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PepsiCo’s strategies for marketing via online games and esports

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PepsiCo's strategies for marketing via online games and esports


Marketers have never had more opportunities to break into in-game advertising, due to the growing number of users and the evolving technology for brand placements. PepsiCo has a vast portfolio of beverages and foods, and Paul Mascali, PepsiCo’s head of gaming and esports, has put together a multipronged marketing strategy to connect the right products with the right customers in the right game environments.

“In-game advertising is a highly-engaged instance,” said Mascali. “Attention is fully on the game and not passive, it’s a lived-in experience. The biggest thing is that it’s the right type of integration, and that’s why we’re working with premium publishers to maximize those eyeballs.”

Not every brand is a world-famous soft drink, however. Fortunately, there are many entry points for brands to tap into the highly-engaged gaming community.

Getting started with dynamic in-game advertising

One of the easiest low-cost ways to get started with in-game advertising is also one of the newest – dynamic in-game advertising.

Marketers don’t have to get in early when a video game is being developed in order to claim a spot for brand integration. Instead, game publishers create and sell inventory for advertisers after the game is released.

Think of all the advertising opportunities during a Formula One race or when you take a walk down a busy street in the real world. Well, in the virtual environment of a video game, those same billboards and car sponsorships can be made available to advertisers, and swapped in and out programmatically in real time.

Read next: How the gaming universe is preparing marketers for the metaverse to come

“Dynamic in-game advertising is more of a turnkey solution for brands who don’t have a strong foothold in games, don’t have bigger budgets and haven’t really leaned in,” said Mascali. “It’s a good way to test the waters.” 

This lets marketers new to gaming test and learn which game environments work best. And they don’t have to commit a lot of their ad budget or time, because adtech vendors like Anzu are making dynamic ads accessible across many game publishers.

Hard-coded in-game advertising

Brands with clout, and the budget to match, can get involved earlier in the development of a (hopefully) blockbuster game, creating a more integrated ad experience. A hard-coded in-game advertising placement means marketers collaborate closely with developers to make the brand an actual part of the game and not just a digital billboard.

In order to pull this off, marketers should already know some of the games and audiences that work for their product.

For instance, PepsiCo has had a long history in video game integrations, including the NBA 2K series developed by Visual Concepts and played on top consoles, PC and mobile.

In the NBA 2K22 update for the most recent basketball season, the game included the branded GatoradeTraining Facility. Far more than a fleeting ad during gameplay, players could go to this part of the game and consume drinks with their player avatars, thus improving their player’s performance level.

Cross-promotions in-game and on other channels

A popular game’s devoted audience will interact with other audiences, amplifying brand marketing.

That’s why Mascali’s team jumped on the opportunity to create The Dew Court in the NBA 2K game. It is modeled on the real-world three-point contest during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend, which is sponsored by PepsiCo’s MTN DEW.

Having the branded experience consistent between the actual sporting event and the in-game experience adds to the realism of the game for players. And it adds to the brand exposure for PepsiCo. In the game, players shoot three-pointers on the Dew Court and can earn in-game rewards, adding higher stakes and more perks for players.

Similarly, NBA 2K22 also included the 4-Point Ridge Tournament. This experience replicated the Ruffles “four-point line” from the celebrity game at All-Star Weekend. Ruffles is another PepsiCo brand.

“From our experience, hardcoding is more customized and dials deep into why these consumers play and how we can be additive to their experience,” said Mascali.

Growing e-commerce through games

Traditional retail channels for brands have been disrupted by e-commerce. Consumer packaged goods companies like PepsiCo have adapted by launching their own direct-to-consumer offerings.

When the company launched their first owned portal for a beverage in 2020, gaming was an integral part of the strategy, and continues to be. MTN DEW Game Fuel is a line of beverages designed for gamers. Some flavors are tied to specific games, such as Activision’s Call of Duty Warzone.

Instead of having to run off to the local 7-Eleven, gamers can go to the Game Fuel portal and order drinks. They can also earn rewards through purchasing drinks and other products, making Game Fuel a loyalty program and D2C play.

Game Fuel has also partnered with the Atlanta Faze esports team, bringing exposure to fans who follow esports online and watch broadcasts of league tournaments.

Gaming influencers get deeper in the community

Another of the company’s beverage brands, Rockstar Energy Drink, recently announced a multiyear partnership with gaming organization NRG.

NRG is a leader in gaming lifestyle content shown on YouTube, Twitch and other video and social hubs where gamers and esports fans can watch masters display their skills on Fortnite, Valorant and other popular game franchises. To give an idea of the scale, NRG-owned channels, which feature top esport figures, have 50 million monthly active users.

The first marketing initiative is a sponsored livestream music experience called SOUND SERIES.

“From our standpoint, these guys and girls are modern day celebrities for this generation,” said Mascali. “With the engagement they get, when we find the right influencer-brand fit, it’s great for us and their communities. When we find the right brand fit, we have them talk about them, and that becomes a powerful marketing avenue for us.”

According to Mascali, every game has its own culture and its own community. Top influencers know these communities the best, so it’s about giving them the creative independence to carry through brand values and enthusiasm to their audience.

Marketers should have a firm grasp of these brand values before approaching game developers, publishers or influencers. Once they do, marketers have a wide array of options to get in quick, say through dynamic in-game ads, or take a more studied and integrated approach through hard-coding, cross-promotion, influencers and e-commerce plays.


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About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.



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How to turn the great buyer resignation into B2B career opportunities

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Create a B2B GTM strategy that buyers, execs and revenue teams love


Marketers play a large, proactive role in the buying-selling process to generate revenue across the entire buyer lifecycle – from generating a new customer, to contract renewal, to solution expansion and cross-sell/upsell.

This is no small task, especially when B2B buyers, barraged by untimely automated messages, random cold calls and lackluster outreach from both sales and marketing, are opting out of vendor conversations. B2B marketing expert Tony Zambito calls this the “Great Buyer Resignation.” This phenomenon has progressively intensified over the last five years and is both a challenge and an opportunity for B2B marketers.

A reality check

Let’s tackle the B2B challenge first by capturing today’s reality. The B2B buying process has gone primarily digital; most B2B sellers and teams have not. Sales has limited access to prospects and customers. We know the facts. According to Gartner, more than two-thirds of the buying process is complete before buyers engage directly with a brand rep. Only 17% of the B2B buying process time is spent with a salesperson across all suppliers. And this scenario is only accelerating as digital native professionals become influencers and decision-makers.


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To contribute to revenue and customer generation, B2B marketers are cranking out “leads” to help sales generate revenue. Marketers are often using legacy marketing automation-centric practices developed during the first wave of marketing technology and lead generation. The teams are pushing out random campaigns in a world where prospects and buyers already know what’s coming when they download a white paper or attend a webinar. Cringe — here come the automated nurture and cadenced phone calls.

Compounding the challenge, prospect and customer outreach happens in silos via one-off campaigns, isolated channels and focused functional teams. And data is being used to justify spending rather than apply buyer and account intelligence to deliver more timely information, better buyer engagement experiences, and more creative outreach.

The change and challenge revenue teams face are real.

Marketing’s impact opportunity in the buyer and customer generation lifecycle

With change comes opportunities for B2B marketers who understand, embrace and develop a smarter approach to identify, engage and delight buyers. And it should be emphasized that B2B teams and marketers have begun their transformation as marketing works across their entire company to play a more proactive role in all revenue and customer generation aspects.

From talking with progressive B2B go-to-market (GTM) leaders, here are strategies to stop mass buyer resignation, advance your career and have a much more significant impact on revenue growth.

1. Drive the shift from push to pull marketing

We often focus our effort on pushing email, cranking out business development representative calls, blasting ads and putting up forms to engage B2B pros. The breakthrough strategies are built around moving from pushing stuff at prospects and customers to pulling buyers through their process. Give them control. Provide options and let them guide their own journey, based on their needs, with value-added assistance. This is an art and science to master. This playbook and skill-set is, and will continue to be, highly coveted.

2. Focus on moments we create, not just those touchpoints we capture

Capture” is primarily what we do today in the form of paid media engagement to generate leads, drive web traffic and white paper downloads, and sponsor events to scan and swipe badges. The best marketers are flipping this model and asking, “How can we create moments for the buyer?”

Moment creation requires a proactive, experiential mindset putting ourselves in the shoes of our most coveted buyers and accounts. Breakthrough moments and experiences can be done through:

  • Product-led growth (PLG).
  • Interactive and self-guided applications and videos.
  • Personalized workshops for prospective buying teams at your target accounts.
  • Curated web pages that feature topical and popular content aligning with themes your buyer has been researching or engaging with over the last quarter.

It doesn’t have to be over complicated.

3. Master the full customer lifecycle

Today’s market realities and company growth mandates underline the need to build GTM models, strategies and resources around the entire customer lifecycle. With today’s prevailing Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and cloud subscription customer financial models, 50 to 70% of the profit comes from existing customers.

For a deeper perspective, a five percent increase in retention results in an estimated 25 to 95% increase in revenue.

4. Embrace data intelligence and science

We will not be effective marketing leaders or pros without the ability to access, use and interpret data. At a minimum, we must be proactive in using data to understand markets, customers, accounts and market trends. The ideal case is to be confident in turning data into insights and actions and applying data science to help guide investments, programs and experiences. Data cannot be used simply to justify or defend marketing spend.

The most in-demand marketing skills in a B2B buyer-driven world

Let’s look at a few past examples of marketing career breakthroughs to plot the future. Ironically, the emergence and mastery of marketing automation tools, data and campaigns created a generation of what turned out to be the marketing operations (MOps) profession. It’s become a well-compensated, highly respected and in-demand role. In another example, the rise of account-based marketing (ABM) created a shift of sales support-focused field marketers to revenue generation-focused members of the GTM team.

Based on the Great Buyer Resignation reality and market shifts, here are a few high-impact career opportunities for talented pros who want to up-level their professional world while positively impacting their company’s growth. It is important to point out these re-imagined roles all focus across the customer lifecycle and obliterate internal silos whenever and wherever possible.

  • Growth marketing: This high-impact role is the next level of demand marketing, which today has largely been focused on digital and paid media spend to generate qualified leads or pipelines. Growth encompasses the full customer/buyer lifecycle of revenue generation in today’s Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscription world. It also focuses on identifying and activating the markets, drivers and industries to grow revenue and expand the company’s total available market (TAM).
  • Journey architects: To align with best-fit buyers and accounts, this craft is an ability to use buyer and account intelligence to create experiences to more naturally pull a buyer or buying group through their journey. With a full view across buyer channels and company touchpoints, this role expands beyond marketing to ensure more timely information. For perspective, this is the buyer-driven outgrowth of what was integrated marketing.
  • Revenue ops: It is very difficult to identify and engage buyers and target accounts if your view is only on sales, marketing, customer success or finance. This progressive function demands a full view of buyer and customer lifecycles. It unifies and analyzes data to empower the rest of the front-line, customer-facing players to act on intelligence and insights.

The bottom line on what buyer resignation means for our marketing careers

Now is an opportunistic time to capitalize on market and marketing shifts and commit to buyer-centric GTM strategies and tactics. If you see a new role or transformation opportunity inside your organization or at a new company, raise your hand and dive in. These are the times when careers are made and energized.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Scott Vaughan is a B2B CMO and go-to-market leader. After several CMO and business leadership roles, Scott is now an active advisor and consultant working with CMO, CXOs, Founders, and investors on business, marketing, product, and GTM strategies. He thrives in the B2B SaaS, tech, marketing, and revenue world.

His passion is fueled by working in-market to create new levels of business and customer value for B2B organizations. His approach is influenced and driven by his diverse experience as a marketing leader, revenue driver, executive, market evangelist, speaker, and writer on all things marketing, technology, and business. He is drawn to disruptive solutions and to dynamic companies that need to transform.



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Grow revenue streams through web accessibility and compliance

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Grow revenue streams through web accessibility and compliance


1 out of 4 people in the U.S. lives with some type of disability. Because consumers are online now more than in previous years, your clients’ websites must be accessible to everyone.

It’s not merely a matter of being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). It’s also good business—because web accessibility can deliver better results and enhance search engine optimization.

Join a panel of agency, compliance and disability leaders to hear more about how web accessibility can work for your agency and your clients.

Register today for “Agencies: Grow Revenue Streams Through Web Accessibility & Compliance,” presented by accessiBe.


About The Author

Cynthia Ramsaran is director of custom content at Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land and MarTech. A multi-channel storyteller with over two decades of editorial/content marketing experience, Cynthia’s expertise spans the marketing, technology, finance, manufacturing and gaming industries.



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Why Sales Teams Should Care about the Fake Web

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Why Sales Teams Should Care about the Fake Web


The issue of the Fake Web has been all over the news lately. Perhaps most notably, Elon Musk delayed his deal with Twitter until they agreed to further transparency around bots and fake users. Additionally, a viral tweet about the increase of fake internet traffic also attracted the attention of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

All of this is probably not a surprise to anyone on the pulse of technology news. But it is reasonable to wonder: What does this have to do with sales?

For starters, reports show that $115 billion is lost each year in sales labor costs due to bots and fake users.

To help connect the dots here, we’ve outlined a few specific ways these bad actors impact sales teams on every level and ultimately hurt businesses bottom line.

Sales teams end up wasting time on bad leads.

Time is critical in the sales cycle. Leads need to be acted on quickly before they lose interest or forget they requested to be contacted completely. For this reason, sales professionals put a lot of time and effort into crafting the perfect email sequences, following up with leads, and nurturing these leads until they are ready to buy.

But sometimes leads that were once considered “hot” go silent. This can be because they genuinely lost interest, their priorities changed, they realized they didn’t have budget for a specific line item, or they went with a competitor. Other times leads go cold because they were never really leads to begin with – they were bots and fake users.

When this is the case, it is not only frustrating and disappointing, but it also takes time away from real genuine leads who could have used more attention. Since time is money, this is also reducing the potential revenue a business could be bringing in.

Inventory numbers become inaccurate.

For companies that sell items of limited quantities (retail brands, ticketing services, tourism and travel companies, concerts and sporting events, etc.), it is important to keep track of how much inventory is available. They want to ensure that customers are able to purchase available items while not misleading anyone into thinking something is available if it is sold out in actuality.

Obviously, a bot can’t go to a concert or put on a pair of exclusive sneakers, but they skew inventory numbers through a variety of malicious practices.

This can take the form of scraping information and reselling at a lower price on other sites, which causes businesses to overstock and undersell. It can also come in the form of bad actors committing credit card fraud by using fake or expired cards, which causes the business to lose both the product and the revenue. Additionally, bots can be programmed to instantly buy thousands upon thousands of items before real users ever have the chance to purchase.

All of this throws off the sales cycle by making it impossible to determine how much genuine interest for certain goods and services there is in the market.

Trust is lost between sales and marketing.

Many sales cycles start with marketing. A future customer might first hear about a brand through social media. Or maybe they discovered a company in a search query. Perhaps they saw a few paid advertisements and decided to dive deeper. Marketing is a critical component of driving pipeline and ultimately revenue.

Sales teams know that when leads show up in their database, it didn’t come out of thin air – it was likely a result of marketing. But when there is a pattern of marketing leads having fake names or emails, or appearing promising but randomly going silent – sales teams start to question the legitimacy of all marketing leads.

If there are bots and fake users entering the funnel and being passed off to sales, it decreases the overall quality of marketing leads, and consequently decreases trust.

For all of these reasons and more, many teams are adopting Go-to-Market Security to ensure all the hard work sales and marketing teams put in each day isn’t hindered by the Fake Web.





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