Skip to content

What Gaming Can Teach Us About Digital Marketing: Part 2

  • Aqil 

In the previous blog post, we discussed the mindset you need to have when defining your audience: your setting and your characters. This understanding will provide an overarching shape to your campaign and, once you have that in place, you can get into the specifics. As we move forward to the more granular plans for your campaign (be it gaming or marketing), keep in mind what we talked about in the last post. Both marketers and dungeon masters (DMs) keep binders (or digital folders) full of their research and constantly refer back to it when planning and implementing their campaign.


We’re still far from launching the campaign, but we still need to plan out every step that your players/customers are going to take. This is often overlooked by marketers and DMs, but it’s essential to any successful campaign. It’s not enough to plan out the first step, alone: I’m going to have my characters wake up in a tavern and see what they decide to do from there (cliche, I know); I’m going to put this one ad on LinkedIn and see where it goes from there (cliches come from somewhere). Before you start the campaign, you need to plan (if possible) all the way through to the end. Both tabletop and marketing campaigns are made up of encounters: interactions between you and your players/customers. This can take the form of fights between your players and enemies, social media posts or ads, conversations with friendly NPCs, emails and newsletters, solving a puzzle, visiting a website or landing page, the list goes on. When planning an encounter, the easy part is just to come up with the initial interaction: your players meet a river troll (roll initiative); you send your customers an email (also roll initiative). But a successful campaign plan includes all parts of the encounter.

What weapons/armor will your players encounter?What content will your customers encounter?
Why is your troll fighting against your players?Why are you showing this to your customers?
What loot will the troll drop?What will your customers gain from this experience?
What about experience points?What will being your customers back?

Will your customers/players learn something that they can apply later? Will they want to convert after reading it? Will they enquire for more information? A good campaign plan includes all this information. As people are becoming more inundated with digital advertisements in our everyday life, less is more but meaning is most. Once you have a plan of what you’re making and what your customers will gain from it, then you can create meaningful content.

This is also the place where marketers and DMs need to put their own wants on the backburner. Sure we may have learned about a great new innovation in our field or something weird and sinister in the Monster Manual, and we get excited and want to share it. But when creating a campaign, specifically, your focus needs to be on what the customers want and what they will get out of it. Giving your audience what they want is the primary focus, but that doesn’t mean you have to ignore what excites you or your company. Sometimes you can convince the customer that they want something as well. While this can take more time, you can use your encounters to fulfill this purpose. Your level one players may not be ready to take on a full-sized dragon, but an interaction with some villagers who had their homes destroyed by the local beast may inspire your players to move toward that goal. Likewise, your customers may not be ready for the latest update you have to offer, but carefully placed educational campaigns can help get them there in the long run. Remember, the end result to most digital campaigns is not a transaction; your customers won’t always walk away with something tangible but, if you prioritize the customer in your campaign, they’ll almost always walk away with something. And that something can bring them back to you, so make sure your customers are getting something out of your interactions.

Calls to Action

What’s just as important as encounters is how they are linked and how players and customers get from one to the next. We’ve all seen the “Customer Journey” funnel, but what we tend to forget is that it’s not a normal funnel: customers don’t just fall through when you dump them into the top, they need to be pushed through every interaction to reach the next level. Just like in games, your characters need a motivation to get from one encounter to the next. You can’t send a horde of goblins to attack their wagon and expect them to follow their trail to the goblin lair, just like you can’t expect to send an email to potential customers and expect them to convert on their own. Both scenarios rely on calls to action. But calls to action aren’t always as obvious as an NPC with a yellow exclamation point over their head or a big, colorful button that says “Click Here to Learn More”. Those simply act as a doorway for your audience to walk through, the real CTA is in the content of your encounter itself. Slicing through a sea of sewer rats can be just as boring as slicing through a sea of promotional emails, not just because it’s monotonous but because it’s supremely impersonal. Since you’ve already defined your audience and the environment that you’re in (thanks for following along in real-time, by the way), you can use this information to tailor your content to them directly. Take a look at the following CTAs:

  • “Learn how [our service] can help your team work together”
  • “Learn how [our service] can help your team be more efficient”
  • “Learn how [our service] can help your team save on costs”

They look the same, and they function pretty much the same, but they appeal to widely different audiences. Once you understand what your audience is looking for, you’ll be able to tailor your content to help push them to the next level.

Every encounter is made up of micro CTAs that you need to consider: the subject line should push your customer to open your email, the header and hero image of your email should push your customers to the content of your email, the content should push your customers to the next step, and so on. It can be easy, as a marketer, to create content for the sake of content; keep the pipeline open so someone can come through. It’s even easier, as a customer, to ignore content that doesn’t appeal to you. So make sure that your audience is engaged, every step of the way.

Reusing content

Creating a campaign, especially one that lasts a while can be exhausting. It’s a constant cycle of analysis, creation, analysis, creation, analysis, creation. It can be 

The two greatest forces that work against campaigns, both in games and marketing, are disinterest and repetition. Even if you’re repeating the same message, for example advertising the product across multiple channels, there are things you can do to break up the repetition. And by monitoring the interaction and engagement of your audience, you can see what works and what should be modified. But that doesn’t mean what works will always work. Every success is an opportunity to try something new. If your campaign is successful, take a look at all the encounters. What had the most engagement? Where did people drop off (people always drop off)? It may be enticing to say “this piece worked, so let’s just do it again” but from the customer perspective, they’ll say “I’ve already seen this.” And maybe they’ll cave and engage with the content, but more likely they’ll be annoyed and ignore it. Instead, try to take what you’ve learned from your interactions and hone in on your customer.

Once you have all this in mind, you’re ready to start creating your campaign. Time to pull out the snacks, your lucky d20, and your Google Analytics tab and get started. Remember, you want to do as much planning as possible before the campaign actually starts. Any changes you make during your campaign may confuse your customers or your players. Besides, you’ve spent enough time on the planning, you may as well stick with what you have. There will be plenty of opportunity to make changes in the future. Next week, we’ll get into analyzing your campaign and how to plan for the future.