The gaming sector is more competitive than ever, with thousands of new products vying for audience attention. Generating awareness, hype, and promise can lead to a successful product launch, but that’s only part of the battle.
Gaming’s biggest hits create titles and franchises that maintain dominance for years, all while maximizing the lifespan of each individual title in between major launches. This is the key to building a sustainable and profitable gaming company, and an integrated video game marketing strategy is how you can achieve it.
In this article, we’ll break down the core elements of an integrated video game marketing campaign and why they’re important. We’ll discuss how a combination of paid media, influencer marketing, and effective PR can transform your game marketing strategy, maximizing your chances of achieving long-term success in the gaming industry.
Before we get into the specifics of how you can plan and manage integrated marketing campaigns for your game, let’s talk about why they’re so important.
According to research from Gartner, campaigns integrating four or more digital channels outperform single or dual-channel campaigns by 300%. IAB found that purchase intent improves by 90% when consumers view consistent messaging across multiple channels. Plus, McKinsey reported that marketers who are “integrators” grow revenues at twice the average rate of S&P 500 companies—at least 10% annually versus 5%. Data like this offers huge support to an integrated strategy, and we’ve outlined some of the significant drivers of these figures below.
Working on different areas of your marketing campaign in isolation eliminates the potential for amplification of your efforts, significantly damaging your ROI. Though this might seem obvious in theory, plenty of brands fail to integrate their marketing efforts across paid media, PR, and influencer marketing optimally. Alignment across your core departments is one of the biggest drivers of ROI, with different campaigns complementing and amplifying each other to great effect.
Strong, consistent messaging is even more important in an oversaturated gaming market. If you’re communicating mixed messages across channels that don’t present your brand positioning and key USPs in a unified way, you’ll leave audiences confused and be left with a disconnected, weakened voice.
Compare that to brand messaging where every single touchpoint you have with your consumers complements and reinforces the other. It’s clear which approach leads to better communication.
The internet and social media have made news 24/7. While this allows you to capitalize on positive moments in real-time, it also means you need a plan when things go wrong.
If you’re receiving bad press, an integrated strategy minimizes the barriers of communication and allows you to respond faster. Mixed messaging or a delay in response only serves to exacerbate negative attention, increasing its chance of harm to your business.
Now we’ve established why integrating your marketing channels together is so important, let’s discuss exactly how you integrate them to achieve great results.
Different paid media strategies exist, but most typically you’ll be working with pay-per-click (PPC) Google ads, paid ads on social media channels, and across ad networks like AdColony or Vungle.
Incorporating paid media into your marketing mix allows you to analyze new audiences you’ve identified, as well as learn more about your current audience in order to optimize your brand messaging.
Paid media alone has obvious benefits, but combining it with your influencer marketing activities is where you can truly amplify your results. Even a modest social spend to push your influencer content will significantly boost impressions, engagements, and downstream conversions like downloads and sales.
Boosting influencer-generated content with advertising dollars comes in the form of influencer content repurposing and whitelisting.
A great example of influencer content repurposing was shown by Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. The multiplayer online game from Moonton, recruited influencers to create Facebook ads showing off gameplay, demonstrating its characters and features in a lighthearted, humorous way. The campaign ran from April 2019 to May 2020, achieving a 35% lift in conversion rate, as well as a 14% lower cost per install.
Image source: https://www.facebook.com/business/success/moonton#
Influencer content whitelisting represents a great way to integrate paid media with influencer marketing, particularly given the continued decline of organic reach on influencer posts across platforms.
Influencer content whitelisting practically means an influencer granting the brand advertising permissions to their social media accounts. Essentially, the brand gets permission to use an influencer’s social handles, content, and audience targeting, unlocking a new media and acquisition channel.
Facebook and Instagram use Facebook’s Ad Manager, a developed platform that makes influencer content whitelisting a frictionless process. Once an influencer grants permission via Ad Manager, their Facebook and Instagram accounts are readily available for brands to begin running dark posts.
Dark posts are paid Facebook and Instagram ads that don’t show up on influencer feeds; instead, they appear as ads to audiences you specifically want to target. Basically, influencer dark posts are so effective for brands because they allow you to optimize influencer content across target audiences. As we mentioned earlier, organic posts are not necessarily as effective as they once were, and dark posts offer you a great alternative to generate positive results.
Combining PR and paid media allows you to blend the analytical with the creative, capitalizing on the benefits of both.
Paid media is essentially built to drive traffic to websites through accurate, data-driven audience targeting. Comparatively, video game PR is more defined by its creativity, amplifying your content organically through thoughtful storytelling.
Combine the two? Your brand can leverage detailed analytics, including sector, job title, company size, age, and location. You can then tie that in perfectly with a PR piece on your game, significantly increasing your chances of finding audiences receptive to your content.
Paid media can actually guide your content creation process, too. It can allow you to identify what search terms and questions are generating volume, and in turn, your PR and content teams can produce content designed to answer those questions. That content is then rigorously measured, generating insight you can use to decide on further steps to support players as you guide them to conversion.
Native advertising is a core component of paid media. Outbrain and Taboola, the leaders of the space, define it as paid ads that match the look, feel, and function of the media format they appear on. Contrast this to display ads or banner ads, which users quickly identify as paid content based on their site positioning and aesthetics. You’ll often see native ads on social media feeds, or as recommended content on a web page. The key to native advertising is a lack of disruption; the reader is subjected to ad content in a way that isn’t intrusive to their browsing experience.
InnoGames collaborated with Outbrain to promote Forge of Empires, a city-building strategy game, to target qualified users most likely to make in-game purchases and offer profitability over time (lifetime value). The campaign focused on redirecting users to an engaging landing page on the InnoGames site, or directly to the App Store or Google Play Store. InnoGames took advantage of Outbrain’s array of targeting capabilities to ensure they reached the right audience on the right device/OS and maximize profitability, including OS targeting (Desktop vs. Mobile, Android vs. iOS), Lookalike Audiences (targeting of similar profiles), and Audience Exclusion (targeting restricted to new gamers). Key results of the successful campaign included a 15% increase in lifetime value per gamer versus other channels used (iOS Campaigns) and the onboarding of 200,000 new gamers across mobile and desktop.
The success behind influencer marketing lies in its authentic relatability. Basically, influencer marketing allows you to hone in on your brand’s particular audience (assuming your influencer selection is up to scratch) and communicate to them via someone they trust and admire.
A natural crossover already exists between PR and influencer marketing; both have a focus on relationship building with people that elevate your brand through positive reputation and thought leadership. Influencers are essentially members of the media who are native to social, opposed to the more traditional mediums you’d previously associate with PR like TV or print. Nowadays, reporters themselves rely heavily on social media to generate ideas, in turn helping those ideas to move from one niche of influencer to the next.
Let’s talk about how you actually implement PR and influencer marketing as part of an integrated strategy.
Share your influencer campaigns
Whether your brand’s PR department is largely internal or handled by an agency, have them reach out to relevant gaming media outlets and share your influencer campaigns. Leveraging your best influencer quotes can appeal to these outlets given their trend-jacking pitches, creating a mutually beneficial relationship.
Don’t abandon the basics
It’s useful to look at influencer marketing’s relationship with PR as complementary, opposed to something that completely revolutionizes it. You shouldn’t neglect your established, traditional PR strategies if they work for you, but they’re naturally reliant on significant news around your game. What influencers provide is that initial buzz or talking point around your game to drive further conversation—you’re no longer solely reliant on news that just doesn’t always exist.
Utilize your brand’s top experts
As important as influencer selection when it comes to your campaigns, think carefully about who you task with an integrated strategy to PR and influencers. You’ll want to make sure your brand’s top experts are prepared to play both sides; be quoted by analysts, communicate, connect, and form relationships with influential news figures, and engage with influencers. Like all aspects of a marketing strategy, you’re only as good as the team making it happen.
Examples of combining influencer collaborations and video game PR
Raid: Shadow Legends
It’s hard to talk about gaming influencers without mentioning Raid: Shadow Legends. The freemium mobile game has reportedly been downloaded more than 250 million times over the last two years, and is famous for its aggressive influencer marketing strategy, working with hundreds of influencers.
Raid’s heavy focus on influencer marketing has coincided with a PR buzz, with news such as a partnership with esports organization NAVI. Genuine partnerships with influential organizations, esports athletes, and creators in the space can generate great PR opportunities long term, and last month’s announcement that NAVI esports athlete Oleksandr “S1mple” Kostyliev was to be immortalized in the game as a playable character.
Fortnite made gaming influencers a key component of its marketing plan from day one, focussing heavily on Twitch streamers and YouTube gaming creators alike to generate a buzz in gaming culture early. Now one of the biggest games ever, Fortnite still recognizes how PR and influencer marketing work together to great effect.
In Dec 2021, one of the game’s big events, the finale of Chapter 2, hit the industry’s leading media outlets, as Fortnite continues to have a hold on gaming culture. While any Fortnite event could be newsworthy given the game’s size these days, Fortnite’s continued push to bring in influential cultural icons—both in and out of gaming—amplify that PR buzz. Take the finale of Chapter 2 we just talked about as an example; Fortnite sponsored huge gaming content creators like Ali-A to cover the event, generating millions of views.
We’ve talked about how influencer marketing, PR, and paid media work together to great effect, but how do you actually get started? Let’s discuss how you can plan and execute an integrated gaming marketing campaign.
Before you get into the specifics of a campaign plan, you need to ensure you have clarity across your brand regarding your high-level objectives. Ask yourself the big questions, and be honest about your answers. This includes an understanding of how your game has fared up to this point, what its current position in the market is, where you intend to take it in the future, and how you plan to get there.
You’re basically creating a marketing plan—a written document outlining the overall marketing strategy for your brand. It’s likely you’ve been working in a siloed manner previously, and developing clear objectives is the perfect place to start when beginning your integrated marketing campaign journey.
Determining what your campaign will cost and how the money will be allocated across media channels is as important as your overall objectives. It’s easy to conjure up hyper-ambitious objectives, and you should be challenging yourself to meet them, but you also need to be realistic when it comes to budgeting.
In an ideal world, the marketing objectives we just talked about should be tightly aligned, or even derived from, your budget. Of course, theory doesn’t always translate perfectly in practice, but you should certainly aspire to that synergy between budget and objectives.
You can have the perfect objectives with the budget to match, but coordination between your teams will make or break your execution. As marketing and PR teams begin establishing goals, ensure that top-level priorities align. For example, if your top priority is to drive game downloads, your team’s PR strategy should focus on verticals that support downloads through third-party sites.
Remember, an integrated marketing campaign is something you’re working on in the long-term perspective. It’s no use creating aligned goals with your teams if they break away and become siloed just a few months down the line.
Think carefully about how you integrate and implement your marketing strategies. All your objectives should be measurable, and what you do day-to-day should be dedicated to meeting those objectives, opposed to pivoting and switching things up at the slightest hint of friction or difficulty.
Switching to an integrated campaign is an opportunity to look at existing media channels in a new way; determine their strengths and weaknesses, and how you can leverage them in tandem to amplify those strengths while covering the weaknesses across influencer marketing, PR, and paid media.
As your integrated campaign progresses, measuring should always be a focus. Analyze at every juncture; when things are going well, when they’re not, and use every moment as a learning opportunity to ultimately optimize your campaigns in future.
By now you’re probably understanding that team alignment across every department is key to a successful integrated video game marketing campaign that lasts. Teams have to communicate what they need from each other and what they’re working on, and then ensure they’re collaborating and executing according to those conversations. You can strive to make this happen in-house, or alternatively, you can call upon an integrated agency with years of expertise and focus.
Just as you need alignment internally, you need it externally for an integrated campaign to succeed. Irrespective of the channel, your message should be the same in terms of theme, style, positioning—essentially each channel should be presenting the same brand image. That doesn’t mean you neglect the nuances of each channel, it just means you shouldn’t present yourself in a wildly different way across them.
External communication isn’t just for the benefit of consumers, it extends itself to other brands and influencers too. Make sure you strategize around legal implications, for example, specify in influencer contracts that your brand will be doing paid media promotion using their content.
There are countless opportunities for your gaming brand in this era of gaming, but things are more competitive than ever. A siloed, fractured approach to your marketing campaigns will have you set up to fail in the long term, as competitors reap the rewards of an integrated campaign that dynamically blends paid media, PR, and influencer marketing, driven by an identifiable brand that is nailing both their internal and external positioning.
We’ve talked about the specifics of why integration is critical, how different marketing channels can actually interact, and how to actually formulate an integrated strategy yourself. That said, integration across multiple channels in a competitive landscape that moves at hyperspeed isn’t as easy in practice as it is in theory.
Cloutboost is a data-driven, full-service agency with years of expertise across influencer marketing, paid media, and PR. Get in touch today to learn how we can help propel your brand to success.