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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Get in the game

Is the gaming industry about to become the latest battleground for big FMCG brands? By George Bateman


The gaming industry has evolved from a minority hobby to a global powerhouse, with a projected value of more than $312 billion by 2027 and an expected 3.24 billion players this year.

For the FMCG industry the positives of collaborating with gaming brands are significant. Brands gain instant access to a highly engaged, diverse audience, that depending on the game could vary greatly from its traditional target market.

What’s more, FMCG brands can seize the chance to run targeted ads, cross-promotional campaigns and product placement; all of which offer unique ways to improve brand visibility, engage customers and differentiate brand experiences.

High-profile PepsiCo brands Doritos, Mountain Dew and Rockstar have been quick to tap into the vast gaming audience through a partnership with Xbox. Yet many other FMCG players are curiously unconcerned with the gaming industry’s meteoric rise. They’re missing a trick.

The possibilities are endless

Some of the slow uptake stems from a stereotyped persona of gamers, forming part of a general lack of understanding of the industry. In fact, each game wraps in a wide demographic, with the industry as a whole, having developed into a huge community that is extremely diverse.

In the past decade we’ve seen a significant uptake from older generations with penetration among gamers aged from 55 to 64 rising by 95 percent from 2018 to 2022, peaking at 47 percent in 2021. Gradually, people who didn’t grow up with video games are now discovering them. Combined with younger audiences discovering video games, this significantly increases the scope of consumers that FMCG brands could reach.

This is what makes the gaming industry such a great spot for FMCG brands – it’s an open book.

A person’s age, seniority or background doesn’t matter. All that counts is the passion they share for gaming.

People want to talk about what they are playing and what they like. And the more they watch and play content, the more they buy and the more they talk about the product. This offers brands a great chance to boost their visibility.

Long-term loyalty is another benefit of pressing go on gaming ads. Compared to the marketing lifecycle of a film or TV launch, where a few weeks after the release it might never be mentioned again, a game’s lifecycle can last forever. Just look at GTA V, which has been out for 11 years and has built a community that is more engaged today than ever before. For FMCG brands, this overrides the fundamental need to piggyback on a new game launch. They can work into an existing game with an established community as Louis Vuitton demonstrated with its League of Legends collaboration.

But the hardest part is knowing how to take a first bite of the market.

How FMCG brands can get in the game

Too often, FMCG brands are scared that if they fail in their first venture into gaming ads the community will never welcome them back.

So what’s the best strategy to becoming a major player in this potentially lucrative market? Here are three opportunities to try by taking a test-and-learn approach:

  • Game partnerships – Partnerships with existing game developers or publishers such as Oreos’ ‘Cheat Cookies’ campaign with Xbox allow brands to engage with the gaming community in creative ways. Such partnerships facilitate cross-promotional activities that can maximise exposure and drive consumer engagement.
  • In-game ads – In-game advertising can be an effective way of subtly inputting your brand in the minds of gamers without it feeling like a sales piece. This organic integration fosters a sense of authenticity and resonance, enhancing brand recall and affinity.
  • Gaming influencers – Working with an influencer who makes gaming content can help your brand position its messaging correctly so its genuine, authentic and resonates with the audience. Moreover, partnerships with influencers provide FMCG brands with opportunities for creative and innovative marketing activations which can generate buzz around their products.

For any of these methods to work however, FMCG brands can’t just adopt a broad-brush approach. While the gaming industry encompasses a wide demographic of players, to achieve cut through FMCG brands must employ a strategic approach that targets specific fandoms within the industry.

Take Unilever’s personal care brand Dove, for example, which recently took its ‘Real Beauty’ mission into the virtual world through a campaign that aims to create a healthier, more diverse representation of women and girls in games.

With 74 percent of female gamers wishing women characters in video games looked more like women in real life, it was a collaboration that resonated with millions around the world.

As Dove demonstrated, any approach must be authentic, not an obvious cash grab: be respectful of the preferences and attitudes of the gamers being targeted, so they understand why the interaction is happening and how it’s relevant to them.

This is why the most successful approach revolves around brand experiences.

The importance of experiences

The optimal way for an FMCG brand to engage directly with the gaming community is through a brand experience at a trade show: Comic Con, EGX, Gamescom, PAX etc. Gaming conventions attract a large and diverse audience, including passionate gamers (both hardcore and casual) and industry professionals; providing an ideal platform for brands to reach potential customers from various demographics.

These events offer opportunities for direct engagement with attendees through interactive booths, product demonstrations, and experiential activations, allowing brands to create a memorable experience that fosters brand awareness and loyalty.

This is why it’s so important to find the right message and overall creative approach, so the activation doesn’t feel out of place.

From our own research, which suggests that 83 percent of people believe they are the person that people turn to for recommendations, the gaming industry relies on word of mouth. Therefore, engaging the gaming community directly is so important as an FMCG brand, with 87 percent of people believing that interacting with a show-floor experience makes them more likely to recommend and connect with a business again.

By generating an emotional response from an in-person experience, consumers are far more likely to buy that product again and tell their friends, potentially giving FMCG brands access to a whole new demographic of customers.

Gaming conventions also serve as hubs for networking and collaboration within the gaming industry. FMCG brands can forge partnerships with game developers, influencers, and esports organisations, expanding reach and enhancing brand credibility within the gaming community.

Having a strong brand presence at a gaming convention facilitates direct consumer engagement but also opens doors to strategic partnerships and marketing opportunities.

Throwing the stereotypes aside, gamers are more than just geeks. By tapping into this booming market through brand experiences, FMCG businesses can gain access to a diverse audience to target with their relevant products and services, ultimately driving brand growth and taking their market share to the next level.

George Bateman is the Business Director at Experience12

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