While at the annual music, film and interactive jamboree that is SXSW, I was approached by a curious marketeer. She was interested in mar-tech, gamification, and augmented-reality (after seeing her kids playing 'Pokémon Go'). Everything I was explaining to her about what we do seemed to be interesting to her; until her eyes lit up and she realised that this ‘game thing’ could actually be a great delivery mechanism for some advertising. High fives all round.
Clearly, she hadn’t quite got the point; if people are engaging with a brand via a game (as they do in Snatch) then they’re doing that with the knowledge that this is all still ultimately marketing, just on their terms.
Gamification (for marketing purposes) isn’t about being passive and consumers having their eyeballs blasted by a 30-second ad. It’s an entirely different interaction that centralises around the player and gives them control. Giving them the choice of which brands they connect with, as well as when and where it happens. Cue heavy sweating from marketers solely reliant on that old fashioned interruptive model of marketing.
The difference between millennials and younger people, compared to the rest of us mere mortals is that they know their worth as a consumer
Relinquishing control is a fairly alien prospect for the majority of us in the industry. We spend hours mulling over messages, multiple adjectives to convey ‘fun’ and whether we invest in James Corden or some other current celeb to relate with our target audience. For millennials, it’s a different ball game. Broadcasting, however ‘now’ the content is, will be cast aside if that millennial doesn’t want to view or read it. They are changing the very parameters of marketing that we’ve built our careers on – but it isn’t bad news.
The difference between millennials and younger people, compared to the rest of us mere mortals is that they know their worth as a consumer. No matter how strategic, integrated and in-stream we think the advertising we’re delivering to them is - on Facebook or on a Buzzfeed article – this group of consumers know and understand what’s happening. They’re a savvy bunch and as such demand a whole lot more – be that better content, more incentives or a whole new relationship.
The emergence of ad blockers stems from this group – clearly that tells us something. They are more conscious than any other previous group of consumers. They know what they want, and more importantly, what turns them off. So why keep dishing up the same tactics if we know these consumers want something else?
I focus in on millennials, as from looking at Snatch’s early adopters the majority of them were 30 or under. That’s not to say all gamers are millennials or indeed Snatch players – on the contrary: my retired mum frequently plays the game and loves it. But gamification does provide an environment that millennials have come to trust and want to spend time in.
Gamification, for many marketers, is still a big unknown – partly perhaps as it is new territory but also because it’s hard to let go of the reigns and put the consumer in the driving seat
What makes gaming very interesting is how immersive it is. At pretty much every industry event, advertisers discuss consumers' dwindling attention span and how content should be just seconds long in order to drum home a message before the consumer switches off. In a game, it's quite the opposite. Players are wholly consumed – often playing for hours on end.
What 'Pokémon Go' nailed was mainstreaming augmented reality – making gaming even more relevant and addictive, transporting a consumer even further into the game – transforming their current location into a virtual reality. And like the marketeer that I met at SXSW gleamed, brands that enter this space for marketing purposes really could be on to something, as people are so tuned in and can play wherever and whenever they choose. The penny dropped.
Gamification, for many marketers, is still a big unknown – partly perhaps as it is new territory but also because it’s hard to let go of the reigns and put the consumer in the driving seat. It is by no means the silver bullet for all marketing. Each channel has its purpose. But what’s clear is that millennials are reinventing the value exchange and ultimately they know (as well as we do) that brands need to change their tact and go to them and ask to be let in, versus bashing the door down.
Phil Lloyd is chief marketing officer of Snatch and former head of advertising at Paddy Power