As the physical world temporarily shuttered due to COVID-19, society made space for a virtual world, one that is rapidly growing and holds significant potential for brand activations. The metaverse – particularly the gaming metaverse – is skyrocketing; it’s expected to become a $400 billion-dollar business by 2025. Roblox, an online gaming platform in the metaverse, in particular, is seeing significant momentum, now with 43.2 million daily users worldwide.
Global brands across categories, including Balenciaga, NASCAR, and Nike, have activated on Roblox after being drawn to the platform’s growing audience and relatively low barrier to entry. However, these activations have been met with varying degrees of success. The metaverse is still in its infancy and bringing a brand to a digital platform like Roblox means striking a delicate balance between preserving brand guidelines and adapting to the creative parameters of the platform. As marketers jump into the exciting world of Roblox, here are a few tips for success and avoiding flawed strategies on the platform:
Deciding upon a creative strategy for Roblox can be challenging. Frankly, there is a lot of noise and misinformation about what advertising options currently exist on Roblox, so marketers are in a state of learning and education. This often means creative teams are quick to say “let’s just repurpose what we already have and apply it to Roblox.” Yes, technically a brand can repurpose its digital ad creative for Roblox. However, this strategy rarely yields the desired results in the long run. We recently worked with a major entertainment studio to evaluate its existing creative, and instead of copying and pasting digital ads as digital billboards in Roblox, we worked together to “Roblox-ify” the creative work. Meaning, we made adjustments to the pixelation, coloring and design of the brand’s ads and characters so that they looked like natural pieces of the games they were in. This also meant going beyond native display advertising and adapting to game-play features such as player HUD (heads up display) windows to notify players of a brand experience in-game or sponsoring Event Shops where players can earn game specific currency. Adjusting brand creative strategy to be additive to the native in-game player experience improves brand authenticity to both the player and developer communities.
Let the game dictate your strategy
Just as the look and feel of Roblox should dictate the look and feel of your creative, the nuances of each individual game should drive your overall Roblox engagement strategy. For example, we’ve worked with brands that feel really strongly that their characters would be perfect “objects” for players to engage with on Roblox, but when we actually look at the games their target audience is playing, we realize that engagement with objects would feel unnatural within the context of those specific games. Instead, we have to pivot to creating a new “superpower” that players can access from the brand, for example. There really is no one-size-fits-all approach in Roblox. Marketers need to work closely with game developers to create solutions that will reward, engage and challenge players while enhancing the overall gaming experience. It’s helpful to have a better understanding of game formats on Roblox – which ones are popular and how the individual gameplay and game tech works. This will be a significant starting point for marketers who want to be experts on platforms like Roblox.
Collaborate for success
When thinking about activating on Roblox, many larger brands are eager to create their own games from scratch so they can have the most control and ownership over the user experience. The assumption is that given their high levels of brand awareness off Roblox, they will be able to drum up excitement and engagement on the metaverse platform, as well. While this may be the case in time, this hasn’t proven to be the case so far. Take Nikeland, for example. Nikeland is an online game specifically for Roblox where players can make friends, play games and create unique avatars. Nike is making big bets on the future of Roblox, creating a world that features numerous buildings, fields and arenas for virtual sporting and shopping. It’s a great concept, but building an experience from scratch is expensive, requires regular updates and doesn’t come with a built-in audience. To better illustrate these challenges, here are results from the Roblox platform on players using Tower of Misery (another user-generated game unique to Roblox) vs Nikeland:
● Tower of Misery: 17K+ Active Players at 7pm Tuesday, 2.22M Likes, 2.6B+ visits
● Nikeland: 42 Active Players at 7pm Tuesday, 83K Likes, 10.3M Visits
The engagement metrics don’t lie. Brands activating on Roblox for the first time should consider going where the audience already exists and building upon natural gameplay while offering experiences gamers crave. Not to say that brands like Nike are not building for the future and that where they are headed may be the right bet in virtual real estate, but only time will tell. For the immediate future with in-game advertising, going to where the audiences already are should be a big part of a brand’s promotional strategy.
Bring on the gamers!
Marketers are already required to wear many hats. We’re data analysts, brand strategists, creative thinkers, wordsmiths and so much more. Now, we have to add ‘gamer’ to that list! No, really. I would advise brands right now to ensure they have at least a handful of gamers on their marketing team. You cannot effectively execute in the gaming metaverse if you do not have a deep and nuanced understanding of the games and platforms you’re being asked to leverage. Gamers on the marketing team will be able to provide meaningful counsel on game formats and the actual experiences that will be meaningful to users. What’s more, gamers will be best positioned to help teams reimagine how they track and measure engagement in the absence of familiar metrics like clickthrough rates. How can you provide meaningful brand experiences to attract current and future customers if you have never logged into Roblox, let alone spent hours playing a single game?
Roblox – and the gaming metaverse at large – holds unlimited potential for brand marketers. But to be successful, marketing teams need to throw their existing playbooks out the window and adapt to native experiences in gaming.
Charles Gabriel, VP and Head of Advertising, WildBrain Spark
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