I often meet with clients who are looking for new ways to make their brands more relevant. They want to make the customer experience more engaging, memorable and satisfying. What they don’t realize is that inspiration can be found anywhere – even in the consoles underneath their televisions or installed on their smartphones.
Gaming—fueled by audience insights, technology and fun—can lead all kinds of marketers to unforgettable customer experiences.
Although gaming has been part of mainstream culture for decades, it now occupies a prominent place in our day-to-day lives, with 960 million people across the globe regularly playing on smartphones and other devices. Augmented and virtual reality are gaining traction in the mass market, adding to the thrill. Games are at the cutting edge of consumer innovation, shaping expectations for technology, connectivity and an ever-improving customer experience in just about every industry.
Before we developed the Prophet Brand Relevance IndexTM, we knew how fiercely loyal America’s gamers are, but what we hadn’t fully realized was the depth of their commitment to gaming brands. Sony’s PlayStation was ranked No. 12 in our Index, out of more than 300 brands. It comes in 9th among millennials, and rises to No. 8 among those with higher levels of education. Samsung, with its Gear VR, ranks No. 6. And Microsoft’s Xbox comes in at No. 48, and No. 45 among millennials.
Why are video games commanding so much customer loyalty?
It’s all about interactivity, and the expectation that in any and all customer experiences, people want to participate and to make something happen. This love of interaction—whether it’s rating a transaction, adding an avatar or swiping right—has changed the rules for creating meaningful experiences. Consumers now expect a rich and multidimensional interaction every time they meet up with a brand.
Gaming companies know this, of course. In addition to selling an interactive product, video game makers are also able to embed themselves into the digital lives of customers in unprecedented ways, across every touchpoint of their journey. These brands can interact with customers to create lasting affinity. It’s no longer about what the brand says. Relevant experiences are built on how the brand interacts with customers.
How Gaming Brands Are Engaging Their Audience
Marketers need to steal some pages from the gaming playbook, especially when it comes to product launches and introducing new features.
Bethesda Leverages Social Media Influencers
For example, to roll out new releases, many video game companies, such as Skyrim and DOOM publisher Bethesda, invite social media influencers to create “Let’s Play” videos. These allow content creators to show off the game worlds Bethesda has created. Unscripted, they occasionally highlight bugs or other game faults. But these videos give customers an honest view of the product. Unlike ads that push a message on customers, this type of influencer engagement invites trusted third parties into brand conversations.
Paradox Interactive Welcomes Player Feedback
Some game companies, like Paradox Interactive, even incorporate this influencer feedback into the product itself, highlighting a two-way relationship between the brand and the community. That extreme level of interaction feeds each experience: “This isn’t just a company that wants to sell me a game. It wants me to play so well that I help reshape it.”
Blizzard Nurtures Brand Engagement on Social Media
Every new game launched by Blizzard, the company famous for World of Warcraft, has its own dedicated website and discussion board. Blizzard employees, from company execs to game developers, regularly participate and listen to feedback directly from consumers. They also weigh in on conversations happening on forums on other sites and in social media, giving the brand’s most dedicated fans a transparent look at the company’s operations. That customer-engagement strategy is part of the reason Blizzard has such a passionate, loyal fan base. Something many brands strive for.
4 Marketing Lessons from Video Games
By selling interactive products, videogame companies have always lived at the forefront of digital customer experience. While other companies operate in different types of marketplaces, they can still learn some key lessons:
Co-create with your audience
Involve your consumers in the process of developing and refining your products. If you can build a collaborative partnership your target audience, you can demonstrate relevance and sincerity, even at the first point of contact between brand and customer.
For example, Microsoft invited fans to design cleats for a player on the Patriots and the Falcons in the recent Super Bowl. And food brands like LAY’S chips and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream regularly tap consumers for new flavor ideas.
Build an enduring experience into your product
In many industries, customers buy a product or service and quickly forget about it, which creates problems for brands seeking to build loyalty. By maintaining an open channel to customers and fostering social interaction, a brand can develop affinity over time. Even B2B brands can use this ongoing engagement as an opportunity to demonstrate the pervasive innovation that powers relevance.
One of Prophet’s clients, MediaTek, a fabless semiconductor company, built MediaTek Labs, an Internet of Things developer program, to work directly with both small-scale independent developers and OEM engineers, enabling collaboration and a continuous source of feedback.
Collect data and use it to improve the customer experience
With the rise of the Internet of Things and mobile, customers are steadily producing more and more “digital exhaust”—data that reflects how they live their lives. Instead of passively collecting this data to measure campaign effectiveness or customer satisfaction, brands should be actively incorporating it to improve the customer experience across all touchpoints.
For instance, Sephora developed Color IQ, a system used by in-store associates with special scanners to identify the exact skin tone of customers. Not only does Sephora use this data to engage with customers directly, it also helps it manage inventory and develop new products.
Make the experience fun
You don’t have to be a game developer to leverage the power of play. Global manufacturers such as our client Electrolux use gamification platforms for internal engagement, boosting education and understanding among its marketing teams.
Marketers who want to stay relevant need to follow the lead of gaming companies. It’s time for more brands to get in the game.