Branded merchandise - the physical cherry on your digital cake?
To engage and excite customers and be heard above the digital noise in the online gaming industry, companies have to work hard to talk to their community. This typically happens through a number of digital mediums (such as the game itself, forums, the platform it is sold / promoted on, social media, advertising channels and so on) in a way that is – ideally – both memorable and fully reflective of the brand.
Agencies like ours are often tasked with producing digital creative that achieves that goal, but recently we’ve been increasingly involved in producing physical branded merchandise and event spaces. Whilst these are exciting to design and make, it’s hard for the developer / publisher to measure the ROI in the way you can online. However, there are real and tangible benefits to supporting your digital campaign with the physical.
Boosting sales and brand recognition
There is research* that gives evidence of a direct link between promotional product advertising and an improvement in brand recognition and increase in sales. Items like t-shirts, posters, mugs will stand the test of time and are a continuous reinforcement of the brand while they’re in use.
Giving out merch within a branded environment (such as parties, games events, pop ups or bars) leaves a lasting impression and gives the opportunity to talk to and engage with your gamers in a way you often don’t get elsewhere. It's a rare opportunity to ask for feedback whilst saying thank you for their support. It shows you are real people and there is a face behind the game who actually gives a damn.
One of our clients recently drove their branded van to an event in Spain and on the way they took the time to stop at key cities on the way to see community members. Armed with pop up banners and posters, they ran mini events and gave out swag and printed game codes (sometimes just out of the back of the van!). The players absolutely loved it and it created a buzz and excitement that sometimes only being there in person can do. The word spread and it fed beautifully into the event they arrived at several days later.
An opportunity to say thanks, in person
A company I used to work with did a great job at supporting EU community meet-ups and rewarding players, which meant that it strengthened the community as game ambassadors. The budget for this was later pulled, as we couldn’t show a clearly defined ROI. The decision was understood, but it had a direct impact on our relationship with the community as we no longer saw them face-to-face.
While the need to cut costs is a reality many companies are having to deal with, it only takes a small budget to be able to brand out a room or bar in a city and give out some swag - which then leads to those valuable conversations and inevitable support. Human interaction is to be encouraged. If a player wants to see their favourite games dev in person, give them a chance to - and then say thank you for supporting your game with a branded gift, however trivial. They’ll love you for it.
Complimenting your digital marketing and community engagement campaigns with beautifully-designed physical items and branded spaces, can certainly be the physical cherry on the digital cake.
* British Promotional Merchandise Association (BPMA) research on the Power of Promo Products: https://bpma.co.uk/power-of-pr...