Brands Create Their Own Games to Expand Marketing Reach

Brands are eager to promote their products in front of the estimated 3.7 billion people worldwide who play video games. Now, rather than simply purchasing visibility, more adventuresome advertisers including PepsiCo and L’Oreal are creating games of their own. PepsiCo had a quest developed in collaboration with Y2K Games for Mountain Dew inserted into the latest edition of the publisher’s blockbuster “NBA 2K” series. L’Oréal embedded a mini game in Activision Blizzard’s “Candy Crush Saga” and saw 40,000 samples of the Prada Candy fragrance that was the reward for completing the game claimed on day one of the five-week promotion.

For decades brands have been maneuvering their products in front of gamers using tried and true techniques like product placement or video ads in mobile games.

“Now, some brands are producing bespoke entertainment experiences, despite the greater cost, in hopes of connecting with hard-to-reach gamers in a more effective way,” according to The Wall Street Journal, which quotes Dario Raciti, managing director of Omnicom’s Zero Code saying he doesn’t think traditional ads work well with gamers.

While the gamer demographic is expanding (48 percent of American gamers are female, and 15 percent of America’s 214 million-plus gamers are older than 55, according to DataProt), the majority of U.S. gamers (34 percent) are 18-34 according to Statista. That hard-to-reach group is famous for using ad blockers online and abandoning linear TV, so gameplay is a viable way capture their attention.

Statista projects the number of global gamers will increase from 3.7 billion this year to more than 4.3 billion by 2027.

The bespoke games business is growing thanks to “game studios and publishers willing to team up with brands to co-develop mini games inside their own properties, as well as companies such as Roblox and ‘Fortnite’ maker Epic Games that let anyone — including brands — build virtual worlds with games and other forms of interactive entertainment on their platforms,” WSJ reports.

Worldwide, Roblox as of this month has more than 22 million daily players and 220 monthlies, according to Such impressive numbers are a lure, even for luxury brands like Gucci, Givenchy, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, according to Gotham, which lists those upscale clothing lines among six companies that have “explorable space” in Roblox.

But, “like a retail location, ‘you can’t just set it and forget it,’” Jamie Gutfreund, chief growth officer at influencer-marketing agency Whalar told WSJ, noting, “it’s got to have marketing, promotion and momentum to get people excited.”

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