What can marketers learn from gaming communities?

By Sam Anderson | Editor, The Drum Network

Waste Creative


Gaming article

May 16, 2022 | 6 min read

Gaming is one of the world’s most reliable forges of innovation. Not just the games themselves, but platforms, culture and communities too. Discord and Twitch, and noobs and nerfs, and caps and flossing have all changed the world in their own way. It’s an incubator for progress in marketing too, spearheading new formats and providing routes into culture at its source. So what can marketers learn from gaming? For The Drum’s Gaming Advertising Deep Dive, we asked six experts from The Drum Network.

Visar Statovci, co-founder and managing partner, Waste Creative

One thing that gaming companies have done incredibly well, and a massive reason as to why gaming blew up as much as it did, is the move from games as a product to games as a service.

You develop games with the community in mind. If you don’t have a community, you don’t have a game; you don’t have a business. We’re strategically involved with some of the biggest names, and they’ve gotten so good at having that feedback loop with the community; putting fans at the heart of building games.

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Building services and products with our fans or communities in mind isn’t just a brilliant marketing line. If you build your business around it, the gains can be huge.

Jodie Fullagar, managing director, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment

The one thing we can all learn is the power of community. If you put aside (just for a second) the barriers to inclusion, the ways some people are represented and the toxicity around some online experiences of certain games, there’s a huge amount of positivity in feeling connected to all kinds of people from all over the world with your shared mutual passion.

The democratization of that experience to be open to anyone who wants to play is powerful. What we’re increasingly trying to do with brands, certainly the ones that are trying to be in the hyper-culture space, is to say: ‘It’s not just about connecting your brand to a community, but connecting communities together.’

James Croft, senior brand strategist, Jellyfish

In gaming, most important is storytelling and powerful narrative. Games create immersive worlds and spaces that people really buy into.

We can learn from the gamification of experiences. You don’t have to create a complete game. It can just be slightly competitive or have an interactive element, like Netflix’s Bandersnatch: choosing your own story in different ways. It’s about finding new kids of storytelling.

When it comes to communities, actively contributing is key. It’s a two-way relationship: listen to what the community wants, and take on board their ideas with Q&A sessions, demos and testing.

Ting Zheng, client strategy senior lead, PMG

Other channels can’t replicate what’s happening in gaming. When we think about traditional TV, you’re just running an ad placement. When you think about sponsorships with sports teams, you slap a logo on a jersey. It can be a very one-way conversation.

Gaming offers new ways to add value. Social media helped us start that two-way conversation with liking and commenting. Gaming brings a third dimension: the aspect of play and of chatting across platforms, whether it’s Discord or the game itself.

It’s deeper, unique and engaging in a way that other channels can’t necessarily replicate. What we’re experiencing now is, ‘how do we just make sure that we’re adding value to everyone’s experiences v taking away from or making it about ourselves?’

Drew Townley, managing director, Kairos Group

Value exchange is key. I don’t think anyone else does it as well as gaming, but it’s non-negotiable in gaming.

Elsewhere, it can be very transactional. In other spaces, there has to be some form of value exchange: ‘What are we providing as a reward or incentive?’

Everyone’s looking at gaming and envying the length that people can stay engaged on a day-to-day or year-to-year basis. There’s no other industry or product that retains people like a triple-A gaming title. There’s a reason why Netflix’s chief exec came out and said its biggest competitor is Fortnite a year ago. Gaming’s fighting for more market-share and attention-share than any social media platform or any kind of mainstream media.

Jeremy Cline, manager, strategy and insights, VMLY&R

Most brands would say that they have a brand community, but community managers in gaming social media deserve some of the highest accolades. They function as the mouthpiece of the brand to the consumer, and the mouthpiece of the consumer to the brand.

When the community develops a relationship with the brand à la social media community manager, how does this feedback loop impact the dynamic between customer and brand? Whether it’s making movie studios change character designs, NFTs, microtransactions, or loot boxes, there’s a power dynamic shift between brand and consumer on social media. Passionate and vocal consumers are now able to speak to product design or features and co-create the end product.

Communities, like any other relationship, require communication, boundaries and nurturing. Is there room to educate? Is there room to inform or demystify? To make people who feel like outsiders feel like insiders? Listen to your community. Evaluate your community. Nurture your community. You might just wind up with a hit hedgehog movie franchise.

Tehreim Asif, UX consultant, Foolproof

Rather than asking what gaming can teach marketing, is it worth thinking about using marketing as the driving force to change things that are wrong with the gaming industry? Filling in those gaps, whether that’s to do with diversity or accessibility. What if we change the narrative a little bit; what if we use marketing as the driving force to make the changes we dream of?

For more on all the different ways brands can advertise in gaming, from virtual billboards to product placements, social lenses and even games of their own, check out The Drum’s Gaming Advertising Deep Dive.

Content created with:

Waste is an independent creative agency founded in 2006. We connect entertainment brands with their fans, to drive creativity, culture and commercial success. A virtuous circle we call ‘Brands powering fans, powering brands’.

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Global passion point marketing specialists. We connect brands to consumers through the things people love.

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Jellyfish is a marketing performance company for the platform world, where success demands a creative, multi-platform mindset. We help brands thrive, by navigating, connecting, and harnessing the platforms that drive growth.

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PMG is a global independent digital company that seeks to inspire people and brands that anything is possible. Driven by shared success, PMG uses strategy, creative, media, and insights, as well as its proprietary marketing intelligence platform Alli, to deliver against its mantra of Digital Made for Humans™. Our team is made up of over 475 employees across six cities globally, and our work for brands like Apple, Athleta, Beats by Dre, McDonald’s, Old Navy, Hyperice, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, Sephora, and Momentive (formerly SurveyMonkey) runs across 85+ countries and has received top industry recognition from Cannes Lions to Adweek Media Plan of the Year.

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Led by experts with more than 100+ years of gaming and media industry knowledge, Kairos Group comprises multiple entities including Kairos Media, Kyma Media, Turopium Sports & Entertainment and Kairos Ventures.

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VMLY&R is a global marketing agency that harnesses creativity, technology, and culture to create connected brands. The agency is made up of nearly 7,000 employees worldwide with principal offices in Kansas City, London, New York, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney. VMLY&R works with client partners including Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Dell, Ford, Office Depot, Pfizer and Wendy's.

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We are specialists in experience design. We create value for you by creating value for your customers.

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