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Digital Velocity Podcast Hosted by Tim Curtis and Erik Martinez

38 Reaching and Engaging the Gaming Audience - Jamin Warren

This week on the Digital Velocity Podcast, Jamin Warren joins Erik and Tim to discuss digital marketing strategies brands can implement to reach and engage gamers.

Brands might question why they should market to the gaming community. Jamin says, “The best argument for why marketers should focus on gaming is that's where your audience currently is and will be. It's just really up to you whether or not that's something that you really want to ignore, or it's something you want to engage in and find your space, in this particular space.”

Current customers can lead brands to know how and where to connect with gamers. Jamin explains, “I always encourage folks to talk to their existing audience. I can't stress this enough. They're already playing games. So, you can just ask them about what games they play, where they spend time, how much time do they spend playing games, how they think about themselves, how they self-identify. There's this perception sometimes that gamers are some audience that's in some faraway land and you need to go out and try and get them. They're already a part of your community. So, you just need to make sure that you ask them.”

The gaming audience is not a population that brands can simply ignore. Jamin says, “... have the courage to try to do something in that space. Base it on a little bit of research. Talk to your audience, figure out where they are. But at this point, I don't think it's like a nice to have, gaming is going to be the lens. I'm envisioning a world where, gaming, you don't even really talk about it anymore. It's just like fully integrated into people's viewpoints. It's just a part of the mix.”

Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about how to interact with the gaming audience.

About the Guest:

Jamin Warren founded Twofivesix, a strategic consultancy that helps brands engage in the world of gaming. Our work helps you reach the right gaming audience on the right platform with the right message.

He also served as an advisor for the Museum of Modern Art’s design department, acted as cluster chair for the Gaming category for the Webbys, and hosted Game/Show for PBS Digital Studios. Prior to founding Twofivesix, Jamin covered arts and entertainment for the Wall Street Journal.

He knows all things interactive from virtual reality to esports to game development. As a content strategy and development house, Twofivesix’s past and present clients include GE, Intel, PBS, MoMA, Warby Parker, Tribeca Enterprises and more. He’s worked with brands and agencies to help them unlock the power of play.

He’s produced events such as the Versions conference for VR arts and creativity, in partnership with NEW INC. He also programmed the first Tribeca Games Festival, the groundbreaking Arcade at the Museum of Modern Art and the Kill Screen Festival which Mashable called “the TED of videogames.”


Erik Martinez: [00:00:00] Hello. Welcome to today's episode of the Digital Velocity Podcast. I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine.

Tim Curtis: And I'm Tim Curtis from CohereOne.

Erik Martinez: Joining us today is Jamin Warren, CEO, and founder of Twofivesix, a strategic consultancy that helps brands engage and market their products and services to the lucrative gaming audience. Jamin also served as an advisor for the Museum of Modern Arts design department, acted as cluster chair for the gaming category for Webby's, and hosted Game/Show for PBS Digital Studio. Prior to founding [00:01:00] Twofivesix, Jamin covered arts and entertainment for the Wall Street Journal. Jamin, welcome to the show. I am super pumped to talk about this topic.

Jamin Warren: I as well. I talk about it all the time, and yet every time I do, it's always super exciting. Still fun.

Erik Martinez: As we were talking a little bit before the show, I hate to admit it, but my generation was the first group of people that had at Ataris in mass, right?

Jamin Warren: Yeah.

Erik Martinez: And it was just so super cool. I remember my cousin got it before me and I was super jealous for about two years. My parents finally bit the bullet and got us one. I don't consider myself a gamer. The funny part is when I first met my wife and we moved in together and all that stuff, I'd play an hour or two a night, a strategic game on my computer and she was like, you're a gamer, and I'm like, no, I'm not. Rude.

All joking aside, it's a fascinating topic and there's a lot of people like me that I talk to every day who are CEOs, [00:02:00] executives, very successful people using this form of entertainment for a variety of reasons and they identify in different ways. So, I'm gonna turn it over to you and maybe we could just start with, why should brands advertise or engage this particular audience. You know, wanna give us the elevator pitch?

Jamin Warren: Sure. I mean, for the same reason that you know, was it John Dillinger? They asked him why he robbed banks and he said, that's where the money is. It's exactly the same thing. I mean, at a baseline level, the number of people playing video games, globally, is in the billions. In the United States, over 60% of American households have some kind of gaming device or consult device. The average age of gamers varies, but you know, it's 35, 36 depending on like, who you ask.

Tim Curtis: That's just crazy.

Jamin Warren: The penetration goes up profoundly when you look at Gen Z, Gen Alpha, it's like 99%, a hundred percent. It's a deep part of the next generation's life. So, from just a basic audience perspective, we're moving out a world when people ask, do you play video games? And moving into [00:03:00] this world where you ask what games do you play?

So, often people are like, oh, it's interesting you're doing stuff in gaming. What an interesting niche. This industry generates more money than film box office ticket sales. It's not a niche. I think the challenge for marketers is resolving that perception, that tension, where they're like, okay, I can understand intellectually that lots of people play games, but I don't see people in my life or they may not identify as gamers. That's one of the big challenges I say, and it's definitely a big challenge for marketers from a messaging standpoint.

You know, one of the things that we like to think about is like the definition of a gamer. It's kind of around these three nodes. It's around activity, it's around identity, and it's around affinity. The way we generally think about gamers and whether or not somebody is a gamer is really on that activity bubble. Like, do you play games or not? The challenge is like some folks think of themselves as gamers. They raise their hand and they say like, yeah, definitely. I consider myself a gamer. But that social piece is really important as well.

And so when you're saying like, oh, I wanna reach gamers, you kind of have to think about well, how do you wanna reach them? Do [00:04:00] you wanna reach them explicitly and say like, I wanna reach gamers, people who self-identify as gamers? Do I wanna reach people who play video games? Because that's a huge audience of people across a wide variety of platforms.

We just finished up a big research project and one of the things that we found was that for folks who self-identified as gamers, they often did it in a multi-platform way. So, it was really important to them that they're playing games on mobile, they're playing games on pc, they're playing games on, maybe not all of them, obviously budget notwithstanding, but they're thinking about themselves across a wide variety of these different things.

And then the other thing is that the social set is really important as well. And I think that's incredibly important for younger players. Communities like Roblox or Fortnite, these are video games, but they're really social networks. They're places where people go to do things and the thing that they might do is play games with each other. That's a big sea change. I think it can be really hard for CMOs or for senior marketers who, if they didn't grow up with that experience. But a lot of 'em did. I mean, you know, I turned 40 this year.

You know, one of the things that we're finding is that millennials are continuing to play [00:05:00] games through their thirties, forties, there's something that they're sharing with their kids. The best argument for why marketers should focus on gaming is that's where your audience currently is and will be. It's just really up to you whether or not that's something that you really wanna ignore, or it's something you wanna engage in and find your space, in this particular space.

Tim Curtis: Your comment about social network really, really sort of rings home. My son has several friends who have moved across the country, and it dawned on me the other day that he's kept in contact with him through gaming. They will go and play and, you know, they play multiple different games. I think it was Fortnite yesterday, and it was just for 30 minutes. They all were on different time zones and coming home from basketball practice or whatever. And I realized, they're staying connected and they have so for two to three years now, just via gaming. That really opened it up. That plus the Travis Scott, I think it was Travis Scott, his deal, and wow. Just blew me away. The size and scope and the connectivity that really is involved in gaming today.

Jamin Warren: Yeah, I am like deeply jealous of younger kids. When I was coming up, playing games on the [00:06:00] internet was very difficult so, and not very good. My school had like a good internet connection so we could get together and play things like Quake and stuff like that. It's taken a while to get to a place where it's much more seamless.

So, for younger kids today, it's just a piece of their social fabric. That's just something that they do. Particularly in age when you can make friends across the country or across the world. So, don't be surprised that this is not something that kids will outgrow, that Gen Z and Alpha outgrows. If it's formative during your childhood, it's going to play a big part of your life going on. So, that's definitely like another really good reason you wanna future proof your business. You need to be thinking critically about this space.

Erik Martinez: Well, and there's gamification of a lot of different things. You know, I have a friend who was a program manager for the US Army at one point in time. What his company did is they actually built gaming simulations where they'd take these army units out into the field. And they'd integrate all the technology so that they could, in real-time, evaluate whether the [00:07:00] strategies and tactics that the commanders and the command staff were trying to execute were actually getting executed on the battlefield. It was an integral piece of their education and training process, and that's just becoming the norm.

You know, I was reading an article, a few years ago just about the NFL. We were talking about Madden earlier in the pre-show, but one of the interesting things over the last 10 or 15 years was that the NFL went to this model of hiring software developers and software engineers to analyze what their competition is doing, right? And we see it in baseball with the crazy shifts in defense, right? You know, some of that stats, but it's also they're practicing. They're using this stuff and they're studying and analyzing, and coaches are analyzing all this data with all these really, really cool things. So there's, like you said, there's lots and lots of different applications.

I've seen some research on how they're using gaming-type [00:08:00] experiences in the medical profession to train doctors on how to do procedures. It's fascinating. It's really everywhere and you're right, it is built into the fabric of our society today. So, in terms of reaching these gaming audiences, what's the landscape look like today? And you know, how can brands start to take advantage of these opportunities?

Jamin Warren: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, this is probably a place where marketers get tripped up the most because they see things like, you mentioned Travis Scott. Fortnite integration won a gold lion at Cannes. So, you see those sorts of things and you think, okay, that's the only way that we can reach gamers. We have to do something on that size and that scale.

We divide things into three different categories, play, share, and experience. Play is basically anything that happens in the games themselves. So, that will include things like the Travis Scott experience, but that also includes things like in-game advertising. You mentioned Madden. There's a lot of in-game advertising that [00:09:00] happens there. Some of which is part of creating that realism for sports simulation games is, you know, advertising's a part of it.

But some of it's in more subtle ways. Whether that's brand partnerships, or even like music for example. Madden, Fifa, those EA titles, those are marketing efforts for record labels. They release their music that way, and it's how they promote artists. We don't think of that as being like a marketing channel, but a hundred percent is. It's a place where if you get music in one of those titles, it can help drive sales. So, anything that happens in game. Product placement in games, when that happens.

Cup Noodles was a product inside of I believe like one of the final fantasy games, for example. So, there are all these things that happen inside of the games. Those types of engagements are typically very expensive. They take a long time. The music sync licensing stuff with sports games is obviously a bit more turnkey, but in general, that stuff is very, very high touch. It could be incredibly impactful, but it does require a lot of effort.

The other place you can look at things is around that share layer, which is just anything that's happening on the social space. YouTube is one of our clients, for example, and so one of the things that we see is that there are lots of ways that you [00:10:00] can engage communities that are talking about games but are not necessarily playing the games themselves. Those could be partnerships with streamers, for example. It could be engaging like a particular discord or Twitter community, for example, around a particular game. Those types of engagements are great because they draft off of what you already have. So, if you have an existing social following, they're already playing games. You just may need to speak to that side of your existing audience. You don't necessarily need to go out and find a new one.

And then the last category is just around the experience layer. That includes things like eSports events or gaming conferences. Whether that's like Summer Games Festival or the Game Awards, which just happened a couple of weeks ago. But also could include things like board game nights, right? Those are social spaces where people are playing games or in some communities, they have like PC cafes where people play games competitively.

I think the question is more like figuring out like where your audience is and how they're already engaging with the game space, and then you can adjust your tactics. It's funny, I had a conversation a couple of weeks ago with a woman who was [00:11:00] running a fashion label. There's been a lot of crossover with fashion in gaming. Burberry just did something with Minecraft. Balenciaga has done stuff with Fortnite. Louis Vuitton has done a bunch of different things with League of Legends. Fashion has been a pace car in terms of trying to do new things with games.

So, I was asking her, I was like, look, tell me a little bit about your audience. And she's like, my audience is, you know, mostly women in their thirties and forties and I really wanna do something in Fortnite. I wanna affirm your desire to do something in games, but it's probably not the place where you wanna play. However, she had a really sizable Instagram following. I was like, look, there's been some great brands that have done stuff around fashion. Animal Crossing is a good example where you saw brands like Mark Jacobs that were doing stuff on their Instagram feed, dressing their characters in Mark Jacob's apparel.

Like, look for ways and opportunities that you can engage your social following. You don't need to do a custom activation with Epic Games at that scale. There's lots of other lower-touch ways that you can do stuff that reach gamers at the end of the day but does not necessarily require you to break the bank, or wait a whole year, or hire a dev team, or anything like that. So, we [00:12:00] really encourage folks to try to think expansively around what they could do. And it really should be led by where their audience currently is.

Erik Martinez: That is so freaking cool. I hate to say it, but it's really awesome. You think about this ecosystem of gamers and followers to a certain extent. One of my daughters is really into Minecraft. Still is, and drives me a little bit crazy cause I feel like she's a little over the top on it, but you know, she'll pull up a YouTube stream and follow some of the streamers who are playing the game, and kind of telling some of the secrets along the way.

She recently went to TwitchCon in San Diego and had a great time and met some people that have the same exact interests as she does. So, there is a really powerful connection between the game as a social element for her, and I think it connects in a different way than some of the other types of advertising that we do. It's just a little more connected, a little more personal. [00:13:00]

Jamin Warren: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the Minecraft example is a good one. It's also important to remember that this is a game that's over a decade old. It's funny that we talk about these things. Fortnite, Roblox, these games are all over a decade old, League of Legends, Call of Duty, that franchise has been around. So, it is sometimes curious for me that we sort of neglect the fact that young people are playing these games, but the audience that was playing Minecraft when it first came out, they're in their early twenties now. They may or may not be playing Minecraft. They may be playing something else, but there are these new cohorts that keep getting onboarded cause the games change over time as well.

And so, you know, if you look at something like Fortnite, there's very little resemblance to the game that first mechanically it's very much the same. You know, there's all-new characters. They've done all kinds of IP collaborations. There's so much stuff that's happening in that space. And so it's okay, I think certainly, to dip into something the same way that you might watch a TV show for a certain period of time and then it runs its course and you move on.

That doesn't mean that time period was not meaningful. It also doesn't mean that you've stopped watching TV entirely, right? It just means that you've moved [00:14:00] on to something else. And so I think that's an important thing to remember is that I think for your daughter, she may or may not play Minecraft the rest of her life, but the behaviors, the relationships, those types of things that she's developing with other people, the skillset and just the general interest in games as a creative medium, that's something that's absolutely gonna carry on, because that was true for me. I played games as a kid and I played games through college and now I'm an adult, made a career out of it.

Tim Curtis: Here we are making money off of it. Yeah.

Jamin Warren: Yeah, exactly. So, I don't think it's a fluke. It's not going anywhere.

Tim Curtis: Well, so you've mentioned Balenciaga, Mark Jacobs, Burberry, a of couple other brands. What I find really interesting is when the subject of gaming comes up, typically when you're in the fashion space or you're in the outdoor space, there are probably an infinite number of possibilities in terms of what you could do in that space, but the gap between where they are and an understanding or a concept of what to do in the gaming realm and audience, that's a giant, giant gap. How do they begin to understand the context of, oh, [00:15:00] I'm just a men's apparel brand? What could I possibly do with gaming? How do you attack that?

Jamin Warren: Fundamentally, that is the gulf. That's changed. When I first started in the game space I had to be a lot more evangelistic just to convince people that video games were a big deal. That's changed a lot, thankfully. I think some of it is, critically, CMO, more senior marketers, they see their kids playing games. Classic tail marketers are like, oh, what are the kids up to? When my kids are playing a ton of video games, ergo, what is our POV? What is our strategy for reaching gamers? It's very welcome, but it has not always been that way. But that gap between, like, I see gaming as a possibility space and I'm not really sure what we're supposed to do, our business is built on helping people walk across that gap.

So, the biggest thing that we recommend is just ask your current existing audience. You already know a ton about your existing audience. Hopefully, you already know a ton. Do a segmentation study. There's screening questions that you can ask around just like getting a sense of what their attachment to games are.

The other piece of it is that you can run lookalike studies. So, take a look and see oh, we know our audience kind of [00:16:00] looks like this. What if we look at it through a gaming lens? Why don't we find an audience that codes for game affinity first, but in every other way resembles basically, they're not currently, like in our CRM, they're not following us on social, but every other way they look exactly the same. The only difference is maybe they also play games.

I always encourage folks to talk to their existing audience. I can't stress this enough. They're already playing games. So, you can just ask them about what games they play, where they spend time, how much time do they spend playing games, how they think about themselves, how they self-identify. There's this perception sometimes that gamers are some audience that's in some faraway land and you need to go out and try and get them. They're already a part of your community. So, you just need to make sure that you ask them.

The other thing is that from a tactic standpoint that's often limited. We try to think about things around organizational fit, marketing fit. Those two types of fit are really important because not all organizations are ready to engage gaming. Sometimes there are senior stakeholders who like aren't interested in games, and so you need to understand that about your organization.

Tim Curtis: Mm-hmm.

Jamin Warren: When I was a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, [00:17:00] and I was really interested in games and really wanted to write about games for the Wall Street Journal and asked my editor and he was like, absolutely not. I don't get this video games thing. So, no amount of me bringing data to him was gonna do it. The audience fit piece is like a bit more straightforward. So, there are very few audiences that I say don't play games, but there are some sensitivities. You may not be able to come out and say, Hey gamers, right? That may be a word that you don't use. The color palettes they use, it may need to be more consistent with who you are on the brand side. So, it just requires a bunch of research and then after that, it does get easier.

The other thing I would say is you do need to be committed to it for a longer period of time. We really discourage clients from doing like a one-and-done kind of thing, a single partnership. I see this a lot. They'll do a single activation with a set of streamers or something like that, and then that's it. They haven't connected the dots. They don't have a place where they can send folks who are interested in that side of who they are as a company, or they're not doing something consistently. So, consistency over the long period is also incredibly important.

But yeah, you hit the nail in the head. There's a big [00:18:00] gap right now between people see the opportunities and they're like, I'm not really sure like what I can do because of X, Y, and Z reasons. It could be like budget, it could be capabilities, any number of those things. And it's just about widening the aperture and saying, like, look, there are things that you can do that build on top of what you already have. It may not be that Travis Scott Fortnite thing, but there are places for you to play.

Tim Curtis: There are, and you're right, for many of us we've played video games our whole life, right? But we never consider ourselves a gamer. It's something about when you watch your kids. You watch your kids playing games then I was realizing how much time they were spending, et cetera.

Let's just take fashion. When I look at the role of fashion and I look at many of the shows and the places where people of fashion gather together, I'm still recognizing that just like the pervasiveness of gamers in society, far many more gamers than we would ever believe are out there. And the second part of that is the gaming industry is not always right there in front of you when you're at these kind of events. You see everything else in the world, but you don't see gaming, and here gaming represents [00:19:00] what percentage of the planet, right?

Jamin Warren: Yeah.

Tim Curtis: I remember on one of my trips to Korea, actually it was my first trip to Korea, over 20 years ago, I recognized that gaming was like King in Korea. And then I saw some tournaments where it was Korea versus the world. I was like, okay, I'm following something here. But I've slowly and steadily watched it become like that in other places, other countries. And now I'm looking at this saying, we've gotta build more awareness about what those opportunities are. We have to begin to train in order to shrink that gap, between understanding and identifying what you can do and then having a concept of what you can do. Education and visibility I think are gonna be the two things. How do you begin to tackle something like that to start to bring awareness to verticals that may just not think in terms of gaming?

Jamin Warren: Yeah. Yeah. No, it's a real challenge. And part of the reason that fashion brands are interested in gaming is because of China and because of South Korea. I mean, those are two big drivers for them. Particularly China because of how pervasive, obviously [00:20:00] there's other things that are going on in China in terms of, they've obviously cracked down on how much people can play games. But there's still a general thought that part of breaking into that market is working with, and some of it also has to do with, they have large companies like Tencent that do a lot of different things, but they have a more integrated app eco because I mean, there's lots of reasons why lots of ways in which China is very unique.

But for fashion brands they're thinking like, well, if we wanna break into youth culture in China or in Korea, gaming needs to be a part of the landscape, and particularly in South Korea. It's interesting. It's crazy how destigmatized gaming is in that space. Spotify recently did a Roblox activation with a K-pop group. It's very interesting. I mean, Korea's in some ways like the outlier, but in other ways, it's a predictor of like where things are.

Tim Curtis: Where things are going too.

Jamin Warren: Yeah. Games are just way more integrated into lots of different types of spaces. In terms of how do you bridge the gap? One of the big places where I think you're going to see some of these barriers break down is with non-gaming companies moving into the gaming space. So, not just brands, but I'm [00:21:00] thinking like the New York Times is a game company, right? They do Wordell and Spelling Bee, and it's a driver of subscriptions for them, right? So, you get the athletic and you also do your daily crossword, but you're also maybe playing Wordell every single day.

Netflix, another one. They've started a games division. It started a couple of years ago. They're investing more money into it. You know, Spotify, another good example, has done some experimentation with Roblox Listing Island. These are all companies that traditionally do not think of themselves as gaming companies, and yet, they're recognizing the same thing that we're talking about. It's like this is where their audience is. And so the games industry, like you said, they have not always done a great job of interfacing with other industries. Some are better than others.

For example, we find with our clients, it could often be very hard for them to work directly, interface directly with a video game company because there isn't a brand partnerships person, necessarily, whose responsibility is managing relationships with games publishers. It might be someone with more of a PR background. Their responsibility is to talk to games journalists, but they may not have someone who's like a brand [00:22:00] integration and activation person.

And you think about like at a record label, there's whole groups of people who are like, our core business is making music and selling music, but we recognize a big piece of doing that is talking and working with brands and it's just not the same in the games industry.

A place that gives me, I think, hope is as more non-gaming companies explicitly do stuff with gaming that will help open the doors a bit more because you don't necessarily have to make games to be in the game space, but it does certainly help when you start to see more media and entertainment companies that are like, we gotta figure this games thing out. It's really important for us. So, it's just kind of one of these things, it's just gonna ultimately take more time.

Erik Martinez: You know, if somebody's looking to start breaking into the gaming space. You know, one of the things, especially for our audience, which you know, tend to be a lot more niche brands, right? And not necessarily all super household games, right? You know, and they're not the Home Depots or the Lowe's or Spotify's or Netflix, right? How much should they be planning for in terms of an investment? I think [00:23:00] you've given really good advice in terms of, talk to your audience and find out where they are and what they're doing, and how they identify themselves. And I think those are fantastic, relatively low-cost ways to gather information and learn. But then as they start to think about advertising budgets and consistency, and then measurement of those results, what is your recommendation in terms of getting that process started?

Jamin Warren: Yeah, absolutely. Don't make a game. That's my first. I get that all the time. Oh, we wanna make a game. I'm like, it's so hard. It's so expensive. So, I just wanna cross that off immediately. If you're trying to make a game, remember your competition is not like other advertising games. Your competition is Fortnite, Breath of the Wild. You've never done this before and you're talking to a very sophisticated audience that's had its expectations set elsewhere. That's definitely true the smaller you are. Don't spend time doing that. It's not a place where you can play.

There's a couple of different things, I think, in terms of places to get started. I'm a big fan of building off the back of social communities. So, whether that's Instagram [00:24:00] or TikTok, it's a great place to test waters. It's transitory so you don't have to be committed to it. That's one place we often encourage folks. That's a great place to serve as like a testing ground, and also because it builds on the back of work that you've already done. So, if you've built an existing following, that's a great place to do that.

The second thing I would say, another place that you can do this is, and depending on what your product is, so maybe not making a game, but looking for partnership opportunities with same kind companies. They could be independent game makers. They could be mid-tier. It really depends on the size. So, looking for ways to help add value. So, that could be everything from offering some kind of like discount code with a game maker, right?

We really encourage, we have some stuff on our website about this specifically, about looking for ways in which you can help a brand in the gaming space grow. So, that could be helping them with some piece of the development process, right? So, if one of their challenges is getting the word out, then maybe that's a place where you can help them do that, and in exchange, you get tapped into their audience.

There are some like lower hanging fruit pieces and then events. We're getting back into a space where people are starting to attend, obviously more events. [00:25:00] But you mentioned things like TwitchCon. You know, there are gaming events. Whether they're eSports viewing parties. What's great about those is that there are lots of local opportunities to do stuff there. It may not necessarily mean having a booth or having a presence there, but it could mean a partnership opportunity. It may mean trying to facilitate in some shape or capacity. Again, it's great because there's so many local versions of this.

There are board game shops like all over town. You may need to be creative in terms of figuring out like what's the thing that you're gonna do that basically helps meet your needs and doesn't sacrifice the quality of your brand, but also exposes you to a brand new audience. My three big takeaways would be research, particularly SMBs. Start small, do your research, and then look for ways that you can ultimately add value.

I do get the sense sometimes that people look at the gaming space as this magic dust that you can just sprinkle over. You know what I mean? Just like you're making a marketing plan for the years. It's like we gotta get some gaming stuff in there. Just like anything else, it really does have to be a mutual understanding. You have to be doing something for them. [00:26:00] It helps, obviously if it starts from passion on the founder's side. If they play games, that obviously is tremendously helpful. That can be a good place to get started. But I'd say those three things, do your research, start small, and then make sure that you add value. Those are good places to definitely dip your toe in and it will get easier. It does get easier over time, so just make sure that you stick it out as well.

Tim Curtis: I think providing that context is helpful because sometimes when it comes to gamification, they do wanna leap to that point of creating a game and they don't fully understand. One of the examples that I often use in trying to help bring context to a situation like the gaming situation is I'll tell a brand, well, why stop there? We talk about Amazon and their space program. Do we talk about Macy's or Bloomingdale's and their space program? Let's get some context here about what we're up against. It brings a little sobriety, I think, sometimes to those conversations.

Erik has a lot of his energies and times in the home building space, and we've got a lot of home furnishing clients and home decor. One of the things that we've seen over the years[00:27:00] started sort of with the rise of AR, augmented reality, and then really branched more into that virtual reality aspect. As we were talking before the show, my son and how interested he is in VR. Boy, that sort of really seems like it's what's coming, the next large wave. Is that accurate?

Jamin Warren: Yes and no. There's a woman, Janet Murray. She's an academic and she has this great quote. She's like, you can predict the trajectory of the future, but you can't predict its velocity. So, I could tell you, it's like that is the place that we're going. But is it a five-year thing? Is it a 10-year thing? I can't make that prediction. At a high level, I'll say Meta, as a company, has probably done the world a disservice by, I think, creating false expectations about where we actually are today.

Their new headset, from a technology standpoint, is excellent, but the content just isn't there yet. That said, gamers are well-primed to help drive adoption. And you see the most popular things in VR right now. Whether it's Beat Saber which was acquired by Oculus or [00:28:00] Supernatural, which is a health and fitness app. But in a lot of ways, it is a game that you move with, right? So, you're boxing or is engaging interactive experience in the same way that you get out of breath when you would play Guitar Hero. It's the same thing. You don't even notice that that's something that you've done.

So, those are both described as game experiences. Although, I don't think the supernatural folks would describe themselves that way. But those are signposts. Those are saying that there is definitely something there. And I think the resistance on the adoption side for VR is, I think it's just people will do it when there's something that they want to do. Right now it is kind of expensive. I think gamers are definitely in a place where they can help drive some of the adoption there because they're already spending a significant portion of time doing immersive experiences.

It's funny. I actually recently just sold my Oculus Rift S and my Quest Two. Mostly cause I wasn't using them. You know, I booted one up, the Quest Two just to try it out again. I was like, man, this is so cool. This is such a cool device. I wish there were more things to do here. So, I think when that question gets resolved. When there's, hey, there's more stuff to do here. Whether that's like work application.

[00:29:00] So, we're doing this over Zoom. Maybe that's something that we do in virtual reality and it helps create a sense of presence and it feels like we're all sitting together. Maybe that's the thing that ends up driving adoption. Or it's a big game or a title that moves over into VR and it's like, Hey, you have to absolutely get a VR headset to play this experience. It's so much fun. It's something you absolutely have to do. It's a chicken and egg thing. Technology needs to get good enough to be able to sell that vision, but then you also need things to do there, so.

Tim Curtis: We've had several guests on, specifically on the subject of branding. When the technology has not yet reached a place where the brand experience is a positive one. So, you know, you don't lean into it, right? So, that's that sort of chicken or the egg. Who's gonna invest in it to get it to that level where commercial application could really pick up? When you talk about augmented reality and virtual reality, there seems to be a much smaller gap in terms of conceptually how we can leap from here to here, from a retail perspective.

Brands sort of get it.[00:30:00] They're sort of able to create in their minds oh, here would be some ways we could do that. I sort of get where they're going. But I also understand and, you know, we were kinda laughing before about us throwing on the Oculus, or at least me throwing on the Oculus. I'm not physically able to do it to the point yet. My son and my daughter, they're able to, I guess both girls are able to do it, but I feel like I'm in this suit, I'm disoriented, you know. But beyond that, brands are looking to create some type of experience. I think Meta kind of started pushing in that direction, you know when it became a real talking point for them. But again, what I've experienced is we just haven't gotten to the point where, from a VR perspective, that the experience is there. AR it does feel like we're there. Is that fair?

Jamin Warren: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think, in large part because AR already is something that people are accustomed to. If you use a face filter on any app, that's AR. Whether it's like Snapchat or TikTok or whatever. I mean, you think about the amount of media production that's happening in AR environments now, [00:31:00], particularly through things like TikTok. AR as a technology is marketed through its utility. I can use it to do this thing, and I'm not thinking a lot about oh, this is an AR experience, for example. Anymore than I'm thinking about this being a 5G experience because I have 5G on my phone. I'm just knowing whether or not my internet speeds are good or not.

So, that has been the challenge around the VR side. If you just tell people, this is an amazing technology, you do have to like, prove it at some level, and so it's that proving it. Like, what are gonna be the types of things that really get people into headsets? We still have a long way to go. I personally don't think that the issue is a technological thing. I think the stuff that we have today is sufficient. I think it's just more that there's not a financial ecosystem that helps developers create new stuff.

And that makes it really hard. Being on the marketing side, we're downstream from all of the technology stuff, right? So, I need people to use things first before I can advise clients to say this is a place where you should go do stuff. I don't think, generally speaking, unless you are like Nike, or unless you're like an enormous company who can afford to take a [00:32:00] significant size of your experimental budget and do something with no expectation of ROI, that's not most brands.

 I think it's one of those things where I think we will get to a place where there are compelling things that happen in VR. My sense is it's gonna be a lot longer. It's gonna take a lot longer for that to happen, and you know, I'm not necessarily convinced that the current companies that are leading the pack right now are the companies that will end up doing it.

Tim Curtis: That will get us there. Yeah.

Jamin Warren: Yeah. I mean, they may advance things sufficiently enough. It's funny, I was talking to a friend of mine and he was using Xerox as an example. So, Xerox is responsible for, on the design side, things like the mouse, for example, came out of Xerox Park. A lot of things that we think about and take for granted with human-computer interaction came outta Xerox. Their core business was selling printers and, I mean, they missed out on the PC. Xerox was like the king and they did not win on the PC side, but they set the groundwork from a design perspective, for a bunch of other things that would come later.

And that does make me wonder if maybe that's the place where Meta is. They're super dominant in this one space. They're super dominant on social networking. They're [00:33:00] super dominant, maybe in terms of pushing the technology forward, but maybe they're not gonna be the party that we think of 10, 15 years from now. The party that really made VR happen, it may not necessarily be them. So, that would be my guess.

Erik Martinez: I think the experience, I think history has taught us that sometimes there's a driving force that is larger than the concept that makes it happen. So, you know, just listening to you to talk about the velocity of change. I was thinking about the birth of the internet and the father of the internet, Al Gore, he was the father of the internet. But the roots of the internet go back way to the sixties and the late fifties and defense and military projects.

But the thing that was really interesting when I graduated from college in the early to mid-nineties, I was interviewing in the cable industry.

Jamin Warren: Yeah.

Erik Martinez: And the cable industry was talking about live streaming and this and all that. It really took 15-plus years to really achieve that goal. Part of that was a technological [00:34:00] thing, but part of it was driven by the advancements in internet technology and just the basic use of HTML and getting things visually on the internet as opposed to just being text-based. And I feel like that rush towards Y2K drove a lot of rewrites of systems and things that kind of opened up those possibilities. So, we're probably looking for one of those events that's really, really compelling us to move in that direction.

Jamin Warren: I think the pandemic moving people around, shaping expectations around work, you can sort of start to see where you're like, okay, that seems like there's something there. Right now, like, VR, it's very difficult to do work in VR, but you could see a world, and maybe it's not you're sitting in a headset eight hours a day, but maybe it's literally just way more compelling to have video conferences with people in a virtual environment. We're just not there yet in terms of making that feel like normal and useful.

But that does feel like maybe some of the [00:35:00] behaviors coming out of the pandemic are things that there's sort of problems in search of a solution. And so the tools that we have right now, you know, Zoom and Google Meet and these types of things, they're what we have cause, you know, we couldn't just shut everything down. But maybe, they inspire the next generation, you know, there's something happening right now because a consumer expectation has been set. What we're doing right now, talking, doing a podcast over Zoom. That's a normal thing to do. We're all spread out across the country now and people are traveling like further distances to see family.

And there are some things that you can start to see where VR like, yeah, that would be really cool. That would be really cool to be able to do this in a virtual environment, but we're just not there yet, and I'm not spending $1,500 on a new headset.

Erik Martinez: I think the other thing that we learned through like the pandemic was that as innocuous as a face mask is. It really is. If you think about like the simplest kind of medical technology that could prevent you from spreading germs, and the resistance to just, you know, covering up your face, man. You know, I think some of it's the resistance to putting something on your head and [00:36:00] having that live, right? You're wearing glasses right now, but there's a lot of people who out there are like, I'm getting LASIK because I'll never put glasses on my face.

Jamin Warren: Yeah. Yeah.

Erik Martinez: So, I think when we get to that point. I remember CNN rolling out, I think it was like the 2016 election. They rolled out their hologram of a correspondent who was like in their New York studio and this was the Washington studio, and they beamed him in. Oh, wow. This is really cool. It really wasn't. That freedom of being able to see and interact without having all this extra gear on, when that happens, I think you'll see adoption go way up.

Jamin Warren: Yeah. You're totally right about just putting something on your face. That's not a trivial thing. When my grandfather used a mouse for the first time, he kept picking it up off the...

Erik Martinez: He kept looking for the mouse trap?

Jamin Warren: Exactly. Yeah. These are real non-trivial challenges. It's not gonna be as simple as oh, I saw a commercial for X virtual world, and now I wanna do it. There are real human behaviors that have to be rewired and...

Tim Curtis: We'll sort of have to reach that [00:37:00] Malcolm Gladwell Tipping Point. There's gonna come a point where either the impetus to do something, whether it's an incredible environment's been created to experience virtually. You know you have something like that, that sort of has attractional value and is pulling people in. You know, you can't necessarily push people. That's a whole lot tougher. But if you can create an experience that then begins the attractional force, you know, that's big. You know, we're sitting here talking about the technology and I was just thinking back to, around 10 years ago the Google glasses.

Erik Martinez: Which is still a thing.

Tim Curtis: It's still a thing. Yeah. It did not become the thing that I think, they had hoped it would become, and it may still get there, but the concept then, if you start to see something like the Google glasses and the AR, VR, and potentially future gaming, and you start to connect threads of technologies. We're like, okay, I could see how maybe these things could kind of start to work together. That's sort of where that snowball effect in terms of investment and things will slowly start. Maybe it has already started and we just don't recognize the velocity at this point, but it'll quicken.

Erik Martinez: So, Jamin, [00:38:00] is there any last piece of advice you'd like to leave our audience with on this topic today? Because it's a fascinating topic and I could probably sit here and talk to you all day. It's fun. There's a fun, there's a cool aspect to it. There's a social aspect to it. It is a big business, and I don't think people realize. I think you hit the nail in the head. I don't think people quite realize how large a business this business is. What last piece of advice would you have for our audience?

Jamin Warren: I'd say definitely try something. It should be a part of your marketing mix. Try something in gaming, and you'll learn a lot from that experience. There's lots of different places to play. That reticence to like, I'm not quite sure what to do, keeps people from trying new stuff. Or a fear that if I do something, a gaming audience is gonna make fun of me, or it's going to damage. I don't think those are good enough reasons at this stage to ignore the opportunity.

So, have the courage to try to do something in that space. Base it on a little bit of research. Talk to your audience, figure out where they are. But at this point, I don't think it's like a nice [00:39:00] to have, gaming is going to be the lens. I'm envisioning a world where, gaming, you don't even really talk about it anymore. It's just like fully integrated into people's viewpoints. It's just a part of the mix. Oh yeah, I play games, but I also do this. The behaviors are already there, but just the discourse, the conversations around it we're still kind of catching up there.

So, I'd definitely say as a brand, look for opportunities to try and do something because, in the macro sense, this category is growing. It's not going anywhere. It's around today. You could do stuff today. So, I definitely encourage folks to make that a part of their life.

Erik Martinez: And maybe one thing that people could try, I never thought of this before having this conversation, but go see one of these gaming tournaments and experience the visuals. If you haven't played a game in today's consoles and systems. What you don't realize, the production value, the movie-like quality, the graphics, the music, everything is really, really amazingly well done in some of these games.

Jamin Warren: Absolutely.

Erik Martinez: [00:40:00] Go check out a tournament. If you have a favorite sport or a favorite activity, go find a tournament in your area that does it. Just check out, talk to people. Learn. I think you'd be surprised at how amazing this technology is and how pervasive it is in our society. Jamin, if someone wanted to reach out to you, what's the best way to get in touch?

Jamin Warren: LinkedIn is great. You could also go to Twofivesix spelled out. So, T W O F I V E S I We've got a newsletter there. But those two things or you can also just email me,

Erik Martinez: Yeah, folks, if you're serious about testing, give Jamin a call.

Jamin Warren: Ah, thanks.

Erik Martinez: Reach out to his company. He's got amazing research on his website. We'll put the links in the show notes to the website. You really should check this out cause it blows your mind at how much there is out there. So, Jamin, thank you so much for coming on the show. I've learned a lot. It's a fun topic. My wife is probably gonna listen to this and go, I told you you were a gamer. But if that's the [00:41:00] worst outcome, I think we've had a great conversation. So, this is Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine.

Tim Curtis: And this is Tim Curtis from CohereOne.

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