Are Gaming Platforms the Next Addition to the Omnichannel Marketing Strategy?

By Jenn Choo

Over the past few years, the marketing industry has seen a substantial increase in digital ad spend and brand exploration in terms of virtual and immersive strategies for customer engagement. While statistics show that ad spend on gaming sits at around $6 to $8 billion in the U.S., representing less than 6 percent of total digital advertising spend, the growth trajectory for advertising across gaming platforms is projected to be fast-paced with very minimal limits on the potential these platforms offer brands in terms of customer engagement.

With the promises of the metaverse on the horizon, many teams are looking to explore more immersive customer experiences for their brands. What better way to do that than by leveraging the expansive and interactive worlds of gaming platforms? While in-game advertising isn't a new concept, the ways in which brands are exploring their immersive capabilities are.

As the number of users across gaming platforms increases, the line between the real world and the virtual world continues to blur. As a result, avatar-based virtual experiences are becoming more of a standard practice for modern consumers. As part of their omnichannel and engagement strategies, brands are developing immersive customer experiences through the utilization of interactive elements exclusive to virtual platforms.

Explore Untapped, Engaged Audiences

While the long-standing stigma (that gaming is a pastime most popular among young men) still lingers, data paints a different picture. According to Statista, 45 percent of gamers in the U.S. are women, and nearly 30 percent of U.S. based gamers are over the age of 45. The fact of the matter is, gaming platforms offer an expansive reach into a variety of different consumer demographics, most of which are highly engaged and open to new forms of technology, innovation, and interactivity.

In addition, the virtual expanse of gaming platforms gives marketing teams direct access to the widest consumer population — millennials and gen Z. Both groups have matured alongside ever-changing technology and developed an agile mindset that makes them the perfect group to target for early adaptation of innovative tech and experiences, and smart brands are taking advantage of it.

Many examples of innovative brand user-experience marketing, centralized around these generational groups, can be seen across avatar-based gaming platforms like Roblox. These platforms have partnered with several brands to create exclusive in-game clothing, accessories, and experiences to elevate game play via virtual in-game purchases and immersive engagements.

Savvy marketing teams see the true potential that gaming platforms have to offer in terms of larger market sizes of engaged audiences. They also understand that there are endless possibilities for developing new, innovative ways of interacting with customers and that gaming platforms are the gateway to the future of immersive virtual user experiences. There's no better place to explore the full capabilities of what these virtual brand experiences have to offer and may potentially evolve into in the metaverse.

Discover Unlocked Potential

Modern consumers are starting to recognize marketing efforts as intrusive and disruptive. In response, marketing teams have shifted their strategies to create more consumer-friendly initiatives, leveraging highly utilized platforms and methods like native shoppable video and image-based ads, influencer marketing, and user-generated content such as reviews and unboxing videos.

The key to mastering this will be how these marketing initiatives are incorporated into user experiences across the prospective platforms. A great way that brands can test their ideas is by utilizing gaming platforms and garnering feedback from the highly engaged user gamer base.

32 percent [of U.S. gamers] believe ads should never interrupt a hardcore gamer's flow.
The U.S. In-Game Advertising Report 2022

This means that any advertising presented to players in-game will need to seamlessly blend into the user experience while also making an impact. Brands are exploring what innovation in this vein looks like through the development of product-themed in-game purchases, brand-based rewards that enhance game play, and brand-themed elements of the game, such as virtual stores or play experiences like the Vans World virtual skate park.

Developing these immersive brand engagements will help marketing teams adapt their strategies across other platforms and channels to be just as seamless and integrated, satisfying the wants and needs of their modern consumer bases.

Step Up Your Creative Game

As advertising has become more digitally native, marketing and creative teams have had to up the ante when it comes to the look and feel of their marketing elements. Evolving brand marketing assets and methodologies to feel more native to each platform is a major element of the strategy, but it's not all of it. Just as critical is the user experience (UX). The gaming community have come to expect high resolution, hyper-realistic, impressive graphics and UX from their game play experience, and they will notice if ad experiences are not up to par with the existing game elements.

"If you want to advertise in games, bring your best creative."
-U.S. Gamers via The US In-Game Advertising Report 2022

Pushing the boundaries on creative through a UX lens will be a crucial element of both in-game advertising and immersive virtual brand experiences. Both marketing and creative teams will need to fully understand the virtual environments they are crafting materials for to ensure consistent and flawless integration and optimal user experience. Consumers do not want to feel like they are being marketed to. They want to experience brands and develop connections products on their own terms.

In Conclusion

Today's marketing teams are optimizing their strategies for success by creating engaging customer experiences across a variety of channels. We look to the endless potential of virtual experiences provided by marketing teams, exploration of new immersive UX marketing needs to start in the world of gaming. Savvy marketers know that the future is based around the virtual worlds of the metaverse and the expansive user experiences it can provide.

The gaming platforms of today are the gateway into the virtual worlds of tomorrow. Brands that want to future-proof their marketing and advertising strategies in these UX-based immersive worlds are exploring in-game advertising as a first step in innovating and refining their methodologies for the modern and future consumer.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Jenn Choo is the marketing director at Theorem.