Content marketers have dominated just about every corner of the digital marketing world. They’ve mastered the art of video, audio, text marketing, and various combinations of the three. The next logical step is to combine media and entertainment for the ultimate marketing platform: video games. Yes, you read that right – improve your content marketing strategy with video games. The gaming industry is huge, bringing in $115 billion last year, with mobile and social games representing roughly 20 percent of that revenue. What’s more, games aren’t just for teenage boys anymore; the average age of gamers is 30, and 45 percent of gamers are female. This is a wide-reaching marketplace that is just starting to show real proof as an effective marketing platform.

In September 2013, Chipotle stealthily marketed a free iOS game through a beautifully animated infomercial promo. The result? What is now widely regarded as the most effective marketing campaign of all time: over 250,000 downloads of the game in four days and 6.5 million infomercial views within its second week.

Now, not all businesses have the resources to get Fiona Apple to sing for their infomercials or pay a host of programmers to build a full length RPG, but the concept is the same. Give consumers take-away goodies that tell a story about your brand. Considering the importance of mobile marketing in 2015, advergaming may just be the next big thing.

What Is Advergaming?

Unlike gamification, which is disguising online marketing strategies with entertainment by applying gaming techniques like scoring and competition, advergaming is actually developing a game itself for the purpose of marketing a product. Advergaming falls into three separate groups: adding games to a company website; releasing a full-length computer or console game for marketing purposes, or advertising a product within an existing game.

The latter two are more a form of passive marketing, but they are much more expensive to incorporate into a campaign and are better suited to large businesses. For smaller businesses, the real gold is found with independently developed, audience-targeted games delivered through company websites, social media channels, and apps.

What Is The Purpose Of Advergaming?

What does everyone love about gaming? Video games offer us a way to escape, to fantasize, to gain rewards for reaching goals otherwise unattainable in the real world. Where else are you going to find the skills to chisel obsidian off of a rock face and turn it into impenetrable armor?

Advergaming harnesses these mental (but also very real) reward systems to engage the player whole-heartedly in the task at hand. Games are inherently and intentionally addictive because of their ability to create frustration, happiness, and skill development. But from a marketing standpoint, they may be one of the best tools to keep your customers and keep them spreading the word. Advergaming isn’t just for businesses that offer a youth-oriented product either. Just about any product or service can be made into a game. Don’t believe me? Here are a few examples of industries that would not otherwise scream “video game”:

  • Warehouse supplies. Goal: Using available products, players must build an efficiently functioning warehouse where all loads are neatly stored and accessible to forklifts. Think SimCity meets Tetris.
  • Law firms. Goal: Use quick decision making skills and carefully selected evidence to prove or disprove a case. Beware, your responses will weigh heavily upon the outcome of the trial.
  • Cleaning services. Goal: Collect items to build bigger and better cleaning systems so you can grow your business. Don’t use all of your inventory at once – cleaning challenges level with you and require new combinations of ingredients to overcome.
  • Restaurants. Actually, it’s already been done with Diner Dash, one of the top-selling downloadable games ever made across mobile and console platforms. Goal: Player is a waitress struggling to keep guests happy with clean tables and fast service.

As you can see, it’s pretty easy to turn any concept into a short-but-sweet video game. Simply come up with an idea, find a developer, and it’s all yours. The best part is that these games are not as expensive as one would think. Typically, a professionally developed, high-quality advergame costs around $10,000. Most advergame developers customize services based on budget, and some will develop a game for less than $5,000.

This means advergaming is affordable even for small businesses. If the average small business makes roughly $3.6 million annually, and follows the SBA general rule of allocating seven percent of revenue to marketing, it leaves just over $250,000 to dedicate to marketing and advertising. For a sliver of this amount, you could have a customized, engaging, and polished advergame that offers your business multi-faceted benefits:

  • Brand awareness. Gain uninterrupted attention while consumers are playing the game, and customize the game to tell a story about your company.
  • Organic followers. Build a genuine fan-base that is more likely to be converted to loyal buyers. Marketing is unobtrusive since consumers choose to download and play these games on their own time.
  • Promo opportunities. Promote sales, offer in-app purchases, and provide reward gift certificates or discounts.
  • Market research. Test out a new product or idea in-game and collect data from players.
  • Go viral. Encourage social media sharing with scores, achievements, and competitions.

Perhaps the greatest allure of an advergame is the quality of the content itself. Businesses are constantly on the hunt for engaging content that’s worth sharing. In a digital landscape littered with boring blogs and lame landing pages, advergaming offers a refreshing prospect for both marketing and advertising.