It's GAME ON For Generation Y!

"Farmville now outpaces Twitter." "One in four people plays social games online." "More than $1.8 billion worth of virtual goods has been sold in virtual worlds." These are just some of the headlines we see today about the popularity of online gaming, but what does this all mean for Gen Y and for brands?

Studies show that half of Gen Y plays online games, with women ages 18-34 being the most-active players and purchasers of goods in virtual worlds. In full disclosure, we have recently launched a game targeted at Gen Y women, with seven brand partners. It is easy to add more brands and is attractive for the players. It's a win-win for both.

The eight months we spent developing this game has been a period of great learning and discovery. We have absolute certainty that there is a rabid, growing audience of Gen Y gamers that are willing to play with various brands. Here's what we learned and how your brand can participate in the online gaming phenomenon:

  • You've got to give to get: We all want a deal and most times we will go out of our way to get one. Ever been to a warehouse sale at Barneys? The thrill of getting a deal is key and if brands can deliver an offering that either accelerates game play or adds value in virtual goods or other, they will be welcomed.
  • Limited edition: Create demand around your brand offering by either limiting the offer to a certain number of players, giving away a limited-edition product or providing them a way to show off to their friends. The same psychology here applies to that of people's shopping habits. Employ some form of exclusivity in your offering and you will be more apt to get a quick response coupled with the engagement and word-of-mouth you seek.
  • It's not all about you: Really, it's not. For Gen Y, it's all about them and their beliefs -- regardless of what vehicle you market with. Specifically with gaming, it's critical to be cognizant of why the user is there and recognize that this is not the time to disrupt them. Online advertisers have become adept at loud, in-your-face experiences. The gaming space is not the platform to do this with. Instead, be clever. The game player cares about exploration and winning. Tactfully insert yourself in their world by being thoughtful of their experience and you, too, will win.
  • Deliver a consistent and ongoing message: We've done significant research over the last few months on how brands have been integrated into games. What fascinates me most is the lack of consistent and constant messaging -- I have yet to see any brand deliver an ongoing campaign on the same game with continuity.



While this space is new and it's hard to determine what success looks like, it is the same as any medium -- success will not be found in a one-off test. Let's not forget what many years of marketing education has taught us. Although the platforms have changed, the basic fundamentals have not. Maintaining a constant, consistent and on-going message is a critical component for any long-term marketing success.

The online social gaming industry is still emerging and brands are still experimenting with how they can get involved. Although this is a relatively new phenomenon, playing games is not and the psychology of the gamer is the same as the offline game players of generations past -- challenge and entertainment.

As marketers, we must take the time to understand and respect what motivates an individual to participate in game-play and then construct our campaigns to live harmoniously within this setting.

2 comments about "It's GAME ON For Generation Y! ".
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  1. Byron Wolt from Speak to Students, July 27, 2010 at 12:37 p.m.

    I could not agree more!

    Students do NOT WANT TO BE SOLD but are not opposed to being told or showed. Give relevant content AND if you have something students want and value, they will come.

  2. Alison Murdock from PIvot Conference, August 19, 2010 at 12:11 a.m.

    We just finished a research report of 137 marketers, 50% of which have budgets larger than $1 million per year, who indicated an increased budget spend on in-game advertising. Your points are well taken as marketers are still trying to figure out how to leverage this medium. We'll be touching on this at the Pivot Conference in October -

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