The Game’s the Thing. The marketing thing that is—and a great way to engage your customers with your company and with your brand. This approach goes far beyond simply sponsoring or placing a logo into a game that has nothing to do with your business or your industry. It includes gamification techniques which apply game elements such as leader boards and awards to business goals such as brand loyalty or increasing sales. It also includes the fairly new Advergame, in which branding such as a logo, color scheme, and/or branding concept is made an integral part of an online or mobile game.
With gamification the goal is to use a game to reinforce desired behavior by using the context of gaming to persuade users to complete tasks– such as filling out surveys, paying bills, or even purchasing products they don’t really need—that they would ordinarily find tedious or reject outright without the gaming aspect.
If the topic interests you, consider taking the upcoming Gamification course on Coursera. It provides a great introduction to gamification and provides practical examples of how you can put it to use for your small business marketing campaigns. Taught by a professor from the University of Pennsylvania, the 6 week course includes video lectures that you can watch at your own pace and quizzes as well as written assignments that are graded by your peers. You can take the course for free, or pay $95 for an official certificate. I took it myself a few years ago, and found it useful, informative, and entertaining. The next session begins on January 30, 2017. Register here.
Advergames are games designed specifically to promote a brand or product. In a sophisticated implementation a totally custom game is developed to bring a brand’s essence to life. These are of course large expensive projects best suited to big brands. For those with a small budget, and even no programming skills, a simpler approach is to plug your brand’s elements into an existing game template.
This post provides a great comparison of simple and complex advergames. It highlights Chipotle’s Scarecrow game as, “a great example of advergaming…[that] conveys that it ‘cares’ about promoting natural food and is fighting against the ‘evil’ of processed food.”
While creating Advergames for your website and blog is one way to go, the explosion of mobile has been a boom for advergaming. This post notes that, “79% of people aged between 18-44 have their smartphones with them 22 hours a day, seven days a week. More than 62% of adults and 85% of teens play mobile games.” It also notes that mobile game playing is about evenly split between men and women. Advergames that promote friend play and sharing on social media platforms such as Facebook are becoming popular as well.
One reason these advergames are so popular, and effective, is that they leverage the emotions involved with game playing for the embedded brand. And unlike pesky banner ads or other intrusions into the user experience, interaction with a game is a conscious choice. And interestingly, studies show that most players are not turned-off by advertising integrated into a game as they are by other sponsorships such as ads playing before a video they want to watch.
The IAB Games Advertising Ecosystem Report provides a great overview how companies are integrating gaming into their marketing plans. This post from online game company Gamewheel, takes the topic step further by differentiating between longer lasting advergames and short (30-60 second) versions it calls “Game Ads.”
Creating Your Own Advergame
Regardless of the type of advergame approach you take, a typical implementation will contain three elements: a start screen, the game, and a destination screen. You should create all of these to reinforce your brand, and to lead a player towards the action(s) you’d like them to take—whether that’s to download a whitepaper, sign-up for a newsletter, share the game, make a purchase using a coupon, etc.
The goal of your game might simply be to have potential customers interact with your brand in a positive way that will make them more receptive to future more direct marketing contacts. Alternately, you can use your game as a mechanism to collect contact information or to promote a special event or sale.
You can create a game for a single platform—a website, Facebook, or an iOS or Android App. However, you are far better served by exporting your game to multiple platforms so your customers can play it in any (and all) environments they choose. Most game creation applications support output in multiple formats—so there is really no technical excuse not to provide multi-platform support.
The How to create a game ad campaign using Facebook – the definitive guide from Gamewheel provides instructions that will be useful regardless of the platform you use to create your game.
A fast and easy way to see if advergaming is right for your small business is to jump in and give it a try. Gamewheel provides a free trial account that enables you to customize and publish any of their game templates, and offers 1000 free plays. After that you need to pay for game packages, with each play costing 0.10 € ($0.11).
AdGames is another company offering customizable games. You can create games for free with an account, but cannot publish them. Output for a single platform (web, iOS, Android) costs $49, with discounts for publishing the same game to multiple platforms.
If you use Adobe Captivate 9, there are several customizable games included in the Interactions library.
Play PaySimple Match
The following simple match game was created using Adobe Captivate 9. It is just about as basic an advergame as you can get, but if you enjoy playing it, then chances are your customers will enjoy playing similar advergames you create for your small business.