And the Brands Played On

Marketers strike gold with mobile gaming apps delivering TV-spot engagement levels

Watch out, Zynga and Electronic Arts. When it comes to casual mobile gaming, top brands like Mentos, Pepsi and Red Bull have your players in their sights.

Branded mobile apps are nothing new and neither are branded games. But increasingly, big-name consumer brands are inching toward Angry Birds territory with mobile games that bear their names yet only loosely incorporate their products.

Take Mentos’ Spider Swiper app or Brisksaber from PepsiCo’s Brisk Iced Tea. Both apps, which launched in January, have been downloaded more than 1.5 million times. Red Bull, which was an early entry in the content and gaming world, launched its racing game Red Bull Kart Fighter World Tour at the end of last month, and as of last week, it was among the top 10 most popular free games in Apple’s App store. Even Diageo’s Captain Morgan is getting playful with Captain’s Conquest, a social mobile game launched a few weeks ago.

Of course, the download figures reported by Brisk and Mentos are a fraction of the 10 million downloads for Angry Birds Space in the first three days after its launch last month. But for brands unaccustomed to creating interactive content, it’s a solid start.

At play here is the fact that as millennial consumers become harder to reach via traditional media, brands are realizing that they need to reach their audience on their own terms.

“What we’re trying to do with Mentos is re-engage younger consumers and bring them into the franchise,” said Craig Cuchra, senior brand manager for Mentos Mints, which is owned by Perfetti Van Melle. “The easiest way for us to look at that is to get into their natural setting.”

The Spider Swiper game piggybacks on a typically offbeat Mentos ad from last year that featured a powerful arachnid. From Facebook activity, Mentos knew the ad was a hit with their fan base, but the game takes customer interaction one step further, said Marc Kempter, svp with The Martin Agency, which produced the game.

Since the game’s launch, it’s been downloaded more than 1.7 million times, which Cuchra said equates to 70 million 30-second TV spots. The game wouldn’t have been as hot without TV spots driving users to the app, he acknowledged, but the numbers still show a powerful level of engagement.

PepsiCo said its Brisksaber app, which is part of a campaign featuring Stars Wars-themed Brisk Iced Tea bottles, isn’t just boosting engagement levels but delivering concrete results. Partly driven by the app, said Brisk brand director Eric Fuller, sales of its one-liter bottle are up 35 percent year over year.

“It was our first foray into building a mobile game,” said Josh Nafman, digital brand manager, PepsiCo. “It definitely encourages us to look at mobile apps and mobile overall more seriously.”

But as marketers jump into mobile gaming, they’d be wise to remember that given how many options consumers have ­(and how little time), branded games need to be more than just a dressed-up vehicle for messaging. “It boils down to creating value for the end user,” said Robleh Jama, founder of app maker Tiny Hearts, which has been in talks to brand its Instagram-inspired game InstaMatch. “And I don’t think ads tend to do that.”

Recommended articles