Is the Gaming Industry the Next Big Marketing Channel?

by Ben Tepfer

posted on 10-19-2016

Traditional marketing channels have broadened considerably in the past decade. Now, in addition to websites, Facebook, direct mail and more, cross-channel marketing also includes applications such as Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. Still, everyone is always on the lookout for the next big marketing channel to emerge–and everyone should be looking at gaming.

Mobile games account for about 23 percent of all active apps in the iTunes App Store. And in a consumer survey we conducted in the U.S., respondents pointed to playing a game as the most annoying thing people do mid-conversation on their phones (27 percent)–more annoying than texting or Snapchatting—meaning that this is becoming a normal occurrence.

With that kind of engagement, the opportunities for marketers can be powerful. Take for example the recent viral success of Pokemon Go. Since its initial release in July, we’ve been hearing a lot about Pokemon Go. It was reported that 3 percent of U.S. Android users opened the app, just trailing those who opened Twitter (3.5 percent). It’s also had more downloads than popular dating app Tinder.

While there’s no denying that Pokemon Go has seen the kind of success many developers only dream about, the app’s daily active users are actually on the decline. Why? Niantic Labs failed to listen to consumers. While the app has been praised for its nostalgic appeal, it’s also terribly buggy. It freezes up regularly, and the GPS leaves something to be desired.

It’s a lesson learned. There are huge opportunities to reach consumers in the gaming industry, but consumers can change their minds quickly. If you’re looking to incorporate gaming as your next marketing channel, you’ll need to learn to adapt.

Why mobile gaming?
Gaming has been around for quite a while. So, why are brands just now recognizing it as a true marketing channel? There are two main reasons for this.

First, mobile devices have made gaming somewhat ubiquitous–they’re becoming much more mainstream. Second, since mobile game apps prompt users to return to their games, these apps often tend to see a very high level of engaged, regular users. Just think of how many of your friends and family are still regularly playing Candy Crush Saga in their spare time. These two factors make the gaming industry an ideal marketing channel for brands to further optimize in the future.

How do you use mobile gaming as a marketing channel?
There are countless ways for brands to use the gaming industry as a marketing channel. These opportunities extend well beyond banner ads and popups (although those opportunities still exist in the gaming industry, too).

For instance, some apps allow users to pay the company that created the app to actually participate. So, in a game like Pokemon Go, a brand could pay to become a Pokéstop in an effort to increase its own in-store traffic and sales. While this is a fairly direct way to motivate people to visit your store, there are a variety of more intricate ways to go about this.

Brands, for example, could use geo-location services to push targeted messages and coupons to people who are playing the game near their brick-and-mortar locations. In practice, the brand would craft a personalized message that’s targeted for customers, or a subset of customers, who play a particular game. Then, when users with their geo-location services turned on happen to play the game near the brand’s physical store, the brand can push those targeted messages out to them.

With the right targeting and messaging, this could be another creative way to not only drive people into your store, but also increase sales.

How do brands measure gaming’s marketing success?
Once you’ve begun using gaming as a marketing channel, how can you tell whether your efforts are successful? First, it’s important to choose a game that’s both successful and aligned with your goals as a brand.

While success depends on a variety of factors, the gaming industry looks at a few universal metrics in particular. Metrics such as weekly engagement, time spent per day and weekly retention rates can provide you with insight into whether a game is well used. If it is, you need to determine whether the game is right for your brand.

For instance, if you’re targeting new moms, Call of Duty may not be the best game to use to connect with them (But then again, it might! You need to look at the data.)

From there, it’s important to utilize your digital marketing analytics much as you would for other marketing channels. You should be able to understand how many times your campaign was viewed, how many users viewed it and, ultimately, what their interactions were with the campaign.

Analytics should help you determine what the impressions, engagement rates and conversion rates look like with these campaigns. As always, testing is an important part of continuing to optimize your presence in the gaming channel.

As with any other marketing channel, proper targeting and personalized messaging are key components to successfully advertising within the gaming industry. However, with a large base of diverse, engaged users, the gaming industry is a great way to deliver customized ad campaigns that resonate with your core audience.

Like any other channel, it doesn’t make sense to advertise a game or product to an audience segment in which it will never be successful.

Brands should consider incorporating gaming as part of their robust cross-channel marketing strategies. To get your organization’s head in the game, you need to always play by the rules set forth by the customer.

This article was originally published in Social Times.

Topics: Campaign Management, Digital Transformation

Products: Campaign