What is Advergaming & How To Use It To Boost Sales
The birth of new digital marketing strategies, like advergaming, is the product of the evolving technology we have today. Gaming platforms are now hubs for a wide demographic where brands can catch the attention of their leads. It’s an out-of-the-box idea coined in the 1990s that has successfully launched several brands to a 200% increase in brand awareness and soaring sales.
If you’re ready to sail away from traditional ad strategies, discover how the fusion of creative game development and digital marketing attracts your ideal customers in a fun and non-intrusive way.
What is Advergaming?
Advergaming is a form of advertising in which companies create brand-focused video games to launch a product or boost brand awareness. Advergames are customized based on how brands want to present themselves to their target audiences and showcase the features of their products. They are usually free to play and customized to direct users to enjoy the game and eventually be more interested in purchasing a brand’s products.
Though advergames are prevalent today, the earliest concept dates back in the 1980s using the arcade gaming consoles like Atari 3600. Anthony Giallourakis coined the term advergames in 1999 and later purchased the website www.advergames.com, which became the hub of advergames of different brands in the world in the 1990s.
The concept behind advergaming is its efficiency in reaching a wide audience, especially those who are active gamers. Companies have several ways of using advergaming, such as:
Creating an entire game that is designed to promote a product, such as a mobile game that features a character using a phone made by the company. Nissan, in collaboration with Gamify, created Netball Kiosk Game, which is an on-site game where participants will test their reflexes by swiping balls on three touch screen monitors. The goal of the game is to correct driving mistakes and help users become more aware of the fast-changing traffic.
Include branded elements in an existing game, such as having product placements in a popular game like Fortnite.
Modifying the main character as the brand itself, like M&M’s, and navigating the game to achieve brand-specific rewards.
Collaborating with other brands to add some variety to a game and collectively increase their brand awareness and customer engagement. The best example of this is Magnum's Pleasure Hunt where users will find hidden Magnum ice creams in the websites of the brand collaborators for the campaign.
The main goal of advergames is to build brand awareness and create positive associations with a brand’s products. As brand awareness increases, so does customer engagement, which often leads to increased sales.
In-game ads vs. Advergaming
The evolution of video games from the 90s to the present also involved different marketing campaigns of brands that bred to in-game ads and advergaming. They are both advertisements in video games but in different formats.
In-game advertisements are marketing elements displayed in the game and do not involve any interaction with the user. The brand logo or product is usually mentioned on billboards, banners, and buildings in the gaming environment.
Among the earliest in-game advertisements is found in Crazy Taxi where the establishments of Pizza Hut, KFC, FILA, and Tower Records are the common destination of most passengers in the game. Another example is Fortnite, where brand logos and products are on display.
Advergaming (brand game), on the other hand, is a brand-focused game where the main character or the overall gaming environment is about a brand's product or services.
For example, a burger joint may utilize a burger stacking game as part of the promotion of its new burger line. Donut Papi is a local brand in Australia which used the game concept of Candy Crush with the design of their donuts. The rewards are redeemable donuts that players can get from any of Donut Papi's physical stores.
Elements of an Advergame
An advergame is usually a short game with a simple but creative way of letting customers enjoy it while learning more about the brand. Here are the elements in an advergame that can help balance fun and brand awareness, resulting in a positive user experience:
Relevance to the brand: The concept of the game must be related to the product or service of the brand. You may deviate away from the primary purpose of the product but it should represent what the brand stands for. Some companies use a simple strategy wherein they use a basic game template like Mario or Candy Crush and replace the characters and background with their brand colors and products.
Target audience: Having a specific group of people in mind, it will be easier for you and the game developers to modify the gaming environment. It will also set the game design and difficulty of the challenges which is the core concept of the game.
Game creativity: Aside from relevance, the game must be catchy enough to attract players. With all the high-quality advergames today, it can be challenging to create something fun and engaging to play. Therefore, some companies collaborate with game developers and other brands to create a unique gaming experience for their customers.
Balanced brand promotion and game dynamics: Games plastered with brand names and products can be too boring for gamers while an in-depth game may lead to less exposure of the brand. An effective advergame must make your brand unforgettable while navigating the addicting part of games, which is the adventure and competitive aspect of the game.
Social sharing: Games breed communities that geek out about the gameplay and storyline. Adding a social aspect to an advergame can help market the game through the gamer’s experience and boost its following. As more people become engaged in the game, the more they will be influencing their friends and family about your brand, leading to increased brand awareness and consumer engagement.
Rewards: Rewards in every game makes the challenge and competition worth playing. You must choose rewards that everyone would be dying to have along with your brand-related perks. It could be a redeemable item, e-gift card, or the most expensive product line of your brand. One great example of this is the #Polowers challenge of Volkswagen Polo where the ultimate winner will get a brand new Volkswagen Polo hatchback.
5 Successful advergames from past to present
From Atari 3600 to VR, advergames also evolved based on the evolution of the gaming consoles. Discover the first and the latest advergames that successfully launched brands and their promotions.
#1 Pepsi Invaders
Taking the game concept of Space Invaders, Pepsi Invaders is an arcade game releasedby Coca-Cola Company to salesmen during a convention in the 1980s. It is a fixed-shooter game that targets spaceships with a PEPSI formation. Though it is not recognized as a form advertising back in the day, Pepsi Invaders is among the earliest form of advergames that is played on Atari 3600.
The game has been controversial because when the player wins, the game will prompt Coke Wins, which is a diss to its long-time rival Pepsi.
#2 M&M's The Lost Formulas
M&M's The Lost Formulas is the first advergame of M&M’s in 2000 developed by Boston Animation. It can be played on both Mac and Windows and has the same concept and math problems as the iconic Crash Bandicoot. The plot of the game is to collect as many M&M’s as possible while riding a vehicle and answer simple math problems with difficulty level for ages 5-10.
#3 Chex Quest
Chex Quest is one of the most successful advergames that won the Golden EFFIE Award for Advertising Effectiveness (1996) and the Golden Reggie Award for Promotional Achievement (1998). Chex is a cereal brand that promotes its flavored cereals through characters that defeats aliens.
The plot of Chex Quest is a first-person shooter game similar to DOOM but in a non-violent environment, The game is still accessible today and has been upgraded to be compatible to the latest gaming console versions.
#4 Chipotle Scarecrow
Chipotle Scarecrow is a short film and an arcade-style game created by Moonbot Studios for the Mexican restaurant chain Chipotle. The game location is in Crow Foods Corporation Factory and the scarecrow must correct the mistakes of the corporation while being wary of the robots.
The Scarecrow is free to download on Apple App Store and can be played in iPhone, Ipad, and iPod Touch. The film and the game touch on the issue of how people should know where their food is coming from and how Chipotle aims to provide food with integrity.
The reward of those who complete the Chipotle scarecrow is a redeemable food reward that they can get at any of its branches in the US, UK, and Canada.
H3: #5 Chupa Chups Zool
Nothing would be more heavily advertised than Zool and their collaboration with Chuoa Chups. It is an arcade game made to be a rival of Sonic The Hedgehog in 1992. As a sponsor, Chupa Chups is featured in one of its series but was later removed as they stopped the sponsorship for the game.
How advergaming helps boost brand awareness and engagement
Advergaming can be an extremely effective marketing tool for businesses of all sizes. When done correctly, advergames can engage potential customers, increase brand awareness, and even generate sales. Some of the primary benefits of advergaming include:
Increased Engagement: Advergames are designed to be highly engaging, which can lead to increased website traffic and more time spent interacting with your brand.
Brand Awareness: By creating a fun and memorable gaming experience, advergames can help increase brand awareness and name recognition. Mobile advergames usually stay longer in people's mobile phones that promotional ads.
Lead Generation: Advergames can be used to collect contact information from potential customers who can then be marketed to in the future. The email that they use to register can be added to your mailing list for future product promotions and campaigns.
Sales: In some cases, advergames can be used to generate direct sales. For example, a game about a new product could include a buy now button that takes the player to a purchase page.
What are the drawbacks of advergaming?
Behind all the fun and creativity of advergames are some potential risks. These include:
Game development can be expensive to produce. Hiring a professional game development team can be pricey, and even if you opt to create the game yourself, there is still a monetary investment in terms of time and resources. It may not generate a significant return on investment if they are not successful.
Advergames may not be appropriate for every type of product or service. For example, a complex product may lend itself poorly to an advergame format.
There's no guarantee that people will actually play the game, let alone remember the brand after playing. A poorly designed or boring game will not capture people's attention and could even dissuade them from trying out the product or service being promoted.
Advergames can sometimes come across as too sales-y or pushy, which can turn people off. They can sometimes backfire if they are not executed well. A good example is Chupa Chups Zool which is heavily featured in the game and gained negative publicity that led to the cancellation of their sponsorhip to the game.
One thought to ponder is that not everyone enjoys playing games. While many people will happily spend hours playing an engaging advergame, others will quickly lose interest and move on. With that, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of advergaming before deciding if it is the right marketing strategy for your business.
How to Create or conceptualize an Advergame
If you’re ready to take on some risks and dip your toes in advergaming, you should plan it carefully before dealing with a game developer. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind before creating your advergame. Here are some tips:
Keep it simple: Your advergame should be easy to understand and play. If it is too complicated, people might quickly lose interest. Base the overall gaming environment on your target audience. For example, a cereal company may target kids ages 5-10 and utilize simple math-based games.
Make it engaging: The most challenging part in making an advergame is to make it engaging for your target audience. It must have some game elements that would hook them to play until they get a reward or top the leaderboard.
Strategize the marketing for the game and the product: Just because you have a game doesn’t mean it will do all the marketing for you. You also need to market your advergame and draw more attention to it aside from the promotion of your product service.
Build a community and social following: Whether it’s a hashtag or a discord group, building a social sharing or community from the game can help spread your brand name for a long time. The buzz about the game may fade, but the community may stay as long as they share the same interest in your brand.
Make it professional: Your advergame should look professional and polished. If it looks amateurish, people will not take it seriously. Your advergame represents your brand and your vision for your products. Chipotle Scarecrow is a good example of positive messaging regarding a global issue which is sustainability in food industry and how they take part in making it better.
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