From sub-culture to popular culture: why brands need to get gaming | M&M Global

From sub-culture to popular culture: why brands need to get gaming

Gaming has gone mainstream, and brands need to start playing along, according to Google UK managing director of branding and consumer markets David Black.

David Black Google

Of all the different forms of popular culture, gaming is the one of the most full of misconceptions. When many people think of gamers, they think of teenage boys sitting indoors on their computer. Increasingly, they are wrong.

A whole gaming revolution has taken place, and the audience playing games are now a mainstream audience. It’s a broad and diverse audience: 52% of gamers are women. And it is an audience that spans age-groups: 27% are over 44.

The children of the original gaming revolution now have children of their own. And over the time that they have grown up, gaming experiences themselves have radically changed – and continue to evolve at a remarkable rate. This pace of change is unique, making it one of the most exciting and innovative forms of culture, in part because its creativity depends on technology.

Gaming now drives popular culture, going back to blockbusters such as Lara Croft, which came out all the way back in 2001, to the dystopian worlds of Black Mirror which are hugely impacted by video game tropes. Gaming is even driving innovation in the world of design and art, as we saw in the Minecraft exhibition at the V&A. The museum described Minecraft not just a game, but a “cultural phenomenon”, driven by the imagination of the community.

Six out of ten people now think that the quality of video games is just as good as film, TV or literature and the UK gaming industry is 2.6 times larger than the UK music market.  And the industry continues to grow. Globally, it is growing at 6.6% annually, while in EMEA gaming is worth $23.5bn and growing even faster, at a rate of 7.3% year-on-year.

Yet it still remains an area which very few brands have really taken advantage of – some of this is due to misconceptions, but some due to the fact that brands are unclear on ways to reach the gamer audience.

There are some brands which have really been leading the way in this area. For example, Nissan with its GT Academy, has provided Gran Turismo gamers with the chance to go from a virtual experience to a real-life professional racing career with Nissan. All very well for Nissan you might say, it’s easy to tie up a racing game with a car brand. But what about my FMCG brand? Well you can look to KitKat who worked with JWT and Google to recreate the mobile game Crossy Road, they created a video of two top YouTubers dressed as characters from the game hopping out of the way of traffic as they competed against each other – all while being cheered on by real fans.

For brands that want to engage with gamers but only want to dip a toe in the world of gaming then there a couple of ways to get started first off is understanding who “Gamers” really are. They are the majority of the population, so get to know them and understand that they aren’t a sub-culture – but instead are part of popular culture. One way of understanding the audience better is to spend time where gamers at events such as Insomnia, EGX and E3. The massive size and popularity of these events goes against the stereotype that “gamers” are insular and private. These mass participation events are massive commercial and shared experiences

And if you can’t wait until the next gaming event, a quick look on YouTube will help you to find, understand and reach gamers. According to IPSOS, the average age of the UK YouTube Gaming viewer is 32 years old and 39% of YouTube gaming viewers are over 35 years. YouTube is where gamers go to get gaming news, gather information, and spend time together.

There’s no excuse to miss out on gamers as an audience. And as brands start to make the most of the audience, maybe the ‘gamer’ moniker will disappear, just as nobody talks about targeting “TVers or “Radioers”. Instead, we will recognise that they are a huge cross-section of the population, and a massive market for almost all brands. So test and learn and dip a toe in the water of gaming.

David Black

Managing director of branding and consumer markets, Google UK

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