This article first appeared on Dré Watermeyer‘s personal LinkedIn profile, here.
Dré is our Strategy and Digital Director, as well as a dedicated Newcastle United fan who co-hosts the Plastic Fan Show football podcast.
My four-year-old doesn’t respect IP or copyright. Earlier this year she appropriated a story my wife had shared with her, into her own memory. My wife recounted a trip to Kruger as a child, where a troupe of con-artist baboons organised to decoy and distract her grandfather while relieving the car of all evidence of tasty perishables. My daughter now tells this story as if it happened to her. Cute.
Unfortunately for me, my daughter won’t stop telling me that story. Every day for about three months. I admire her passion for the story and commitment to routine. I admire my own acting ability even more; “Please tell me! What?! Baboons! I didn’t know that! Yes please, interrupt the only time I have to myself in the day (toilet time #ParentsKnow) to tell me again tomorrow!”.
I don’t even register or hear the conversation anymore when she starts with it again. Is that how you feel when agencies keep trying to talk to you about gaming? Annoying little children trying to get you to do something you don’t want to do.
“Ugh, they want to come talk to us about gaming again. Give them Friday afternoon though… I need a new flash drive and branded diary.”
I only ask because, for a topic that has been so important for so many South African brands over the last couple years, whether they know it or not, I don’t see a lot of action. I’ve stood in the front of a few boardrooms now, sent off my fair share of proactive strategy pieces to brand managers who want to do something exciting, and what I’m generally seeing looking back at me is a lot of: “Please tell me! What?! e-Sports! I didn’t know that. Yes please, interrupt the only time I have to myself in the day (toilet time #EmployeesKnow) to tell me again next year!”
But fine, if you really want to hear it again, I’ll tell you. This is the story about how gaming is important for your brand…
*Takes sip of coffee, puts controller down, clears throat*
GAMING ISN’T THE FUTURE. YOUR WATCH IS RUNNING LATE.
If it wasn’t for the pandemic I probably wouldn’t be writing this article. I’d be writing about the role of social video and it’s impact on TV, consumer psychographic data and it’s impact on campaign efficacy, or how Transfer Deadline day in the Premier League should be a management-mandated day off for all employees (top brass keep sending the last one back with edits.. mainly, “No”).
COVID-19 has not often been pushing us to adapt-or-die to new ways of doing things or consuming things but rather, forcing us to learn things we should’ve years ago. Things that we were too lazy or complacent to change because, well, we didn’t need to. Things that many people had said in front of boardrooms before:
• remote working
• weighting up your digital marketing efforts • e-commerce
• investing in paid social, etc
P.S. That’s how you come last by the way, only evolving when you’re forced to – that’s an article for another time.
It’s the same with gaming. As people flocked to their consoles and mobiles with all that spare lockdown time on their hands and, critically, the format helped fill the giant hole created by the hold on live sports – an advertising industry that has largely been free from pressure to figure it out was suddenly talking about it like breaking news. And now I have to do the same.
For hundreds of millions of people, gaming became the future… a long, long time ago. We’re the ones late to the party;
If your brand is going to explore this world and its audience – and it really should – it is important that we lose any remaining notion of ‘gaming is the next big thing’. For hundreds of millions of people, gaming became the future… a long, long time ago. We’re the ones late to the party; so, we knock on the door, make an excuse about traffic, wipe our feet before we come in, and respect the house rules.
GAMES ARE FOR CHILDREN…
… is what lazy marketers say.
It’s not the statement that’s the problem, it’s the thought process that leads to it. This is the type of advertising where we make decisions based on projecting ourselves onto our brand’s audience. The problem with that is, if I think I don’t pay attention to TV ads, guess what, I assume nobody does – scrap the budget. If I don’t understand how Instagram works, I assume my audience doesn’t either – scrap the budget. Ooff, akward.
Here’s what the lazy marketer is missing out on: an industry bigger than Hollywood, that has infiltrated the lives of almost any segment you could wish to reach. 4 out of 10 connected South African households have a gaming console in them, with the average daily time spent using it around an hour. The average person using it – someone in their 30s.
This isn’t the article filled with stats and infographics, for that read this post by our head of social, but let me say this: It’s easy to assume ‘gaming’ is for kids because, when consoles first came out, kids were the first to adopt it natively. However, a segment being the first to adopt a certain product, does not necessarily mean that that product is made for that segment only – the product in question has stuck and those kids never stopped playing games… even as they became the adults they are now: paying rent, school fees for their own children and being advertised to everywhere else in their life.
IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE CONSOLE
Full disclosure: I ‘game’. Well, as much as a fully employed father of three can.
After I finish writing this and putting my 3 kids in bed, I’m going to put a Woolies lasagna in the oven, a flat white pod in my Dulce Gusto machine, turn on my XBox and play FIFA 20 because, honestly, there are 97 David Silva and 96 Aduriz SBCs that are not going to complete themselves – amiright, where my #FUT heads at?
And yes, I know what you’re thinking… I will probably apply position changes on Silva and move him up from CAM to striker and play him up front with Aduriz.
A few hours earlier, I was making purchasing decisions while strolling through Woolworths. I’d argue that’s a fair representation of today’s average gamer.
I do need to take my own advice about assumptions in gaming though. When conversing casually, I almost exclusively think of gaming in terms of the console or desktop (XBox, PlayStation, PC) – which is weird given how much in-app cash I’ve given to Super Cell through sheer build frustration in Clash of Clans. I have my own laziness that needs undoing.
The reality is mobile makes up a large percentage of the consumer data that makes up the gaming stats we’re looking at these days. 71% of connected South Africans play games, almost exclusively, on their mobile device. As a secret console elitist, that’s slightly irritating to hear. As a marketer that’s brilliant news. It’s incredible.
It’s mobile gaming that really opens the industry to brands. It’s where moms are a chief gaming demographic, where more income groups are represented because the barrier to entry of initial and associated costs around setting up a console aren’t at play. Also, thanks to the path that developers of many ‘royale’ themed games have taken, mobile users can play the same game with their console-based friends. Most importantly, right now in South Africa, mobile gaming is probably also the easiest way to buy media and get your brand in front of eyes.
All marketing endeavours should have the consumer at its core. The consumer’s behaviours, habits and values will determine what we say, where and how we say it. How on earth have we been ignoring gaming for so long?!
THE SOUTH AFRICAN CONTEXT
At The Whalley Collective, we pay a lot for current South African data sets so that our clients don’t have to (shameless offering plug). It can be a scary, overwhelming world of stats out there and the big problem is that most of the time that data is from the US or Europe. Taking the time, and making the investment, to look at South African data does, at worst, 2 great things: It will bring you closer to how global trends are actually playing out here, which in the end, ultimately helps you spend your budget more effectively. Secondly, seeing local data often gives you or the person you need to sign off on the campaign, the peace of mind that you’re not shotgunning in the dark.
Everything you and I have spoken about so far, opinions and stats, are as they relate to the South African landscape. Let’s take a look at some basic charts. These charts hold some simple but important points that you could easily chat to your manager or client about, rather than relaying my ramblings:
I’m going to use consoles as the talking point, because they’re the worst case, more South Africans game on their phones or computer. They also are a lot more singular in their purpose. Let me tell you though, even worst case looks pretty good. As mentioned earlier, about 40% of connected homes have consoles in them, being used about an hour a day.
The data above proves how accessible the gaming audience is and how the stereotypes around gaming are old, outdated, and inaccurate. Sometimes stereotypes can help a brand act: most moms probably ARE tired. Sometimes stereotypes can stop a brand from acting: Only children game.
40% of our households with consoles don’t even have children in them. In fact, households with kids under 3 are the ones that index the highest for likely console ownership. 39% are between 35 and 49 years old, 25% between 24-34. You really see penetration from SEM 8 and upwards, with a probable skew towards male. People in their mid 30s (millennials), with disposable income, in SEMs 8, 9 and 10 – plants tongue firmly in cheek – are famously of no use to South African brands.
Include mobile gaming and you see the SEM and gender segments expand even more.
CULTURE PREDICTION: EMBRACE A DEEP REDEFINING OF SPORTS
Well done for making it this far, we’re coming in to land.
Hopefully, by now, you’re excited at the prospect of a whole new format/medium/channel/buzzword through which to reach your prospective audience. Let’s not repeat our mistakes though. While we have each other, let’s talk about what the future looks like in this arena.
Get ready to open your mind and embrace a redefining of sports. It’s already happening in the countries our marketing plans aim to emulate, but South Africa still has some time to get there. While the definition of ‘sport’ as a concept, has traditionally been, and still is, inextricably tied to levels of physical action and output, over the next few years, the very real meaning and definition will shift towards an understanding around levels of competitive nature. Whether it’s physical or not, will merely be a trait of the sport in question. As always, some people will prefer watching the sports that are physical, some the non-physical, and people who are unhealthily competitive, like me, will love it all. And that’s ok.
It might not sound drastic, because there is already ‘e-Sports’ after all, but I get the sense that our society still sees that as a brilliant marketing coup rather than what the name intends it to be seen as.
Really think about this, because culturally, in South Africa, it is going to be tough to embrace that change. Ours is a patricentric society that reveres a good bliksem, boys who don’t cry and ‘hardening the fuck up’. In the paler echelons of South African society for example, football fans know the pain of listening to the same unsolicited diatribe hurled at them around the braai: how soft our sport is, how unexciting it is, how every game ends in a draw, ra-ra alpha ra-ra. This is the most played, watched, and engaged with sport in the world getting slammed. Go introduce yourself as an ‘athlete’ who is on a professional League of Legends team- good luck, you’re going to need to gift a helluva lot of Castle Lites to get through that unscathed.
When the holding culture kicks back against the change that’s coming, remember this conversation. Whether you agree or not, sports will get redefined by our children, or their kids; and our opinion won’t stop it or make it come quicker.
My eldest, 7 years of
rage age, just got sent home with a notice that his school’s sports department is hosting a world first, Minecraft Education, tournament. I couldn’t be happier, he loves Minecraft. Regardless of my opinion, this is how things get redefined. The sports faculty, which as a 7-year-old is going to be the truth bearer of all things sports in his mind, is teaching him football, running, cricket and gaming. The result is he will now assume that all those things are equally sport, but just of a different nature. More importantly, him and his friends will one day be having their own braais… see what I’m getting at?
Put it this way: play it out in your mind, can you honestly see an Olympics that doesn’t have some sort of e-sports category in 20 years? It’s going to happen, and that’s the point.
As a giant sports fan, my son is already comfortable with the idea that his favourite football teams employ 23 people to play football on the field, and one to play football on a console. He doesn’t question that, because, you know… 7 years old. It’s not just the big money European teams, Orlando Pirates have FIFA players on the roster and host a FIFA tournament. Put it this way: play it out in your mind, can you honestly see an Olympics that doesn’t have some sort of e-sports category in 20 years? It’s going to happen, and that’s the point.
The great news is that if you’re a South African brand with any sort of equity in traditional sports, athlesiure, or even health more broadly, you’d be silly not to investigate the South African gaming world right now. I mean, today! It is yours for the taking.
HOW YOUR BRAND CAN WIN IN GAMING RIGHT NOW
Ok, so you’re in and you want to know how. These ones are on me:
- INCLUDE IN-APP MEDIA BUY INTO YOUR PLAN. You can start that today.
- SPONSOR AN E-SPORTS TEAM.
While on the rise, the South African gaming scene could still use some more corporate support. Like any sponsorship scenario in any category, consumers will know that it is really a part of your marketing plan. They’ll be okay with that as long as your support is sincere, genuinely uplifting for the community, and you’re willing to put in as much as you to get out. As you do this, especially for gaming, level up by making a concentrated effort to bring females and people of colour into the fray. Example, think ‘Girls Who Code’ but for SA gaming.
- HOST A TOURNAMENT OR CREATE A SPACE TO PLAY.
Up to 20% of connected South Africans have watched some sort of streamed gaming in the last month, 10% of the same segment say they have used Twitch in the last month. People are comfortable not only participating in communal game play but spectating as well. Be the brand that takes it out the house and into pop-ups or regular events. Level up by acknowledging how under-represented people of colour are in the chart below, as well as lower SEMs, and offering an experience these players might not be getting if their console isn’t online.
- GO TO RAGE EXPO. Next year, if the COVID gods will it so.
- FOLLOW PEOPLE, like gamer Julia Robson and other people in the industry.
- SIGN UP TO TWITCH. Watch some streamers and tournaments. People get AMPED!
- MOST IMPORTANTLY: call ten of your friends and find out which four have a console in their house. Then go around to theirs, pick up a controller and just escape.
You’ll soon see that this is a world where even the amateur Dad gamers, like me, want to be the best amateur Dad gamer in the room. While having fun, obviously. But also, you know, winning.
That’s me done. Get in the comments and let’s talk.
(TwoSliceDre is my Xbox vibe)
EDITORIAL UPDATE: Silva staying as a CM to give Grealish (LM) the chemistry
EDITORIAL UPDATE 2: Uh ja, Grealish is a permanent sub.