The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Marketing Insider.
One of the great loves of my life (and one of my best kept secrets -- until now) is gaming.
I have spent so much time online playing games, but it’s something I never talk about. Why? Maybe it’s because I’m a woman. Maybe it’s because I’m a CEO. Maybe I’m afraid I won't be taken seriously.
But that time is past. It is now time for me to “step out of the shadows,” especially as an advocate for women in advertising, marketing and business in general, because now there is a particularly compelling reason to discuss it.
Thinking like a gamer is a superpower. Considering all the talk about gaming around us, the ability to understand that storytelling environment -- or, how to “think like a gamer” -- is an enormous asset. It's estimated the global gaming market will amount to $268 billion annually in 2025. The opportunities for brands in this space are nearly limitless.
Using gaming to engage and convert. You can’t change hearts and minds with a big idea alone. Connecting and converting the modern consumer is all about meeting them where they are, in the thick of the customer journey, where multiple touchpoints build a lasting connection with your brand. It is that point where gaming can be… well, a game-changer.
As an audience segment for advertisers, gaming has been somewhat on the fringe. Brands and advertisers have generally not understood how to engage. As the space becomes more mainstream, though, opportunities for brands that are willing to explore are growing.
Successful campaigns start where brand followers are consuming content online.
That is where we should be telling stories. And we know gamers have active audiences that drive conversion. Gaming truly is the convergence of performance and possibility.
Gaming is only getting bigger. As marketers, though, we’ve really only scratched the surface; gaming is now everywhere. Women make up 45% of gamers in the U.S., which has been the case for a decade. The average age of gamers is 31, and 80% of all gamers are over the age of 18. According to Nielsen, 58% of the total U.S. population in 2013 were gamers. Today, it’s grown to 72%.
The opportunity for brands to create content for this massive (and growing) audience, then, is incredible, and it’s particularly exciting to see these possibilities opening up in the industry I love.
A lifelong gamer. From growing up battling my dad on our PC with Star Wars race games and Lemmings, to my first Game Boy, to my limited edition blue Sega Genesis, I have always been playing. Today, I’ve graduated to an array of games, from my Nintendo Switch to PokemonGO on my phone -- and can we talk about how Edith Finch is the most beautiful game of all time!?
In fact, I run a Discord group for gamers, because we wanted to make sure there was a positive (no trolls allowed) corner of the internet for people to go. That group and its members were already a happy place for me, and then when I later got to meet the Discord team at a Stagwell SXSW event… major fan girl moment!
It's practically a fait accompli that, moving forward, gaming is going to be a part of brands’ advertising media mix. Brands need to explore partnerships from in-game product placement to sponsoring gaming influencers, and partnering with all the social networks that focus on gaming.
No matter the story you are trying to tell, it’s now increasingly likely that a portion of your audience is spending time with gaming communities online. If you aren’t creating content there, you are missing out on rich engagement.
Gaming is the evolution of influencer marketing; it’s the evolution of CTV and display networks, of VR. And it’s the next stage of the industry we're in. As the conversation on opportunities for branded content in games grows and evolves, brands will benefit from working with agencies that actually understand the space.