The brand guide to success in gaming and virtual worlds

This article presents seven essential rules for brand success in gaming and virtual worlds. It focuses on boosting brand awareness, loyalty, and engagement.

Despite multiple articles declaring the metaverse is dead, by GEEIQ’s definition, that’s not the case. More brands than ever are investing in gaming. In fact, in the first half of 2023, more than 350 brands activated in virtual worlds like Minecraft or Fortnite. By the end of the year, that number had more than doubled.

So, with the space becoming more saturated, how can brands cut through the noise and stand out in gaming? 

This article outlines seven rules for success in gaming and virtual worlds. Of course, it is important to consider your brand’s specific goals when measuring success in gaming. However, these overarching tips will help you regardless of whether your brand aims to drive brand awareness, loyalty or engagement. 

Ready to learn how to succeed in gaming? Read on 👇

Why are brands targeting Gen Z through gaming? 

Gaming captures the attention of Gen Z more effectively than traditional social media. According to GEEIQ’s State of Virtual Brand Experiences in 2023, under 25s typically spend 180 minutes on Roblox, compared to 107 minutes on TikTok. Gaming content also dominates social media, with TikTok seeing 3 trillion views on gaming videos and YouTube gaming accruing over 100 billion hours of watch time in 2022.

It’s also not just the brands you’d traditionally think of as compatible with gaming who are investing in this space. The fastest-growing industries in gaming are Charities, Consumer Goods and Media & Entertainment. Recent activations include the American Heart Association on Roblox, Lionsgate on The Sandbox and Procter & Gamble on Fortnite. 

These trends aren’t going to slow down any time soon. The average person already spends more time gaming than on social media. The average adult games for 1 hour and 51 minutes, versus 1 hour and 41 minutes on social media. 

Major brands will continue to invest in gaming to attract elusive younger audiences and future-proof themselves. 

1. Be Authentic & Fun

Authenticity is crucial when engaging Gen Z and Gen Alpha. It’s a delicate balance, but your brand’s presence in gaming should respect the community’s culture while remaining true to your brand identity. 

A great example of this was GEEIQ partner Elton John’s experience on Roblox, ‘Beyond the Yellow Brick Road’. Elton John is known for his iconic and self-expressive outfits. This resonated with Roblox users as 84% of Gen Z say that digital fashion is somewhat important to them and 86% say that it is somewhat important their avatar expresses emotions in virtual worlds. So, to appear authentic and engage the Roblox community, Elton John’s virtual activation offered users the chance to try on his most iconic outfits and gain access to the ‘Heart Skip’ emote. The latter became the number one best-selling branded emote on the platform. Not to mention, Elton John’s overall experience became one of the most highly-rated concerts the platform had seen to date. 

2. Listen to & work with online communities 

Listening to a gaming platform’s community is crucial. By collaborating with creators and influencers who are native to gaming platforms, you can better understand what players want from your brand and how to appear authentic. This approach ensures that your brand’s presence is not only accepted but embraced by the community.

For example, GEEIQ partner Walmart catalogued and showcased over 350+ creators for “Walmart Discovered”. By empowering creators and integrating their contributions into the brand experience, Walmart fostered a sense of ownership and loyalty among the Roblox community. Their experience feels authentic as it serves a unique purpose: to help players find new UGC items. Now, Walmart has also become the first brand ever to offer real-world commerce on Roblox. At 96.34%, Walmart Discovered has one of the highest approval ratings of any brand on Roblox. 

3. Deliver unique value and rewards 

For brands venturing into virtual worlds, delivering unique value and rewards is key. Often this comes in the form of user-generated content (UGC) strategies that offer free or paid items avatars can wear. However, brands have also been increasingly innovative when delivering value with loyalty integrations. 

Paris Hilton’s “Slivingland” experience on Roblox heavily leveraged UGC to drive engagement and reward players. Cynthia Miller, the Head of Innovation at Paris Hilton’s 11:11 Media, explained that “for the first eight weeks of launch we dropped new UGC items, Friday, 9pm every single week.”

However, their experience also went a step further. ‘Slivingland’ broke the mould by allowing 111 players to win Hilton Hotel Honors points for completing quests on Roblox. They translated in-game engagement into offline rewards. 

Watch the video below to find out more from Cynthia herself 👇

Cynthia Miller, the Head of Innovation at Paris Hilton’s 11:11 Media, talking about how Roblox worlds can drive loyalty.

4. Bridge the digital and physical world 

Simply copy-pasting real-world marketing efforts into digital realms isn’t sufficient. After all, you wouldn’t use a LinkedIn strategy on Instagram. When brands skillfully translate their core values and marketing activities into platforms like Roblox or Fortnite, they tend to see higher engagement. By having virtual branded experiences that reflect those in the real world, you create a more seamless experience for the user and enhance brand perception across both realms. 

GEEIQ partner H&M’s Loooptopia exemplifies this, with their virtual campaigns mirroring their real-world brand collaborations with Stranger Things or Eva Cremers. These initiatives are incredibly successful, as seen with their Stranger Things varsity jacket being claimed 20,000 times in less than 24 hours. Free UGC is also a great driver of organic content, with H&M receiving 5.3 million views of organic content about their UGC items across YouTube and TikTok.

5. Amplify with native influencers

Leveraging influencers or creators recognized by specific gaming communities can significantly amplify your brand’s reach. By engaging with these trendsetters, you can activate audiences on chosen gaming platforms or social media channels. 

When GEEIQ partner Tommy Hilfiger first invested in gaming, it wanted to appeal to specific key markets by partnering with gaming influencers on Twitch, creating a group named ‘Team Tommy’. The brand used GEEIQ to identify high-growth gaming influencers who would collaborate with Tommy Hilfiger and Tommy Jeans. These creators were popular across different gaming platforms, from Minecraft to Grand Theft Auto to League of Legends. In this way, they were able to make sure their strategy received the widest possible reach and was seen by over 1.25 million users on Twitch.

6. Strategically leverage paid media 

With 75% of Gen Z trying their best to avoid ads at all times, understanding where and how to use paid media in gaming environments is crucial. The goal is to integrate paid media in a way that feels natural and engaging within a gaming context, rather than intrusive or out of place.

Paid media offerings will differ between gaming platforms, but will generally serve the same purpose as paid social media. That is, it allows your brand to target specific groups of players and track traffic, boosting your campaign’s cost efficiency and lowering audience wastage. Roblox, for example, offers a variety of static, video and portal ads that brands can leverage in different contexts.

Albane Prioux, Insights and Partnerships Director at GEEIQ, explains how brands are starting to use paid media within gaming: 

💡 “Marketers have effectively utilized in-game mobile ads, either by partnering directly with developers or through DSPs which specifically target audiences within mobile games. Recently, platforms like Roblox and ZEPETO have taken innovation further by developing their own internal media solutions. For instance, Roblox offers two distinct advertising options: one designed for marketers, featuring video ads that can be seamlessly integrated into their marketing mix, and another aimed at owned media teams looking to boost traffic and engagement with their branded experiences on the platform.”

7. Make data-driven decisions 

Comprehensive gaming and social media data allow brands to understand what is working within their virtual strategy, refine their approach and optimize engagement based on real insights from their target demographics. In this way, a brand’s team can remain agile, maximize their resource efficiency and effectively report on key metrics to stakeholders. 

Gaming-specific data platforms like GEEIQ allow you to access your unique, private data to set and hit KPIs in virtual worlds. The ability to track and analyze engagement through these platforms is invaluable. How else will you measure the success of custom events, UGC drops and other in-game updates? 

Walmart’s Director of Brand Experiences & Strategic Partnerships, Justin Breton, spoke to the importance of data in the launch of their second Roblox experience: 

🛒 “We have spent significantly less on Walmart Discovered, because we’re smarter. We’re more efficient. We have great partners. And we created something that was first and foremost, a utility, not a gameplay loop. We’ve received 20 million visits in 6 months. Other experiences reached that in about a year. So, a year versus 4 months spending significantly less with this new experience.”

You wouldn’t build an Instagram strategy without looking at likes, views and more. The same should be true with gaming. 

Key takeaways

Navigating the gaming landscape allows brands to uniquely connect with Gen Z and Gen Alpha. It requires a complex blend of authenticity, community engagement, value delivery and strategic use of influencers and media. 

By following these seven rules, brands can create meaningful and engaging experiences that resonate with the new generation of consumers, establishing a strong presence in the digital and gaming worlds.

However, these tips only offer a brief overview of what brands can do to authentically tap into these audiences. To build a fully comprehensive gaming and virtual worlds strategy for your brand, you need expert guidance, intricate insights and access to high-level strategic planning. 

Ready to take the next step?

Dig into our latest report for industry insights and platform-specific analytics. Learn more about how your brand can become competitive and tap into new markets through gaming 👇

GEEIQ’s State of virtual brand experiences part II.

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