11 reasons to extend your brand with games

by

iMedia Connection

By Mathew Georghiou and Mary Beth Schoening

Increasing popularity
The marketing process is really just a numbers and efficiency game — the more people in your target market that are open to hearing your brand message, the better. And the more effective you are at delivering your brand message to those folks, the higher your conversion rate. Online games and simulations have been booming in popularity because they deliver increased reach and effectiveness for brand messages.

According to PQ Media, advergaming and webisodes are the fastest growing branded entertainment segments, climbing at a 51.7 percent CAGR from 2002 to 2007.

Online games and simulations are great at educating prospects in both the consumer and B2B marketplaces across a broad range of industries — financial, health, lifestyle, technology, sports, retail, automotive and more.

Check out these reasons why you and your brand should start playing the game.

Reasons 1-2
The bottom line is we just want to have fun
According to the National Institute on Media and the Family, 35 percent of Americans rated video and computer games as “the most fun entertainment activity.” (TV was a distant second, at only 18 percent.) People are intrigued and open to trying something they think will be entertaining. This not only leaves them more open to hearing your brand message, but they may be more receptive to taking action as well.

The beauty of an online game is that it can be designed to reward specific behaviors that move your prospects along a qualification or buying spectrum.

Online games can be viral and ubiquitous
Online games are very portable and can be emailed in marketing campaigns, hosted on your website, syndicated to other high traffic websites and distributed out to mobile phones.

Traditional point of purchase materials can direct prospects to games on your website. From a viral marketing standpoint, game users can “rip” the games and put your branded games on their blogs, websites, MySpace and Facebook pages or send them to a friend via email.

Reasons 3-4
They deliver results
“By embedding a brand and/or product within a relevant activity or associating it with a lifestyle, advertising effectiveness increases significantly,” according to Fast Company. “America’s addiction to video and computer games is leading the way to a new advertising medium with astounding clickthrough rates, play times and peer-to-peer potential.”

Some say that advergaming offers retention rates 10 times higher than broadcast commercials; 15-45 percent of consumers who receive an advergame actually play it, and for an impressive average of 25 minutes. (Source: YaYa LLC.) These kinds of engagement metrics speak for themselves.

Games and simulations are a great way to educate your prospects and customers
Marketing is really just a two-part education process:

  1. Educate your prospects on how your product or service solves a pain-point or meets a need.
  2. Educate them as to why your solution is better than your competitors at meeting those needs or solving their pain-points.

Online games and simulations are a great branding tool because they are a powerful way to draw in your prospects. Educating prospects, or even your own sales reps, on complex concepts can be done very effectively in the framework of an online game or simulation.

Reasons 5-6
Online games create an impetus to interact with your brand
Online games create an impetus for your prospects to engage with your brand. Why is this? Online games appeal to our emotions — there is excitement, intrigue, hope of winning and an appeal to our competitiveness that creates a prospect “pull” toward your brand. It’s the start of a brand relationship. Then it’s up to you to continue to “work” the relationship.

Online games deliver greater brand recall
We’re more likely to remember the message from an experiential learning situation. Research has also shown that people remember more when involving all of the senses in the buying or education process.

Highly visual, interactive and engaging learning experiences, sophisticated artificial intelligence and vivid real-life graphics enable people to almost literally place themselves in real-life business and life interactions as if they were actually occurring. This can be helpful for reaching your prospects, training customer service and sales reps and synching up your workforce with respect to your brand messages.

Reasons 7-8
Provide greater customer insights
Online games allow brands to turn unknown prospects into known prospects. Customers are more willing to give contact information or personal/preference information in exchange for the ability to play a game. In fact, a well-designed game allows for personalization, enabling the player to be more emotionally invested. This gives you the ability to market to prospects one-on-one in the future and to personalize your message based on their preferences.

Games engage the emotion to reach the intellect
You can almost envision a hand reaching out from a computer screen to “grab” the prospect and draw them in. The emotional aspect really is the impetus for drawing a person in — the fun, the thrill, the challenge, the chance to win — but then you have the opportunity to appeal to the person’s intellect by delivering brand messages and information that appeal to the prospective buyer. It’s a one-two punch.

Reasons 9-10
Provide your prospect with an active (not passive) experience
People know that when they approach an online game they will be required to participate in an interactive experience. If your prospects are active participants with your brand, their experience is more likely to be what might be described as a “deep tissue experience,” whereas a passive experience is only “skin deep” and doesn’t sink in as far. Experiential learning trumps passive experience, no matter how you look at it.

Multiplayer games can be the glue to build community around your brand
Simulations, serious games and massively multiplayer online worlds are revolutionizing communications, learning and collaboration for people of all ages and cultures. Virtual worlds and multiplayer games add a level of socialization onto an already fun experience. We have seen a steep parallel trajectory in the social media world and the gaming world, but now we are seeing the points of intersection between the two.

Imagine that part of your training as a brand new account rep at a regional bank is to learn how to start and run a business using a business-simulation game. You will have to make decisions such as how to price your products, how much inventory to order, how many employees to hire, how much capital you need. You can see firsthand the impact of your decisions and understand the interrelationships in a way that would be too abstract otherwise. Multiplayer gaming allows multiple participants to interact together to conduct real business in virtual worlds and connect with a larger community.

Reason 11
Synchronize your brand vision across all touchpoints
Communicating your brand vision across multiple divisions, geographies, languages, job functions, industries, target markets and partner communities can be costly, time consuming and incredibly challenging. The Holy Grail is to have all the people touching your brand be synchronized on your brand vision and be consistent in the representation of it to others.

When the portability of online games is combined with a fun and entertaining activity, its reach can span far and wide — to every brand community and every brand touchpoint with the control of a consistent brand message. Experiencing the business brings a greater depth of understanding so that the people representing your brand are more authentic and can give specific examples and greater detail. You maximize every conversation about your brand at every touchpoint.

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