AU business programs prepare marketers to understand consumer behavior

The profile of a video gamer may not be what you expect. Get the details on who’s buying video games and learn how you can market to this audience.

The video game industry has grown rapidly, even as other entertainment sectors have remained stagnant or experienced shrinkage in the down economy. Video games have moved out of the arcade and into our living rooms, social networks and telephones. Friskies has even released three video games for cats. “Gamification,” the integration of typical elements of game playing into a non-game context in order to engage users, affects online learning, too, as Dr. Carmella Moran, Dean of Aurora University Online, points out. Institutions are starting to include gaming into college completion, test prep and everything in-between. Introducing this new way of learning helps students to engage in the learning process and better retain knowledge for tests and overall retention.

Aurora University offers courses in consumer and market behavior through its online Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Master of Arts in Business Administration degree programs. The study of consumer behavior can greatly help marketers understand how to reach their intended audience. However, marketers still struggle with how to reach this seemingly elusive demographic. Maybe that’s because the average video gamer isn’t who you think they are.

The Average Gamer

What comes to mind upon hearing the word “gamer?” Surprisingly, the average gamer is 30 years old and has been playing for 12 years. According to the Entertainment Software Association’s (ESA) 2012 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry, 68 percent of gamers are 18 or older. Even more surprising is the fact that 47 percent of all gamers are women, outshining males under 17 by 12 percentage points. In fact, women over 18 comprise the fastest growing demographic in the industry.

Furthermore, 62 percent of gamers report playing games with others for at least one hour per week. An additional 33 percent of gamers engage in social gaming (think Zynga’s Words With Friends or Draw Something). Gamers play on-the-go, too. One-third of gamers use their smartphone or tablet to play, and another 25 percent play using a handheld device, such as the PSP or Nintendo DS.

This helps to paint a very different picture of the average gamer, doesn’t it?

The Family that Plays Together

The ongoing debate over gun control in the U.S. often calls into question the issue of violent video games and how to keep those games out of the hands of children. Contrary to common belief, the ESA has found that parents are present when video games are purchased or rented 90 percent of the time. Additionally, 98 percent of parents believe the rating system developed by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) helps them decide which games are appropriate for their children. Over half of all games sold in 2011 were rated “Everyone (E)” or “Everyone 10+ (E10+).”

The study goes on to show that the majority of families feel video games are a positive influence in their lives. Sixty-six percent of parents believe that video games mentally stimulate children and offer educational merits. Sixty-one percent of families play video games together, and 59 percent of parents see video games as a social outlet for their children to connect with friends.

Enter the Merchant

So, now we’re looking at male and female young adults, families and pampered cats. Forgetting the felines, how can marketers capitalize on this behavior?

According to Geoffrey Greenblatt, North American gaming director at Mindshare, some of the most important tactics involve forming a relationship with game developers. It’s important to fully integrate your messaging within a game; if it’s a “tacked on” effort, gamers will know and your marketing spend will have a negative effect. By fostering a relationship with developers, you can be sure to get in early, before the game is even in production.

Another interesting strategy is to bridge virtual and real. Reward your player in-game when they make a purchase in the real world. An excellent example of this is Pepsi’s partnership with Halo 4. When a player purchases a Pepsi product, he or she is rewarded with XP (experience points) that can be redeemed in the game.

Most importantly, this information tells marketers that they can target many demographics within the gamer community. Different outlets exist to target subgroups. Adweek recently reported on the gaming site Giant Bomb, which allows viewers to log-on and watch live-game webcasts (essentially, other people playing and explaining games). The site said the majority of its viewers are men between 18 and 34, and that they spend an average of 23 minutes viewing per session.

Conan O’Brien also leverages live-gaming marketing on his late-night show, a time slot that bodes well for marketers looking to target men and women ages 18-49. In a segment called “Clueless Gamer,” Conan reviews video games. His digital ineptitude coupled with live gameplay is comedy gold for those who are in on the joke and marketing magic for AT&T. Katie Thicksten, a junior in the Business Administration track at Aurora University, agrees that the segment is both entertaining and helpful advertising. “Real time game play is effective in the Conan O’Brien show,” she says, “because gamers can see what a game is like before making a purchase.”

Visceral Games recently launched a powerful and innovative campaign for the game Dead Space 2 that utilized knowledge of gamer demographics. Since a large percentage of video game purchases are made by middle-aged women (moms purchasing games for their children), they conducted a focus test on mothers and filmed their reactions. “Your mom hates Dead Space 2” was the result. It’s a great idea because it speaks to that over-30 core gaming demographic by saying, “This game is not for kids.” Yet, it still targets a younger audience, using the “you want what you can’t have” angle. On a third level, the campaign shows the parents exactly what is in the gameplay that they may disapprove of, so they can make a decision prior to purchasing the game.

That leaves us with female gamers. Women over 18 who play video games are an untapped market for advertisers. There’s an outcry across the internet for marketing geared to female gamers. This demographic is literally asking to be advertised to. It’s a marketer’s dream.

Consumer Behavior

The big idea is that studying consumer behavior is key to marketing success. Brian Vander Schee, Associate Professor of Marketing at Aurora University, states, “Applying [consumer behavior] to demographics gives a more complete picture of the marketplace where the right offer can be made at the right time at the right price and right location. It helps a company work smarter, not just harder.” Essentially, you’ve got to know your audience.

With such rapid advances in technology, marketing and business professionals have a whole new arsenal at their disposal. Exciting new strategies and techniques are coming into play every day. Keep abreast of these changes and better reach your audience. Whether it be an online bachelor’s degree in business or an online MBA degree, Aurora University can help you advance your business career by furthering your degree.