The ‘Build It and They Will Come’ Approach to Branded Games
Branded games can be a great way to get huge exposure for brands, when integrated with your other marketing. The problem that I see more often than you would think (and I would like) is businesses insisting on taking the 'build it and they will come' approach, despite being strongly advised against it.
As with most bad ideas, it comes from a lack of knowledge and experience and it's definitely not the client's fault for thinking this way. People see the hype around branded games and think they're something magical, where you build this piece of content, post it to your website and all of a sudden (by some sort of psychic link?) millions of people will suddenly know about it, visit and play it. Although branded games can be quite magical at times, in terms of just how many people they can reach, there's nothing magical about the hard work that goes into launching one successfully.
The fact is, very little content goes truly 'viral', this equally applies to other forms of multimedia content such as videos. For something to be truly viral and grow in popularity exponentially, every person that sees it needs to pass it on to more than one other person, which rarely happens. If that was the case, you could literally tell just a handful of people about the content you've created and watch it spread out of control. In reality, banking on this is only going to lead to failure and that's what you're pretty much guaranteeing if you don't do everything you can to promote a piece of content.
Now that isn't to say producing a branded game is a waste of time and money and it's doomed to failure from the start, far from it. They can be a brilliant hook to gain exposure within your industry, via your own marketing and PR channels. We've seen clients use press releases to really push their branded game and get great, targeted exposure by doing so. It goes without saying that a high quality game will serve you much better (in increased engagement, spread and ultimately exposure) than a poor game, but you need to be aware of the realities of launching a branded game. Whether it's a game posted on your own website or on a third party platform such as Facebook or a mobile app, spending some time planning and effectively making use of all the channels at your disposal will only benefit you in the long run.
The process of launching a branded game involves getting as many eyeballs on the content as possible from the start, much the same as promoting any other piece of content. The most successful branded games we've produced have been successful because the client has been passionate about promoting the game and really gone the extra mile. We take care of production of a quality, engaging game, but that's only part of the equation.
If you're a small business without a good, targeted mailing list (and/or an extensive following on social media) and the means to promote a branded game to potentially get exposure in industry specific media then, in all honesty, a branded game (or indeed any multimedia content) may not be for you. But as long as you have those things (plus, put in the work to take advantage of them) and are able to fully integrate a game into a current marketing campaign to drive even more players, there's no reason why you shouldn't see good results from a branded game as an engagement tool.
I won't go into specifics about what you should do to promote a branded game here, but it should definitely be fully integrated into your overall marketing campaign to see good results, not just left in isolation. It's also worth noting that it's possible to maximise your return by thinking about other ways you can use the game from the start. E.g. we've had clients have branded games produced for inclusion on their website, but also have a slightly modified version built to take to trade shows and events. This may increase the production costs slightly, but will allow you to maximise use of your game for a relatively small additional cost.
Long story short, to maximise exposure and return from a branded game takes some work on the client's part. If you really make the most of the opportunity and think of creative ways to use your branded game as a promotional tool, instead of just seeing the game as the end of the process, you'll undoubtedly reap the rewards.