By Paul Sheldon, Senior Art Director at Golley Slater
Many brands that relied on live events and sport sponsorship alongside touch, feel, and taste activations to excite their audiences in a previous life are struggling. And even with physical interactions returning, they are still having to think outside the box when it comes to developing creative solutions, pursuing those that are both cost-efficient and effective at engaging consumers.
Brands need to take advantage of lifestyle trends by harnessing popular culture, social currency and consumer desires to ensure they are responding to audience needs in a meaningful way. This means following consumers into new engagement arenas and making the most of the latest technical advancements.
Emerging technologies shape the industry and areas such as gaming, previously untrodden by traditional brands, are seeing a huge uptake. Gaming has quickly become the new medium for brand engagement – with revenues predicted to be higher than any other form of entertainment this century. But how can brands who aren’t yet familiar with the world of gaming also get a piece of the action?
Driving people’s need for escapism
Reaching a staggering 2.7 billion gamers worldwide in 2020, the popularity of gaming has exploded over the last 12 months. Throughout the past few years, we’ve seen interesting partnerships form such as, MAC lipstick and Tencent, Louis Vuitton and Riot Games, KFC and Animal Crossing, or even brand placements like Mazda concept cars featuring in Gran Turismo Sport on Playstation. This trend of combining the gaming world with other sectors has become increasingly popular.
The many pandemic-related restrictions have affected every aspect of our lives. The confidence and freedom we once took for granted has certainly changed how we spend our free time. Gaming provides a great sense of escapism, distraction and mental wellness – unlike some other media. Gaming isn’t passive, but both social and interactive. For brands, gaming has often been overlooked as an audience, but whilst traditional outdoor advertising and the high street have faced restrictions in the physical world, the online world has thrived. It’s been exciting to see brands step up and take more innovative approaches.
Fostering genuine connections with gaming communities
The perception of the gamer stereotype has thankfully changed in recent years. It’s clear the gaming community is blessed with a diverse culture. By understanding the gaming community better, brands can tap into the industry in new ways. They have traditionally entered gaming via sponsoring esports events and teams. But this approach neglects the much wider gaming audience.
Above all, brands need to be genuine, earn attention and add value in unique memorable ways. Being timely with gaming trends, launches and the latest news is key. Achieving a positive brand association with gaming should be considered a long-term commitment. Brands like Burger King and KFC are great examples of how continued social engagement, tactical activations and promotions have brought success and are more synonymous with gaming than other brands. Clearly showing enthusiasm and understanding for the community and in many cases not taking themselves too seriously and having a sense of humour helps. For example, the KFC console launch to rival the new generation of Xbox and PS5 or Burger King sponsoring league 2 Stevenage FC to appear in game on the globally popular FIFA series videogame.
Applying the pragmatism of brand activation to emerging technology
In a generation of online content creators and an array of easy to access professional tools we can create amazing results fast. We can experiment and trial new concepts with potential global reach – it doesn’t have to be about spending a fortune.
Technology is a great tool, but only by applying creativity do brands and consumers truly get the most out of it. It’s about marrying up a clear consumer need and a brand challenge based on solid insight to come up with something innovative that will excite and connect with consumers.
As an example, Nintendo’s Animal Crossing game was a huge hit in 2020. With 31 million players. Gillette Venus took a familiar feature of the game that allowed you to customise textures to create a series of all-inclusive skins – ‘Skinclusive’ – for the playable characters, to help reflect the diversity of the players. It was supported socially and didn’t require Gillette to sponsor the game directly, only share a popular feature of the game that other players enjoyed.
To help brands futureproof themselves whilst also exciting and influencing their audiences experimenting is key… Be curious! At Golley Slater, the innovation team read, study, digest and apply. This drives out simple and seemingly obvious executions from unexpected places and drives brand awareness & sales growth.
The future of the brand and gaming industry
With the rise of 5G data speeds, rather than the disruptive adverts that traditionally break up play, we will see more game adverts that seamlessly integrate into games. Alongside this we are set to see more products and services dedicated to gamers. We’ve already had Razor, the gaming accessory brand, launch a credit card with gaming rewards exclusive to its customers, as well as Ikea’s collaboration with the Republic of Gamers to launch a range of furniture.
Games are quickly becoming social platforms in their own right. Fortnite is a good example of how games have become both venues and social spaces. Brands have a chance to be seen and importantly take part in the potential new metaverse!