Mobile gaming the new digital battleground to win consumers

Jasmine Hansen, former head of brand and marketing for Metro Trains Australia and head of dumb ideas for Dumb Ways to Die
By Jasmine Hansen, former head of brand and marketing for Metro Trains Australia and head of dumb ideas for Dumb Ways to Die | 9 September 2020
Jasmine Hansen

If this pandemic has taught me anything it’s that there are two types of organisations. Those that, despite a reduction in their turnover continue to invest in brand. Then there’s those organisations that don’t invest and see marketing as a company expenditure line to cut and wait out the storm.

Regardless which bucket your organisation falls into, one thing is certain; consumer expectations of their digital experience has accelerated and brands are now sprinting to play catch-up.

COVID-19 has seen work drinks morph into Zoom cocktails at home and kids’ parties are being hosted through Google Hangouts. This accelerated digital adaption has been driven out of social necessity and the craving for this online interaction has led to many brands found wanting.

Brand experiences this year are going to look very different. This year’s Spring Racing Carnival won’t have the onsite customer activations people have come to know and the loyalty activations big companies like AAMI and Telstra invest in won’t be rolling out the red carpet for their high value customers in quite the same way they did pre-pandemic.

The reality is, brands have to pivot their digital experiences to engage in better ways in what feels like a post-apocalyptic consumer world. Look no further than mobile game Rival Stars Horse Racing as an example of how the businesses above could pivot their digital engagement strategies and make big dollars in the process.

Mobile gaming represents a huge untapped opportunity for brands and will be the new digital battleground for winning consumers. It’s the Holy Grail for marketers to have a deeper level of engagement that doesn’t feel like advertising, it’s a channel that if done correctly can actually make money, creating an additional revenue stream for businesses and it’s an advertising medium that has the cut through and long engagement times in the ever competitive media landscape of screens.

When you pull back the mask on mobile gaming there is a lot to love. It’s a truly global and growing industry valued last year at $94 billion according to NewZoo Global Mobile Market report. Statista Insights estimates that in Australia the mobile games segment is projected to reach $192 million, up 7.8%.

When looking at the macro environment you can see why this type of consumer engagement will become the norm; it’s highly addictive and in 2017, 43 million viewers tuned into the e-sports League of Legends, just 1.5 million shy of game 7 of the NBA finals. Adidas signed their first professional gamer as an ambassador, AdColony research found 57% of Australians now play mobile games daily, up 43% prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

In addition, consumers are time poor and gaming can be done on the go, Australia is rolling out the 5G network and the Alpha generation born alongside iphones and apps will account for 2 billion of the global population by 2025.

So why aren’t more marketers tapping into this?
And I’m not just talking about the rudimentary, short shelf life apps that some brands are rolling out. I’m talking about sophisticated progression-based games with complex core loops and sinks and intelligent monetisation strategies.

Look no further for the success of mobile gaming than in our own back yard with Metro’s Dumb Ways to Die. The portfolio of games pulled in an impressive 2 million daily active users and has 6.7 billion sessions played across its games and counting. The games not only kept the safety message alive but it delivered an additional multi-million dollar revenue stream for the business.

Knowing what I know now, my digital and social extensions of AAMI’s Rhonda and Ketut campaign would have looked different. Imagine a ‘Kiss me Ketut’ mid-core title where Ketut has to avoid the obstacles in pursuit of Rhonda’s love. A game could have extended the digital brand experience for those heavily invested in the AAMI love story.

Or Bingle’s Simple As it Sounds campaign of riding two horses to Daryl Braithwaite’s Horses while getting a quote, now that would have made for a great hyper casual game.

Branded games should ensure the core experience doesn’t make players feel like they’re being ‘sold to’, rather there should be a subtle nod to brand. One way to offset this is the notion of ‘gaming for good’, where brands build games to tackle their larger community and social responsibility objectives. NRMA’s recent ‘Every home is worth protecting’ campaign for koalas could have expanded to a game and any money generated from this initiative could have supported a number of Koala conservation charities. In part, this is why Dumb Ways to Die was so successful. We didn’t overtly try and sell train tickets or increase patronage, instead we tackled a community issue that was close to our hearts.

While many marketers may be scratching their heads and wondering how this relates to getting new business or sales one thing is certain, for many consumers this is a world they’re already in, investing hours upon hours and where hardly any brands are competing. It’s clear space, an uncluttered platform to engage deeper with customers. Brands that play in this space will gain brand love by association and it is the next best alternative to the traditional customers interactions we had before COVID-19 hit.

Any company, no matter the category, should be able to build an arcade of games that speaks to their target audience and address a number of key business objectives, such as a new acquisition channel, a digital campaign extension, an additional marketing revenue stream or an enhanced loyalty play.

Marketing at its core is about entertainment. In order to win hearts, minds and wallets you have to entertain. Simply put, gamifying the brand experience is the perfect way to do this.

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