How Real Magic Went Real Bad: Lessons From Coke's Gaming Mishap

We all watched Coke’s “Real Magic” ad, and we know its dislikes are crushing likes 14 to 1 on YouTube -- as Marketing Daily noted here.

So if you’re still looking to market in gaming, you’re probably terrified.

Don’t be. There are some simple, helpful lessons that any marketer wanting to venture into gaming should know, so consider this your starter pack for how not to blow it.

Unlearn “gamer.” We don’t call people who like music, musicers. Or movie people, moviers.  We don’t do that -- because music and movies are universally loved and far too vast to sum up so simply. Gaming is the same. There are infinite genres, cultures, subcultures, etc.

So when you just target gamers, you are dismissing the huge diversity of people that make up the 3 billion humans who enjoy playing. Think of it as an aspect -- not an identity.



Start with segmentation, find a target audience that aligns with your goals, and learn what stuff they like outside of gaming. Playing is just a part of life, so try to find a meaningful connection, like EA did when marketing a big new “Star Wars” game. The company targeted a demo that grew up with "Star Wars," and played the nostalgia card perfectly. 

Pick the right enemy and the right battlefield. So you’re Coke, and you (maybe misguidedly) march into esports -- the heart of competitive gaming ---and the enemy you pick is competition itself? That’s not what’s blocking happiness. 

Online games are notoriously plagued by high levels of toxicity, racism, homophobia, etc. Simply put, headshots are fine; toxicity is what’s keeping people one Coke away from each other.

But that’s a BIG issue that needs meaningful action and longterm solutions within gaming itself. So instead maybe focus on broadening accessibility for gamers who are blocked by price, by time to play, or because they have disabilities. 

And don’t just do video. Gaming is the only medium where the audience has full agency, so focus on meaningful action. Study Xbox, which has a vision of accessibility  across the board that out-Coke’s Coke. Its social team is killing it every day. 

Put authenticity first. Don’t make up a game. Just don’t do it. It’s not impossible, but it is really hard.

Take the time to partner with a real game. Maybe even a developer who can help you make a fake game, like Ubisoft did for the well-received Apple+ show, "Mythic Quest."  

Or find an insight that’s focused on the people and not a property. KFC went full tilt at this with the KFConsole, adding some much-needed levity to the very serious hype that led up to the PS5/Xbox Series launches. Also, KFC actually made the thing, showing that meaningful additions to gaming culture are the best bet.

That’s it! Just head into gaming with some self-awareness that you maybe don’t know this space, and be willing to learn. Humor is a good place to start, but we need more emotions in gaming, more earnestness, more empathy.

So don’t be afraid to try. Just put the work in before you do. And it doesn’t hurt to hire (and listen to) people who play.

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