Thursday, 20 March 2014

Never too old to be a gamer - just look at the stats

I have recently suffered a great loss as my beloved trusty Xbox 360 games console died. Now you might think that at 42 I am too old to play video games but the stats would disagree. Today games players cannot be defined by a particular age, sex or social group.

The Internet Advertising Bureau has estimated that there are 33 million regular gamers in the UK alone and worldwide that equates to more that 1.2 billion. That’s a lot of people spending a lot of money. In fact a recent report from PWC estimates that by 2017 the worldwide market will be worth $89.7 billion up from $63.4 billion in 2012.

That vast audience has not escaped the attention of major brands. The last few years has seen a rise in brands trying to use “gamification” to various success. Some have even created games as a brand marketing exercise, most notably the successful Barclays waterslide app for the iPad. Other brands have embraced placing ads in actual games and not who you would expect.

It’s not the “yoof” brands that are pushing the boundaries of this type of advertising. Insurer Swiftcover, part of AXA Insurance, has placed ads in games including Pro Evolution Soccer, Guitar Hero and Tiger Woods PGA tour. They have now taken this learning to another level creating mini games inside Facebook apps.

Another long standing in-game advertiser is GCHQ. The spy agency has for over 7 years used in-game advertising for its recruitment ads. They now use streaming video banners on the Xbox Live online gaming platform to try to recruit new spooks. The ads change as the player gets deeper and further into a game and so gives a guide to the spy chiefs to the skills and suitability of a player.

For every successful campaign though there have been many examples of failure. To make it work, the lessons from those that have benefited is that the experience cannot take away from the game and whatever it is; it must be as creative as the game they are trying to enjoy.

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant 

The winter olympics and the delicate issue of sponsorship

Many of you reading this will have enjoyed the last few weeks watching people throw themselves off mountains on sticks or around slopes of sheet ice on tea trays. You may have even religiously tuned into watch people clean the ice in front of a casserole dish. I will admit that the recent winter games passed me by, apart from the furore around Russia’s anti-gay laws.

Sponsorship of any Olympic event is big money and comes with heavy policing. It is a high cost, high stakes business, undertaken by only the biggest global brands with the deepest pockets. They often have the most to loose and so the delicate issue of equality is a headache those brands do not need.

In response to the media and social backlash, IOC sponsors like Visa, Procter & Gamble, Samsung, Coca Cola and McDonalds released nice statements about the inclusiveness of the games without directly condemning the Russian stance.

Other brands that had no link to the games however went to town. We had Google’s logo changing on the opening day to include images of the games with the rainbow flag. Channel 4’s “Gay Mountain” ad and Chevrolet’s first same sex couple ad were other examples of brands wanting to demonstrate their own values.  

You have to feel sorry for the sponsor brands as they sponsor the games, not the host nation’s political or social beliefs. But that does not stop the pressure. Closer to home, we have seen examples of brands prepared to take a strong stand over things that they truly believe in. Zoopla’s dropping its sponsorship of West Brom over the Anelka quenelle issue for example. To me that demonstrates a business that truly stands by its values and fair play to them.

There are no winners or losers here. The lesson may be simply that all brands need to be satisfied that they are prepared to stand by their own values. Especially if their activities in some way mean they could be accused of being compromised. Or at least make sure you have a plan of how to approach any backlash. Planning will prevent pain in the long run. 

Personalised marketing - clever or creepy?

I have been working in marketing long enough to remember the first time I got a bulk email drop in my in-box with my actual name on it rather than “Dear customer”. Over the years personalisation in marketing has become something that is deemed standard. In fact, if you receive any form of marketing communication that is not highly personalised they are the ones that are binned electronically or physically first.

Product personalisation is the next evolution of this trend. Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign is the best known example of this. It was actually dreamed up by Coca Cola’s Australian marketing team in 2011 thinking about ways to re-connect with its customers. Although they couldn’t personalise each individual Coke bottle, they realised they could replace the Coke logo on it with a range of common Christian names. This drove a 4% sales uplift and the campaign has been rolling out worldwide ever since with the labels printed with the 150 most popular Christian names in each territory. It was launched in the UK this summer to great success both in sales and brand engagement.

Another great example of a brand being creative with personalisation comes from the household favourite Heinz. In America they have a website where anyone in the US (they don’t do this internationally unfortunately) can order personalised bottles of tomato ketchup or mustard with your own words and even photos, delivered to your door.

The UK division took this concept and created a social campaign where Facebook fans could send personalised “Get Well Soon” cans of Heinz Chicken or Tomato soup in a gift box for the princely sum of just £1.99. In the first phase of launch they sent out 4,000 cans and have since made it a regular winter social media promotion.

Consumers love personalisation, anything from having your name written on your Starbucks coffee cup to bigger concepts like the Heinz or Coke campaigns. Although you think it might be impossible for your own company, it might just take some creative thought to come up with an idea that will really help you engage with your customers.