Get in the Game: What Mobile Marketing Tricks You Can Learn From Gaming Companies

by Adam Foroughi on Oct 2, 2014

Many people see the mobile games industry as its own beast, but a lot of what happens in the gaming world can provide important learnings for brands and advertisers. Game makers are at the forefront of this mobile app world, and we can learn from them and apply their techniques to marketing general consumer apps.

Track, Attribute, and Test

Among the games companies with the most successful mobile advertising strategies, tracking, attributing, and testing are absolute obsessions. Tying revenue back to media sources so they can prove ROI is essential, and this is achieved by tracking the full funnel. Game companies review how to drive players into the top of the funnel, then how to optimize the middle of the funnel for engagement, and even how to improve the end of the funnel to increase transactions.

Mobile game makers also know that the best way to get real insights on retention, engagement and monetization is to run cohort tests. Cohort testing is analyzing a group of users that have completed a certain action in a set period of time. By tracking a specific cohort of users, companies can test if offers or specific ad creative have a positive impact by looking at how behavior is affected after the test and then compare it to prior cohorts.

This is serious business and no matter what your vertical, the only way to compete is to know how users perform at every stage and continually test to stay ahead of the game.

The Price is Right

Mobile game makers have learned how to spend more effectively, not just more. Those who are the best at mobile ad spends are nimble and maximize their buys based on performance and ROI, not on a pre-set arbitrary budget.

There is a clear benefit to any other industry in following this approach. The most successful game companies don’t just make one flat bid for every campaign. Rather, they price the campaign against the opportunity. If an app is popular and is showing great performance, they will increase their bid (because they know it will provide a strong ROI). If an app is less popular and has users with lower performance – they bid lower (because the ROI will be less). This is far from rocket science: bid to the return on investment. But it’s easy to get lost in brand metrics and pay less attention to the actual ROI.

The lesson that’s applicable to all? If you have an ad that is performing well with a proven ROI, put more money against it to drive increased engagement and revenues.

Retarget, Deep Link

Game companies know that simply getting an install in itself doesn’t mean much. They, like the rest of us, want engaged and loyal users. A necessity born out of the fierce competition in their space, game companies are on the cutting edge of user acquisition, and are pioneers in using mobile retargeting to keep their users engaged. Of people who don’t re-open an app within 7 days of the first time they’ve used it, 60% will never use the app again, reports Localytics. So, game companies build engagement through retargeting.  They show ads in other apps to users who have dropped off in order to entice them back and increase retention. Game companies know that these users are the low hanging fruit, and by using platforms with retargeting capabilities, they are able to reach them to engage again and again.

Outside of the gaming world, a commerce app can use the same principles of retargeting to help with abandon carts and upsell similar products. Advertisers can leverage browsing and purchase behavior to deliver ads that retarget users for specific offers and relevant products. But getting these users to click on relevant ads is only the beginning, by deep linking from an ad directly to a product page, brands gets users back into their app to purchase. Overall, by re-engaging consumers and suggesting similar products it maintains the relationship for future purchases and leads to increased lifetime value (LTV).


Get Creative, Literally

It’s in their DNA, so it makes sense that game companies have got the creative aspect of their mobile ads perfectly dialed in. They use immersive creative, with the context/mobile platform in mind, and those who are the best at it update it constantly. What, you don’t have a team of in-house designers who are knowledgeable about creating mobile ads? That’s ok–many game companies rely on their ad partners to build and optimize creative. And that’s actually a wise move, not just one made out of necessity. Your ad partners (assuming they’re good ones) have spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours testing what works best in a mobile ad.

Game On

The mobile games landscape is not for the faint of heart. Producing a game takes long hours and the competition is fierce. But we can benefit from what the brave souls in the mobile games industry have to teach us about being aggressive, yet deliberate in our respective mobile marketing strategies. Tried and true methods like smart spending, using data to make decisions, and having strong creative assets have long been the hallmarks of successful marketing campaigns. Mobile game companies have applied these long standing methods to mobile marketing and reaped the benefits. Follow suit and you’ll do the same.

Adam Foroughi is AppLovin’s CEO.