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What branding can learn from game studies: increasing engagement through game affordance
| 355 4090 | Game Studies | Final Essay | 08/07/2011
Tell me and I'll forget, Show me and I might remember, Involve me and I'll understand.
(FOR SUMMARY SEE BELOW)
Branding in the digital age is both problematic as well as perceived to be a blessing (Harden & Heyman 2009, ). What can be said about branding is that it is not only “about creating a persona and positioning it in a way that allows people to engage with it and fulfil a goal that you have.”(Scholtz, Gottaquirck.com); it is about preventing an identity crises. In the same article on Gottaquirk.com, Scholtz refers to branding as both creating engagement that is likely to come from the consumer's side (Duarte, Gottaquirk.com), as well as “customer control”. On the other hand Harden & Heymen (2009, 4) mention “participatory culture” as essential, whereas Gauld suggests that this is a term from the past (2009, 39). Branding, according to award winning media commentator Mathiesen, is “the means by which a company creates a compelling consumer experience that differentiates the company’s offerings from the competition, generates sales, and/or creates an emotional bond with customers.” (2005, 22). These views on branding show us that contemporary branding is hard too define, let alone practised successfully. Customer control or participatory culture: the current digital age seems to be suited for both. Copyright protection or modding? There is one thing these notions share; the idea of engagement. Be it forcefully or willingly, being “pushed” or “pulled”, the ideology of branding is made very much clear in figure 1.; customer loyalty.
Figure 1: Brand Heaven (Darmano.typepad.com1) But brand engagement in the contemporary digitised world that seems to change every minute, almost seems a utopia. One way this can be achieved however, is proposed by Lindstrom, who 1 h ttp://darmano.typepad.com/logic_emotion/brand_engagement/
claims that “Computer games are fearlessly venturing on into the sensory universe, leveraging technology as the tool of implementation.” (2005, 204). In reference to the earlier comment of Duarte, modding can be seen as an explicit example where the business often relies on the creativity of their customers. Another link between gaming and branding can be found in advert games, such as the McDonalds2, but also games that are provided to customers for free while adverts are running in the background, such as FarmVille on Facebook 3, or the EA sports-game collection that is based on real-life competition clubs such as the NBA or FIFA. However, here too, a distinction can be noticed; ranging from advert-games, games featuring advertisments, in-game advertising (such as brands in Second-Life) or entire games based on a brand. Needless to say that it is often hard to see what is working, what not, and why. In order to get a grip on branding through games, a media perspective is necessary. “” is just one example of an array of views that critically question the aid of games within the field of branding. Though by no means a “holy grail”, this does not mean that games cannot contribute to brand engagement. One example of applying a game-studies approach to branding is the Proctor & Gamble branding disaster of the Rely tampon product4. Though the outcome of the incident had nothing to with gaming, allowing a game-studies perspective (bargaining games specifically) has contributed in defining the final outcome of the conflict as “a stable equilibrium point that, though not ideal, represented the best outcome for each side given the pressures from the other side” (Haig 2003, 138). This shows that branding and gaming from a media-studies perspective can be beneficial in analysing problems and possibilities. This exploratory essay researches games from the point of view of “affordance theory” as proposed by Gibson. In this sense, affordance means “An affordance refers to the fact that the physical properties of an object make possible different functions for the person perceiving or using that object. In other words, the properties of objects determine the possibilities for action. (Sellen & Harper (2005: 17). In this essay, games, that is, games in its most elementary form, will be subjected to affordance-theory, after which the same will be done for the concept of a “brand”. Once we have charted what these research objects allow for, it is possible to subject them to Bruno Latour's Actor Network Theory. The reason to do so is that the previous outcome of affordances is very theoretical and isolated from everyday life. In order to say something about games functioning within in the field of branding, it is necessary to take put this into a functional context. Finally, this will allow us to outline some of the “pro's and con's” of games used for
2 http://www.mcvideogame.com/index-eng.html 3 http://www.facebook.com/FarmVille 4
creating brand engagement. The research question therefore is: “How do game affordances establish (or obstruct) brand engagement?”. It must be taken into account however, that this essay has an exploratory nature, meaning that it does not take into account the immense amount of different games and different types of brands (e.g. brands for FMCG or financial products). The goal is to introduce game studies as a way of looking at brands, adding an academic take on branding in the current digitised society.
• • • • • • Research question: “How do game affordances establish (or obstruct) brand engagement?”. Problem: branding does not have an academic basis for applying games to branding (engagement) programs Solution: start/add too a body of knowledge of games and branding, but this time from the perspective of media-studies with an academic background Nature of essay: exploratory (instead of presenting an argument, etc.) Argument: gaming is (part of everyone's) life, so be in the game: remind them that you're there Goal of paper (motivation): ◦ 1) contribute to game studies, ◦ 2) contribute to branding, ◦ 3) show that in an interconnected world fields interfere, ◦ 4) this interference can be beneficial if guided correctly, ◦ 5) branding needs game studies to form a proper image, ◦ 6) gaming is an industry too, ◦ 7) game industry get's it, now on to other industries Contents: ◦ First: brand loyality in a digital age: its about “engagement” ▪ core concept of brand (lots of definitions to be found) ▪ affordances of a brand (what meaning has “a brand” in someone's life? Does it allow identification, product orientation, etc.) ▪ conclusion ◦ Second: ▪ core concept of game (Homo Ludens, Huizinga + Raessens) ▪ use of games vs. gamification (two different things) ▪ affordance of a game (what meaning has “a game” in someone's life? Does it allow identification, product orientation, etc.) ▪ conclusion ◦ Third: ▪ ANT perspective on (Latour, Lister et. al.): • brand (how to the affordances translate to agency) • game (how to the affordances translate to agency) • brand & games (how to the agencies of both concepts interfere (obstacles or things to keep in mind when using games for branding) or combine (benefits of games used for branding) Disclaimers: ◦ not all brand are the same ◦ not all games are the same ◦ “affordance” is not equal to “effects” of “results” ◦ soft power is hard to measure ◦ games are not a miracle for branding (engagement is)
Branding Martin Lindstrom Scholtz Mathieson Braun Shaughnessy Kotler Till & Heckle Harden & Heyman Haig Ries Games Miller Sihvonen Loguidice & Barton Newman Raessens Huizinga Jenkins Aarseth Calleja Media theory (used for analysis of branding & games) Sellen Latour Gibson Lister et. al. Van Der Hoek
About the author
As a media expert with a background in business and organisation, the mediation between emotional and business value has always attracted me. In the field of media studies, gaming is becoming more and more a point of interest and being a gamer myself, it has always frustrated me that a lot of businesses ruin the branding potential of the game. This essay will be an exploratory attempt to align branding and gaming, based on the idea of affordance.
Affordance: Sellen & Harper (2005: 17), The Myth of the Paperless Office
An affordance refers to the fact that the physical properties of an object make possible different functions for the person perceiving or using that object. In other words, the properties of objects determine the possibilities for action.