Creating a Consumer Dialogue in Game Marketing

At present, marketers face the daunting task of identifying game approaches that deliver brand messages, aggregate target audiences, and deliver valuable experiences. To avoid overload, remember there are patterns, cycles, and success equations that have stood the test of time.

What’s the difference between the effectiveness marketers achieved through integration and association with yesteryear’s game shows and with today’s digital games? Digital game advertising supports interactivity and dynamic audiences. Yet, fundamentally there isn’t a huge difference between “The $64,000 Question” and “World of Warcraft” (WOW).

Remember that elementary principles apply, no matter the medium:

  • People have an innate desire to be entertained.

  • Marketers meet this need through underwriting and sponsorship.
  • Success is achieved by aligning consumer needs, entertainment content, and marketers message.

Below are initiatives that have proven effective. They tap the same nerve regardless of execution or game platform.

Casual

Name That Tune was an online game that assimilated the very large audience that grew up on the TV game show and was willing to repeatedly play a watered-down online version of it. Enter Chevrolet. The automaker brought the infusion of capital to upgrade the music library to include modern, popular artists. The game included bonus rounds for gamers who could name the tunes with Chevrolet mentions (e.g., “Little Red Corvette” by Prince). Commercials were integrated to drive awareness and capture data to capitalize on interest. A Dynamic Logic study shows that awareness, favorability, and even intent to purchase were off the charts compared with standard online advertising.

Hardcore

I regularly swipe at the in-game space, but once in a while even I have to tip my hat to an effective integration. In this case, Visa got in early and deep with “CSI: Three Dimensions of Murder.” It was able to make its credit card fraud protection an integral part of the game. The advertiser helped achieve realism and thicken the plot and didn’t intrude. The game includes suspicious credit card activity flagged by Visa’s fraud protection. In essence, Visa helps the gamer solve the crime. This is a truly remarkable approach that adds a unique twist to typical game mechanics and ingrains Visa into the minds of the massive audience attracted to this title.

Viral

A fairly recent offering, Campusfood.com’s Food Friendzy addresses its target’s need state, connects people through a fun online experience, and integrates viral pass-along in. The game, available on Facebook, leverages user profiles and awards hungry students with free meals for playing. Of course, you only earn those meals if you can get another player to join you. The more players you pull in, the more free meals you’ll get. Knowing its audience is hungry, Campusfood entertains them with a game, introduces them to a service, and gives them something to eat. I imagine the repeat business tastes pretty good.

Cross Media

As we think about digital game advertising, sometimes we forget the positive emotions and places they hold in our hearts can expand beyond the boundaries of the game itself and even the online medium. In this case, Vivendi Games advanced sales by taking the massively multiplayer online game WOW into a very unlikely place with a “SouthPark” episode called “Make Love, Not Warcraft.” Who could forget the hysterics afforded by watching “SouthPark” kids fall victim to gaming stereotypes? What players of WOW didn’t identify with the game’s impact on the character’s lives? What non WOW playing, SouthPark audience member didn’t want to buy the game?

Conclusion

In all these cases, game content is made possible or enhanced through the marketer’s involvement. When message relevance and content serve each other’s purposes, the marketer wins and the consumer enjoys a rewarding experience. It’s simple yet profound.

“Tune in and drop out” is the underlying truth. Our real-world experiences offer all the stimuli we need. To entice and become desirable, digital experiences must elicit positive emotion and interrupt monotony or pain.

We as marketers are afforded an opportunity to accommodate basic human needs in our initiatives.

Thanks for your mindshare,

-KC

Kevin is off this week. Today’s column ran earlier on ClickZ. Be sure to read his October 13 column on how video games score points against cancer.

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