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Why gaming is a such a key communications channel for retail marketers
May 30, 2022
Over the past decade, retail brands have grown and evolved alongside developments in consumer behavior. However, many have been slow to turn to the highly engaged gaming community, assuming there is minimal crossover between the community and their own customer base.
Yet with 87% of Gen Z reporting that they are playing games daily or weekly, and the global gaming market set to be worth over $218bn by 2024, it is no longer a channel that retailers can ignore.
Traditional gamer stereotypes are also being eschewed, with women now accounting for 45% of gamers in the US. With gaming now a lifestyle category in itself, many retail marketers are finding success by engaging gamers through a renewed focus on community and experiences. In a fragmented landscape, brand marketers must pay attention to gaming platforms as a valuable communications channel to attract and entertain this highly engaged community. Here are our top tips on how to create exceptional experiences for gamers.
Build engaged communities by tapping into dedicated communications channels
When it comes to engaging gamers, brands must focus on building communities and creating genuine, authentic connections. Gen Z make up a large portion of the gaming community, and these consumers are more resistant to brand messaging and overt marketing messages. Brands who invest in deeply understanding the gaming audience – including the channels where they spend their time such as Twitch or Discord – and craft messaging and experiences based on these attributes, will reap the rewards amongst gamer communities.
Retailer Tommy Hilfiger has demonstrated how brands can successfully reach new consumer cohorts through gaming with the launch of their ‘Team Tommy’ initiative. The brand handpicked several gamers and streamers from across the globe to act as influencers for the brand, growing awareness and building loyalty among the gaming community. The influencers would host weekly streams on Twitch and YouTube live, while also livestreaming monthly get-togethers and in-store activations. By partnering with the influencers on a longer-term basis, the brand became an integral part of the gamers’ lives, rather than looking like a one-off advertisement, creating a deeper sense of authenticity when interacting with advertising-resistant Gen Z.
Create experiences for the gaming community within your physical stores
Tapping into a gaming audience doesn’t always mean meeting people in their own living rooms. Retail marketers can use the strong engagement offered by gaming to drive customers in-store, and even encourage new consumer segments to visit their stores that may not have been their core customer groups previously. By holding dedicated gaming events or pop-ups, or creating permanent installations in-store that appeal to the gaming community, retail brands can bridge the worlds of gaming and retail to create unique experiences that excite and engage.
Department store Selfridges recognised this opportunity and leapt at the chance to make the most of this new consumer group. In September 2021, brand opened ‘PlayHouse’, a dedicated immersive gaming station within their London department. Selfridges were able to successfully blend their luxury brand perception seamlessly with gaming culture, by offering unique experiences such as allowing users to virtually test-drive an Aston Martin. By launching PlayHouse, Selfridges were able to promote footfall post-pandemic while encouraging a new generation of shoppers to come through their doors.
Consider the adjacent interests of the gaming community
Many marketers may be guilty of attaching a certain stereotype to the gaming community – teenage, mostly male, only interested in sitting at home on their gaming consoles. Yet in today’s reality, the gaming community is wide and diverse, with even non-gamers now flocking to platforms such as Discord – originally a gaming ‘chat room’ – to discuss their interests and passions with other likeminded community member, with over 78% of Discord users now access the channel for non-gaming purposes.
Virtual Discord ‘servers’ can be created to focus on a seemingly endless list of topics or interests – today, servers exist for everything from cryptocurrencies to fantasy football to Marvel Studios. Retail marketers have started to see the value of these engaged audience groups, and while Discord is an ad-free model, many are utilising Discord to act as a form of social listening to see what some of their industry’s most passionate fans are saying about them and their competitors. TikTok even recognized the power of Discord, launching their own TikTok server, which is now home to over 27,000 TikTok enthusiasts who turn to the channel for support, feedback and to discover up-and-coming TikTok creators.
It’s apparent that the gaming community is now too valuable to ignore. Yet for any brand marketer who plans to integrate gaming into their communications plans, one thing is clear: authenticity is key. While the gaming community is highly engaged, they are also incredibly attuned to overt brand advertising and will reject brands who seem to be using gaming platforms for profit purposes only. Instead, by prioritising entertainment and fit-for-purpose audience messages, brand marketers may open themselves up to the power of connecting with a diverse, valuable and engaged audience.