The Pitfalls of Branded Mobile Games


ADOTAS — As other forms of online advertising flounder, savvy marketers are increasingly turning to branded mobile games to engage consumers and build awareness. Games give marketers an unbelievably powerful tool to educate, inform and entertain their customers. The most obvious appeal of branded mobile games is the sheer amount of time players are exposed to the brand and messaging. With times ranging from three to more than 20 minutes of engagement for each time they open the game, branded games stand in stark contrast to other forms of online advertising.

But this powerful vehicle is reduced into just another buzzword if marketers don’t quantify their goals and create compelling experiences. Poor planning and bad execution can lead to unproductive campaigns and alienated customers.

Following are five common mistakes to avoid:

1. Not Asking Why. Don’t make a game because it’s the trend du jour. Create a game because it helps you solve a problem. Your first priority is clarifying your objectives. Then, decide if a branded game is the appropriate solution. Many games are developed without a clear understanding of why they are being made.

2. Quantifying Success. What constitutes success? Is it total game plays, time of engagement, likes on Facebook or perhaps a specific call to action, like signing up for a loyalty program? What goals do you need to hit to justify the expense of the game? Failure to determine KPIs early in the process leads to poor performance later on.

3. Failure to incorporate a marketing message. Understanding your marketing objective is only half the battle. The other half is creating a game with a strong message and call to action  – remember this is advertising! Any message you want to convey – it’s new, it’s better, it’s good for you – can be communicated with a game. Many branded games are just tired re-skins with a slapped on sponsor logo. A truly successful game creates an environment where the messaging is seamlessly woven into the experience. Remember, people learn by doing. So design an experience where your customers ‘do’ your message not just see your message. For example, instead of blathering on about how your toothpaste gets teeth whiter, design an experience where players zap yellowing teeth with whitening blasts of your brand.

4. Making things too complicated. Most branded mobile games are short ‘snackable’ morsels of digital diversion. Players know it’s advertising but are still curious to try the experience. But their curiosity will quickly change to disappointment if the game is initially too complex or involved. People need to intuitively understand how to play and engage with the experience within seconds. Once players get past that initial hurdle they are receptive to deeper experiences, but keep the initial on-boarding simple.

5. Not planning on how to drive traffic to your game. Just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come. You need to figure out how to get people to your game. Many marketers use branded games to augment and extend online, broadcast and print campaigns. Because HTML5 games play in a mobile browser, they are just a click away, no app store download required. The game URL can be included in online or broadcast video campaigns to drive traffic. QR codes can be placed on print ads, brochures or in-store displays. Even traditional online advertising can benefit, as the promise of a game can drastically increase click-through rates. Mobile web games can also be embedded within native applications opening up interesting cross-promotional opportunities.

If any these common pitfalls are about to trip you up it might be time to go back to the drawing board, reconsider why you are making a game and recalibrate your goals. Only then can you design an experience that truly takes advantage of the potential of branded mobile games.


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