Heinz: Up your marketing game

How do you reaching gamers in the booming gamescape, writes Heinz’s Passant El-Ghannam

Gamers don’t just play to pass time – they live, talk, and breathe the game.

Disrupt this and you risk disrupting the precious relationship with a captive audience. And, with more than 2.7 billion gamers worldwide, this is certainly an audience worth engaging.

The gaming industry is not just a niche market anymore; it’s a thriving ecosystem that demands attention from savvy marketers.

So, how can we engage this audience authentically?

Become part of the game: In-game advertising is a great way to integrate your brand into the gaming experience – Think product placements, sponsored content, or even interactive elements; but it’s got to be done seamlessly, embedded almost magically into the world players inhabit.

A great example is Heinz ‘Hidden Spots’, a campaign created to live within Call of Duty. Built on the insight that true gamers don’t pause the fast-paced game to eat (at risk of ‘dying’ in the game), Heinz collaborated with top gaming influencers to help them ‘snack safely’ within the game, delivering burgers wrapped in maps marked with hidden safe zones that allowed them to pause and eat.

Influencers continued to mark hidden spots for others, creating a ripple effect that led to +150 hidden spots in four different games like PUBG, Counter Strike and Fortnite. The result? +4,800 minutes streamed, +220 million earned media impressions…and thousands of greasy joysticks!

Create engaging content: Gamers are a discerning audience who value authenticity and creativity. Brands need to create meaningful content that is entertaining, valuable, and – above all – relevant to gamers’ interests. This was the approach we took at Heinz when trying to engage a younger audience on the not-so-shiny topic of soil degradation – something we knew Gen Z cared about and wanted more information on.

We partnered with esports experts, Druid Gaming, to create a one-of-a-kind island on Fortnite inspired by our tomato growers’ farms. Called ‘S.O.S. Tomatoes’, the map was designed to shrink 33 per cent faster than a ‘typical’ map in Fortnite Battle Royale, shining a light on the rapid rate healthy soil is declining in the real world. Players were challenged with outrunning the map to ultimately save more soil. We translated this into impact in the real world by committing to protect more soil outside of the game.

Embrace the culture – and community – with open arms: Gaming is a vibrant culture with a shared language, norms and communities. The gaming landscape has undergone a seismic shift. Gone are the days of basement-dwelling stereotypes. Today’s gamers encompass a diverse range of ages, genders and backgrounds. They’re doctors, lawyers, students, professionals – all united by their passion.

This passion fosters a sense of community, making them highly receptive to brands that understand and appreciate their world. To resonate with gamers, brands must immerse themselves fully into this world and adopt the things (the language, the norms) that make it unique.  It’s more than just understanding gaming trends and staying up-to-date with the latest releases, it’s listening to gaming communities on social media, attending in-person events and understanding what makes this world so special.

At Heinz, we stay connected through close relationships with esports stars and gaming influencers. We partner with them authentically, co-creating meaningful content that fits into their world, while bringing our brands to this deeply connected audience. Brands can consider taking a step into this world by sponsoring major tournaments, listening to gamers, participating in conversations, and supporting initiatives that help build trust and credibility within the gaming community.

Approaching the gaming world with respect, authenticity, and a true desire to add value and relevance (and of course, a little entertainment) will help unlock an amazingly passionate, connected and engaged audience that – if you ‘play’ it right – will help grow and evolve alongside your brands far beyond the virtual realm.

So, put on your virtual headset, grab your controller, and get ready to level up your marketing strategy.

By Passant El-Ghannam, Marketing Director MEA at KraftHeinz