Playing the brand game

Young Consumers

ISSN: 1747-3616

Article publication date: 13 June 2008



Lindstrom, M. (2008), "Playing the brand game", Young Consumers, Vol. 9 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Playing the brand game

Article Type: Executive insight From: Young Consumers, Volume 9, Issue 2.

If I were to glance through your media plan, I am sure I would discover it contained all the usual, well-known media options - the TV and radio ads, the print ads and the outdoor advertising. We have all been going with these options for years, decades in fact. We have always known we would not be fired for nominating them. Just like an IT guy would not be fired for installing an IBM solution. But this security is fast disappearing. One day soon, you will be fired for your adherence to these options.

Today, the computer gaming market’s revenue is double that generated by the movie industry. ACNielsen predicts that, within just four years, the movie industry will be only one third of the size of the computer gaming industry. This leaves me wondering where the enormous power of Hollywood is drifting to. Where is it about to go? Online? And, if it is, where are you in this scenario?

It is fascinating to reflect on the fact that almost every medium has a price that, at a click, you can find out about on Google within seconds. These are fixed and well-known prices. Except for one channel - computer games.

Quick, tell me what the price of placing a commercial message in a computer game is … I am sure you haven’t a clue. Is it $1 per user? A million up front? One cent per second? Who knows? No fixed model exists. No media agency has, yet, really specialized in booking space in computer games. This is virgin area for brand-builders. This often means virgin prices. Low prices.

Let’s do the maths. Research from my book, BRANDchild, showed that kids now, for good or bad, spend almost the same time in front of computer games as they do in front of TV. These numbers will soon trend away from each other as computer games take the lead in the way kids allocate their time. But here is the really crucial difference. Your TV commercial probably secures some 30 seconds with consumers. Your potential computer game commercial is very likely to spend hours with them.

No wonder Red Bull, the energy drink, claimed it had secured its success because of its appearance in one of the first PlayStation games. “Want more energy?” was the message. I do not have to tell you what the answer was.

If you belong to the IBM gang, inclined towards the secure solution, stop reading now. However, if you believe that TV is no longer the one and only path to brand success, you should be already considering your opportunities in the wonderful world of computer games. The prices are still low as this is currently unexplored territory. The results are still high as branding clutter is limited. But it is all going full steam ahead in the computer gaming world.

Sims Online, one of the world’s best established computer game creators, no longer operates in a non-branded world but in a world where players buy McDonald’s outlets and sell the company’s branded food products, earning “simoleans”, the game’s currency. Eating that food will also improve players’ standing in the game.

This is building brands through interaction. In the past, brands have not interacted with their customers or been able to engage them in their philosophies. Now the relationship between brand and customer is set to change. Brands are learning that to create an engaged consumer, you have to … engage them. Surprise!

The potential for engagement represented by computer games is kick-starting a wave of brand movement from passive relationships with consumers to relationships that demand constant interaction. These relationships demand that brands adopt a role, play to it and give constant feedback to consumers.

The ever-dawning world of branding has written another new chapter, this time online. I hope you are part of the story.

Martin LindstromMartin Lindstrom is the author of BRANDchild and BRANDsense.

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