The Untapped Potential of Mobile Gaming Marketing


Cynthia Boris wrote a nice little article recently about the gamification of the mobile market that has really got me thinking.

At WordStream, we've seen how a good mobile marketing strategy can reach stellar results - it’s no surprise that a lot of successful marketing campaigns integrate an element of fun or user interaction. While this recent Skittles ad isn’t a game per se, it definitely invites a unique interaction for the viewer.

Gaming marketing campaigns have potential to reach a HUGE user base. Especially with the increasing attention to mobile games, people are spending large amounts of time playing games. After all, Angry Birds alone has reached more than 50 million downloads!

Mobile games are a real untapped market for online marketers. They have a potential to reach a large audience, because many mobile games are simple enough that you don’t need to be a hardcore gamer to play them. Games like Farmville can be played via mobile devices, while also being connected to Facebook. The additional social element helped make Farmville hugely successful, encouraging users to share gifts or ask for help from Facebook friends. Farmville also eventually was able to incorporate direct advertising into the game, allowing players to buy organic blueberry plants from Cascadian Farms, a subsidiary of General Mills. Of course, that was just the beginning. Farmville eventually developed a strong enough choke-hold on those crop-obsessed players that they were able to add much more integrated advertising.

There is tremendous marketing potential in games because they create a unique engagement between your company and consumers. And games allow that engagement to be a fun, positive experience. As Oliver Burkeman of The Guardian says, “Videogame designers … have become the modern world’s leading experts on how to keep users excited, engaged and committed.” Isn’t that the goal of social media marketing? That’s why company Facebook pages and blogs are so important – to keep users interested and coming back for more. Burkeman goes on to say that “Three billion person-hours a week are spent gaming. Couldn’t some of that energy be productively harnessed?”

Tony Haskins of AdAge envisions a world where, while waiting in line at Starbucks, you could play a Starbucks game which might allow you to win a free latte by the time you reach the counter. As Boris notes, we have the technology to do this, but the innovation hasn’t quite gotten there yet. The rewards concept is nothing new – I’m always using my D’Angelos Reward card because I can get points for eating pizza – which is awesome! And Skymiles have been around for quite some time. But we could take that a step further too. Check out Carnegie Mellon University Professor Jesse Schell’s amazing talk at the DICE (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) summit.


In the talk, Schell talks about the popularity of Microsoft XBOX’s achievement system, in which players earn points for completing certain in-game goals, such as shooting a certain number of baddies or buying a specific weapon. These are worthless for anything other than bragging points, and yet people are crazy about earning these points. If people are dedicating hours of time to earn essentially worthless points, imagine what might happen if those points were actually worth something!

Schell imagines a future in which one can earn points for everything from waking up on time (we all know how tempting that snooze button is), to using a certain brand of toothpaste, or eating a specific cereal. Schell is really on to something here – if people can play your company’s mobile game and earn points that could then be used to discount purchases, imagine the incentive there!

With the interest in mobile games ever growing, gaming advertising may be the way of the future. 

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