, or Instagramming their daily activities. They will be telling friends about their high scores or unlocks in a game they’re enjoying, or sharing screenshots of a game they think is beautiful or funny or original. And they will do this on social media.

A brand that cannot support a new or growing community around their game, or cannot direct their own social community to their game, is going to find it very difficult to see their game getting the kind of attention it deserves and, ultimately, achieving the goals of the marketing campaign. The game needs to be designed with social media in mind, but the brand needs to be able to support the game once it’s live through interacting with social commentary and spreading the word from users.

3. Budget

Money is always a tricky discussion and it is often difficult for brands, and brand managers, to evaluate a return on investment for game-based marketing campaigns especially if the goals are brand recognition or brand awareness. Games have the added ability to be able to track the number of users, play-throughs and other metrics that can prove useful, but there are often opportunities for linking gameplay to actual sales. Encouraging players to get to a certain level of the game and, if they tweet about it, get a discount on a product is just one example of tying everything up neatly together.

When figuring out if your brand has the budget to add a game into its marketing campaign, consider that something on the scale of Angry Birds would cost about R1-million to develop and take about 8 months to a year to complete.

4. Brand Personality and Goals

Undoubtedly, the goals of the brand need to be considered whenever marketing strategies are put together but extra care needs to be taken when making a game. Mismatching the goals of a campaign with the goals of the game will only serve to frustrate everyone involved.

Games are fantastic at meeting a broad range of marketing goals, from brand recognition and awareness, to product education and increase in sales. And this can be achieved regardless of the brand personality. Serious brands can develop tricky problem-solving games, for example, while cheeky and fun brands can have humorous mechanics and wacky graphics.

Ultimately, if you figure out what your target audience will enjoy playing (enough to share with their friends) that matches your brand personality and goals, you’ll have a winning game idea. Then it’s time find a game development studio, like RetroEpic Software, to work with and discuss how much you have to spend!

Feature image: JD Hancock via Flickr.

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