Branded games: Finding the fun in your brand

Shannon Forbes - Digifianz Marketing Analyst

Written by Shannon Forbes - Digifianz Marketing Analyst

 On 9/23/19 10:00 AM

 Cartoon man sitting on top of a video game controller with a parrot showing how to find the fun in your brand

If your marketing strategy is based on the promotion of your product or services, you’re missing out on a better way to capture your customers’ attention (and keep it).  Advergames, also known as branded games, engage your customers in a way that traditional ads never could. 

Of course your customers care about whether you have a quality product, but your competition likely has a solid offering as well.  Incorporating an advergame into your marketing mix is a powerful means of setting your brand apart from the rest and captivating your customers through a strategy they don’t expect — fun!


Why upgrade your marketing strategy with a game?

Branded games are one of the best (and one of the most underutilized) means of engaging customers.  Advergames provide a playful link (hence our name: Plinq!) between your brand and your customers. Below are two main reasons why games are such a successful means of connecting with customers.

The importance of play

First things first, people love to play!  Fun and playfulness are part of our inherent needs as human beings.  Though we generally associate play with kids, adults need play, too!  In fact, of the 202 million mobile game players in the U.S., only 8% are 13-17 years old, and 35% are 18-34 years old.

Why do we play games?  Because they stir our curiosity, surprise us, and give us control, among other reasons. 

What are you more likely to pay attention to: yet another ad for a product or the chance to play a game?  Your game design could be visually stunning, funny, or cute.  One look at the adorable images from the word puzzle game, Alphabear, are enough to make anyone want to play!

Alphabear screenshots mashup showing CTAs in games


Games can also be serious — they don’t need to be silly in order to captivate players (more on this in a bit).

Not an obstacle

Advergames aren’t an obstacle to your customers’ entertainment time, as opposed to traditional marketing.  TV or digital ads, which we refer to as “plain media,” get in the way of the experience your customer is trying to partake in. 

The unfortunate fact is that ads typically interrupt a fun experience, like watching a favorite show or scrolling on your social media feed of choice.  These interruptions make traditional ads especially frustrating for customers and have led to 47 percent of internet users globally using an ad-blocker today.  Interruptions can even lead to a negative connotation with your brand

Games, on the other hand, are entertainment by definition!  Instead of interrupting a fun experience, they are the experience.

Part of the distinction between branded games and plain media ads is that games require the player’s permission. While traditional ads are generally forced upon the customer, advergames are an option offered to customers.

Moreover, games are participatory by definition.  While an ad can be passively viewed, or not paid attention to at all, games require the player’s interaction.

Games are engaging because they are wild, creative, fun — everything but plain!

Plinq game cartoon factory slicing products showing the fun in brands


Why is fun important?

As we mentioned earlier, play is essential for human beings.  By providing a game you’re connecting with your customers on an elemental level - by fulfilling a basic need. 

Current and potential customers appreciate branded games because it shows that you’re making an effort to offer them something unique, rather than just trying to get something from them, be it attention or purchases. 

Besides, a game sets you apart.  How many of your competitors have branded games?  You could be one of the firsts in your field to offer a game!

A game itself may seem to equate fun, but it’s important to include fun within your game.  In fact, fun is an essential component of a branded game.  Some companies have created advergames with the best of intentions, but they have flopped because without the element of fun, a game is just work!  


Keep in mind — fun does not equal silly

If you equate games with goofy, slapstick entertainment, you’ve probably missed the plethora of creative games available nowadays.  Games are a powerful means of educating and conveying information. We dedicated a previous post to the somewhat unexpected games that are being used to communicate serious messages; “their interactive format makes them the perfect tool to draw in players and engage them on serious or even uncomfortable topics.”

Games have been created for topics as diverse as disease, debt, and oil prices.  

When dealing with a sensitive or taboo subject, games can be an effective means of creating understanding through empathy.

The game aspect also makes the message more compelling and easier to digest.  The player experiences the issue in a much more powerful way when they put on a character’s “shoes” and face the subject first-hand.

Modernizing the traditional

While games have become a powerful medium for teaching about difficult subjects, they have also been used by classic companies as a means to revamp their image, while still maintaining their brand’s tone.

Ford came out with a series of video games where you could, what else? Race the brand.  And while car companies may have an easy transition into video games, healthcare isn’t as clear of a translation.  Cigna Health Insurance created a truly innovative game to engage young cancer patients, by allowing them to virtually fight the disease they’re battling in real life.  This isn’t a lighthearted topic, but the game, Re-Mission 2: Nanobot’s Revenge, is a relevant, effective means of engaging patients to take charge of their health.

ford silver mustang advergame driving through the desert showing the fun in the brand


How? Think outside the box

You may now be convinced about the benefits of adding a playful element to your marketing strategy, but still wondering how to implement this strategy with your brand.

If you’re not Disneyland or Pixar, you may not have considered a playful take on your brand.  But even seemingly boring or serious brands can create a game that represents and elevates their brand.

Take Barclaycard Waterslide Extreme, created by Barclays Bank.  Banking doesn’t seem to have anything to do with waterslides, but the brand wanted a unique way to demonstrate the ease and speediness of using touchless credit card technology.  They started with an entertaining commercial of an office worker commuting home via waterslide and using contactless payment technology to pay for a few things along the way, and then turned the ad into a video game.  By connecting the speed the touchless technology affords with zipping down a waterslide, the idea doesn’t seem like such a stretch.  

Barclay bank waterslide advergame man sliding down waterslide avoiding  ducks finding the fun in a brand

To this day, Barclaycard Waterslide Extreme is likely the most downloaded branded game in history!  It has reached 55,000,000 downloads since its launch in 2009 and was the #1 app globally in the iTunes store for 2 weeks.

Another seemingly-boring topic that turned into an entertaining video game was American Family Insurance’s The Sims-inspired game, iAMFAM.  The game consisted of creating a home and a family, much like The Sims, “while managing unexpected surprises along the way.”  Though filing insurance claims may not be your idea of a good time, the game provided a fun way to engage consumers on the topic and even sparked them to get real-life insurance of their own.  

Sometimes it just takes thinking a bit outside the box to find a fun side you didn’t realize you could leverage. 


Add some magic to your brand

We dedicated an entire post, a magical version of your brand, to this subject, but it bears repeating here that “once you see a magical version of a brand it all makes sense, but sometimes it can be hard to imagine how this could work for your company.”  

Games allow you creative license to play on various facets of your business.  While many car companies use car racing as the go-to advergame iteration, Air France went beyond the obvious aviation equivalent with their magical advergame, Cloud Slicer.  À la fruit ninja, players sliced through clouds to earn points.  Not only was Cloud Slicer magical, it was also a genius means of giving out prizes.  

Cloud Slicer game with clouds and a moon and sun showing how games find the fun in your brand

Branded games can be a whimsical and unexpected means of interacting with a brand.  Rather than continuing to communicate at customers, forward-thinking brands are bedazzling their customers with an advergame


Still no cigar?

If you’re still struggling to find the fun in your brand, you may want to bring in the experts.  Maybe there isn’t much fun to be found in your brand...all the more reason to add a branded game!  

Video game experts can take a creative twist on your business or product to turn your brand into a game.  If you’re an avid video-game player, you may be inspired to run with a game idea of your own — as tempting as this can be, it’s one of the top mistakes we recommend brands avoid.  Video game experts will make sure your branded game includes the 3 must-have features of an advergame and that it engages your customers like never before!

Advergames are shaking the marketing industry ebook with cartoon woman playing a computer game