Winning over Your Audience with Game Design

One of FARM’s own highlights game design and why it’s the interactive marketing solution to keep your eye on.

Promoting your brand isn’t all fun and games … or is it? We recently caught up with our Digital Strategy Director, Jose Rodriguez, after his trip to the digitally focused creative conference FITC —at which he presented his experience with game design in the marketing and advertising world. Rather than talk about his skills, we decided to let the expert speak for himself. Read on for the Q&A below highlighting a few key points on the emerging trend of game design as a method of marketing your business.

When did you first become interested in game design? What type of path did you take to get yourself to where you are today?

I’ve been interested in game design since childhood. I spent a lot of time in arcades playing games like Pac-Man and Space Invaders. My parents got me a little computer that I could plug into the TV and I was off and coding games before my 13th birthday.

Programming began to fall by the wayside as my interest in art grew when I studied traditional illustration in college. But I still found myself drawn to the computer lab. I eventually got bored with animating and wanted to add interactivity to the mix, which led me full circle back to the programmer’s seat. As my career continued, I spent time bridging the gaps between traditional design/creative and technology—making games for a variety of clients. Ultimately, this became my bread and butter as I surfed the wave of “advergaming” until the demise of Flash and the shift from web-based games to native mobile games.

Describe how game design can help a brand or business connect with their intended audience.

Games are engaging. There’s no question that the level of user engagement with marketing increases when games are a part of the mix. In my experience, I’ve noted greater time on page and more return traffic on pages featuring games or gamified content, not to mention higher conversion rates than standard rich media banner ads. For example, FARM witnessed an average session duration of four minutes and a goal conversion rate of 21.99% over the life of our recent campaign for the TOPS Quarterback Blitz game. These numbers are beyond what could be expected from other digital placements.

Games are social. Even social-media behemoth Facebook is embracing games (both branded and non-branded) by adding them directly to their Messenger App. Most marketing games will use social in some way, and many have found viral success using these techniques.

Games are intimate. Time spent with a brand during a game-like experience can be considered active engagement, compared to the passive engagement that comes from watching a traditional video ad or standard display ad. While not all marketing efforts are a perfect fit for an action-based game like the TOPS Quarterback Blitz game, most will benefit from some level of gamification—including things like “progress indicators,” “achievement badges,” and “scores.” According to scientists, there is a strong psychological and emotional aspect to the endorphin “high” that players feel when they win at a game. This emotional connection, combined with incentivizing players with sweepstakes entries or a leaderboard, can really make a lasting connection between a consumer and a brand.

What do you think the biggest challenge of game design is at the moment?

At this time, I think we’re working against the preconceived notion that games and gamification are a frivolous spend. While the numbers clearly point to the value of more interactive user experiences, it can be a difficult sell. The technical challenges are the same as found with most web-based content. Users are predominantly viewing content on mobile using any number of devices and screen sizes. When it comes to design and responsive styling, this can be a bit of a challenge.

What next steps would you recommend for a brand that is interested in using game design in its marketing plan?

When considering games and gamification as a marketing solution, there is a good bit to ponder. Getting some of these initial questions answered is a good first step.

You might start by asking yourself if using a game is a good fit with your brand, campaign, and target demographic. For example, did you know that 42% of “gamers” are female, and that the average age for a gamer is 35? That being said, it’s a safe bet that the majority of people have a positive reaction when it comes to reward systems and achievement badges.

Another important aspect to consider is the technology. Questions like, “How will this game be consumed: on the web, via mobile device, or perhaps as an event-based on-site installation?” Going even deeper down the rabbit hole, a more technical group might start to think about things like whether to use Flash or HTML5, whether WebGL support is needed, and what framework will be the most efficient as far as executing the concept. Of course, these are things that may be handled by your digital team or partner agency, so don’t feel like you need to know all of these answers right off the bat.

If you are interested in using game design in your marketing plan, drop us a line; we’re happy to help!

By Maura Noonan, Content Marketing Coordinator and Jose Rodriguez, Director of Digital Strategy

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