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How to Advertise to Gamers

7 MINUTE READ | January 28, 2020

How to Advertise to Gamers

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Grant Weber

Grant Weber has written this article. More details coming soon.

Women are the fastest-growing demographic in gaming.

Male. Millennial. College-educated. Tech-savvy. Enjoys sci-fi novels, superhero movies, and esports. But you can call me Grant.

I’m a serious gamer, meaning I play, watch, jostle in side chats, pre-order titles, actually read the game manual, download betas, curse ping above 20ms, attend gaming MeetUps, and compete in online tournaments. If you are like most brands, you have wasted thousands of dollars trying to speak to me or others within the multi-billion dollar gaming community. But I enjoy your products, and so do my peers, which is why, over the next 1,000 or so words, I will be your conduit, nay, spiritual guide into an incredibly diverse and guarded gaming community.

In order to capitalize on this exploding industry, a marketer like yourself must first understand that gaming is a culture, not a fad or something to grow out of. For me and millions like me, gaming is a lifestyle. So, forget what you think you know about gamers and let’s get started.

It’s easy to make assumptions about gamers and try to predict our behavior, but the gaming culture is diverse and often surprising. For example, you may find it inconsistent that I spend more time in the gym than I do inside a comic book store or that the number of women who play video games is outpacing men. This is because the gaming lifestyle is much more than clashing clans and crushing candy. Gaming is about making connections and finding “your people.” 

Part of finding my people is sharing the same virtual space with them. There was a time when I could navigate my favorite virtual cities better than my own neighborhood. It was certainly more exciting. For marketers, notable gaming landscapes offer an opportunity to create an unforgettable brand experience by bringing the game into the real world. We’ve already seen wild success when a brand recreates fictional locations; HBO’s hit series Westworld’s Sweetwater at SXSW being a recent example.

As augmented reality (AR) improves, the virtual world and the real world blend together—making your ability to give gamers like me an immersive cross-brand experience much easier. In the reverse, you have the opportunity to meet me on my own turf—there are thousands of games in which you can bring your products into the action. It wasn’t long ago that I was smashed by Thanos in Fortnite. Kudos to Marvel.

YouTube and Twitch streamers like PewDiePie and Ninja are the leaders of my world. Their social influence eclipses that of A-list celebrities and politicians. An endorsement from one of the most popular streamers has the power to start movements. Consider Ninja’s transition from Twitch to Mixer, Microsoft’s competing streaming platform, and the 14 million followers he brought along with him. And yet, if it’s me you’re looking to attract, I’ll save you the time and thousands of dollars in ineffective endorsements. Don’t go there.

Streamers are perpetually on screen, live and raw. The authenticity being part of its charm. Thus, we are all human and make mistakes, whether intentional or not. A poor choice of words and ‘heat-of-the-moment’ one-liners have even affected the untouchables. Both Ninja and PewDiePie have been cited of saying racist or antisemitic slurs on air that caused all sorts of commotion within the community. Unfortunately, brands then find themselves guilty by association and almost always err on the safe side; cutting ties with their “cash cow.” Disney severing ties with PewDiePie being a titanic example.

On top of the inherent risk of someone being simply human, influencer endorsements have no effect on me. I have yet to make a purchasing decision based on an ad, streamer’s testimony, or because of something I’ve seen twinkling in the background of my favorite streamer’s dojo. Although the price tag might suggest it, streamers are hypnotizing their fans by waving your products in front of their screen. Far from it.

In fact, many streamers I watch are tongue-in-cheek about the way they financially support their lifestyle, and because they know that the marketers writing the checks aren’t watching, they don’t seem to care. I would be a fool not to acknowledge the potential in sponsored streaming. The audience is staggering, but I can tell you from personal experience that people who watch Twitch streams are not watching with the intention to jump websites (and most of us have installed an adblocker anyway). For this reason, I recommend that you put your tongue back in your mouth before jumping in bed with the wrong streamer.

Purchasing tickets to watch other people play video games sounds bizarre, but for someone like me, watching my favorite esports competitors live on stage is no different than an NBA fan following Lebron James or buying a ticket to watch him play for the Lakers at the Staples Center. In fact, the League of Legends World Tournament in October each year evokes the same excitement in me as the return of football come fall.

Getting involved in esports is a no brainer, but your brand won’t make a squeak let alone break through the thunderous clang of boomsticks of the professional stage. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s one that might just save you your job. Actually, I intend to do more than that, I’m going to make you a hero and here’s your golden fleece, radioactive spider, Yoda moment: Collegiate esports.

College esports teams have popped up on over 500 college campuses around the country and have fostered quite the subculture. Although these students may blend into their respective university colors like the rest of their peers, they are anything but hidden. Along with all the amenities of a collegiate athlete, these ambitious teams of college students fight for scholarships as well as TV time on top networks like ESPN and FOX. You may have already noticed.

Esports are disrupting the dominance of traditional sports and entertainment.

If you want to make an impact within esports you must be willing to play the long game and invest in these college athletes — yes, I said athletes — planting a money tree that will be reaped later. The good news for you is that the end game is quickly approaching. The rapid growth of esports would become an official medal sport at the 2024 Olympics, which makes the early investment into young talent even more attractive. To you, I present this challenge, find the Michael Phelps of esports and let he/she take your brand onto the Olympic stage in Paris.

When you factor in the hundreds of publications, YouTube channels, Discord servers, chat rooms, and infinite subreddits, you have an entirely separate social media network used exclusively by gamers.

A traditional media plan may not be the most effective way to communicate with us. You will have more success in reaching real players on Reddit and YouTube than traditional online channels. Keep in mind that specific games have their own meme cultures, social behaviors, and subreddit communities and should be approached accordingly.

Now that you know where to find me and how to talk to me when you do, it’s time to get started. But be warned, gamers are a loyal and vocal group. If you break our trust, we will go out of our way to make sure the community knows about it. Before you launch your gaming campaigns, be sure you get off on the right foot with the gaming community and make plans to stay.

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