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Gaming shows brands how to humanize consumers

By Julien Werzowa | Strategy Analyst

Sid Lee

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The Drum Network article

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May 20, 2022 | 6 min read

As marketers wake up to gaming’s potential, there’s plenty to learn from games and gamers about building genuine connections and reciprocal relationships. For The Drum’s Gaming Advertising Deep Dive, Julien Werzowa, strategy analyst at creative agency Sid Lee, argues that the core tenet is humanization.

The intersection of gaming and emerging technology shows the power of community to bring people together.

A wind-up robot

Games may be a synthetic reality, but they help marketers humanize audiences, says Julien Werzowa of Sid Lee

Gaming is rooted in storytelling and play. We play games to connect. Since the beginning of online gaming, it has fostered a strong digital community. Many games now work like social networking platforms: meeting friends and finding others with similar interests.

Gaming is undergoing rapid shifts in connectivity, mainly by applying technological innovations that impact culture. It’s accelerating the importance of community, and the roles brands play in our lives. For business leaders wanting to replicate the success of online gaming, there are three central strategies they should pay attention to in the space.

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1. Self-expression

Gaming continues to push the boundaries of human connection and has shown us the need to present ourselves to our community (or find community in the first place). Many young people want more skins for Roblox than clothes for their physical, in-person lives. Lots of time spent online involves understanding how we represent ourselves in the community or how we find people like us online. Skins represent how we identify ourselves and are a part of how gamers earn their credibility.

Roblox is becoming a premier destination for gaming, TV shows and movie partnerships as it provides millions of players with memorable experiences within a free-to-play platform. The He-Man and the Masters of the Universe game experience was the latest to arrive. Created in collaboration with Netflix, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: You Have The Power features maps from the TV show, where people can participate in player-v-player battles. They can unlock skins, find hidden chests, win jewels and an in-game currency called Kirbinite, and acquire legendary abilities; new content is released for the live experience each month. For brands, the key is to provide ways for audiences to express themselves entirely virtually.

2. Community, co-creation and the ‘collective being’

Promoting co-creation and giving control to the people who are consuming a brand’s products or services is one of the core tenets of blockchain-powered games. From GameFi to play-to-earn models such as Axie Infinity and Star Atlas, savvy gamers can pay entry fees to start playing and even earn money by doing so.

Minecraft-like The Sandbox Game allows gamers to create, monetize and distribute digital assets inside its world. It’s one of the most active metaverses/NFT gaming projects. Players get to create their own map and levels, complete challenges and earn in-game currency.

Businesses wanting to achieve similar success must understand that the collective being of the community is more powerful than a siloed brand. Giving everyone the ability to create elevates games for all, and gives more purpose, experiences and usability than a strictly-defined or developed game.

3. Community uplift

Games that build experiences and uplift their communities, not necessarily making it a business transaction, are creating more authentic connections and also identifying and fulfilling a critical role within consumers’ lives. This will positively impact the business. Fortnite concerts are a case of a gaming platform encouraging people to come together around their mutual love for music and dance, giving them shared experiences, without it feeling corporate and branded.

Business leaders should focus goals around uplifting a community, making the community stronger and thereby benefiting the brand as it becomes a participant and a conduit to a community’s larger purpose. People have positive associations with brands that foster togetherness, inclusivity and impact. That builds brand advocacy.

For brands, whether it’s hopping on the latest tech trend – such as the metaverse – or building meaningful experiences, there’s a lot to learn from gaming companies and communities. They can do so by paying attention to virtual identities and finding ways for people to better express themselves, from style to values and causes.

Move beyond one-time products or service purchases, making it tangibly beneficial for people to engage, while allowing them to co-create experiences.

Focus on participating with the audience, not ‘owning’ them. Brands’ objective should be to amplify groups and help their voice. When that succeeds, the company wins too.

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.

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