Name the big social media channels – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc; for which there are hundreds of blog posts written about these channels by marketers every day.
Consequently the desire to mine the opportunities present on these major social media platforms has led us to miss clear opportunities elsewhere. Namely, the development of social experiences in gaming, with Xbox Live and Playstation Network both offering services that allow social interaction in the same environment that also accommodates marketing messages.
When these game consoles are connected to the internet, they allow for voice, text and video communications to occur between users (note that users are not always friends, they may have just met for the first time in a game lobby. Also communication can occur between more than 2 users, sometimes up to 12 users can be connected in the same conversation at the same time). immediately you have a situation where discussion about your marketing can take place between these users as they are interacting with it.
Marketing messages can be placed in-game, such as those used by Barack Obama while he was campaigning for the US Presidency:
Or in the way of clothing or accessories for an avatar, a character used to represent users in-game personas. Both H&M and Adidas have created in-game versions of their clothing lines:
Or just within the options menus when the console boots up. Up to now this has most commonly been used for advertising films recently released at the cinema.
The opportunities to place marketing messages within these environments, as always, must be accompanied by consideration for the environment where they are being placed. As this has been an underused channel for marketing up until now, the user of that channel is likely to be hostile towards marketing that detracts from their experience or saturates what was before a fairly desolate marketing space. However, if we accomodate for our messages to add to these experiences, even adding a feel of reality to games that try to give an experience that replicates the real world, we are likely to find that the development of marketing via this channel is generally well received.
The main problem that many marketers will find if they do suggest using channels such as Xbox Live for their marketing is the believe by many that it is a channel only used by children, and so offers very little in terms of potential customers for the majority of brands who are trying to reach an adult audience. If this is the case, then I suggest you point them in the direction of this Nielsen report that analysed console use in June 2009. It includes the graph below indicating the different age groups using games consoles:
Almost half of users are above 18, and this older demographic are more likely to have a console online with the necessary subscription to access online content and games.
With the games console market growing, especially as many look to develop their interest in gaming having been introduced to the hobby by Nintendo’s Wii and DS consoles, we are likely to see the marketing efforts in this arena grow eventually and the most successful will accomodate for the social nature of modern gaming. As always though, it’s better to be the case study than follow the trend.