Among the various strategies currently in use by major brands to promote their goods and services through digital marketing, advergaming is undergoing a slight renaissance.
Advergames date back to the days when video games were still produced on floppy disks and cartridges. Some of the earliest examples include the ill-fated Atari game to promote the blockbuster family film ET in the 1980s; another example was “Avoid the Noid” for Microsoft DOS and Commodore 64 desktop, this was part of a campaign by Domino’s Pizza to develop a brand mascot.
Later techniques in advergaming included product placement, endorsements and the current trend of in-game advertising along with gamification.
Branded mini-games are being used to great effect by European and Asian wireless service providers to instill customer loyalty. These games can be mobiles apps or HTML5 browser-based titles that offer rewards and social media features to make them more attractive. Achievements in these games can be exchanged for rewards such as extra SMS credit, wireless data and additional minutes for voice calling.
Business owners and brand managers do not have to commission original titles to reap the benefits of advergaming. Some game development studios offer white label programs for companies to incorporate brands into ready-made titles, which range from Tetris clones to puzzles and from racing games to classic arcade shooters.
An even easier entry into the world of advergaming is by in-game advertising, which consists of displaying banners or short video commercials inserted into mobile apps. Some players believe that this method is a bit heavy handed, but some brands have found sufficient success to continue this practice.
A study by Loyalty 360, a market research firm in Asia, indicates that advergames are better for customer engagement, retention and loyalty. When it comes to implementing an advergaming strategy, brand managers should think about the immense value of lifetime customers instead of trying to attract new ones. The idea is to tap into the human affinity for being challenged and competitive in a playful way.
Marketing analysts believe that advergaming may go through a branding reversal phase in the next few years. An example of this is already being tested in South Korea, where an entrepreneur is thinking about opening a retail chain of fast-food restaurants to accommodate Pokemon Go players. In this instance, an established video game brand is being used to create a new revenue stream by welcoming fans of Pokemon Go into a place where they can enjoy the game as well as social interaction and snacks.