After getting hit by COVID restrictions, Singapore’s Sentosa island resort and BBH created (read: hacked together) a virtual version of the famous island getaway in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing.

In an interview with The Drum, the BBH explained:

“[We] created over 50 custom-made designs for the island, which represented individual brands and attractions on the island, such as restaurants and clubs.”

NintendoSoup described the virtual resort as:

“Beach bars, nature trails, the Skyline Luge, the Shangri-La and Capella hotels, and a spot for yoga by the beach, all recreated within Animal Crossing: New Horizons.”

This is a whole new level of creativity in advertising and brand activation.

Why should you care?

Video games are now mainstream.

Several times a week thousands of people choose to spend their free time playing games like Fortnite and Animal Crossing.

As Owen Williams wrote on his blog:

“Not only is Fortnite the new hangout spot, replacing the mall, Starbucks or just loitering in the city, it’s become the coveted ‘third place’ for millions of people around the world.”

With fewer young people watching TV (and even when they do it’s often an ad-free streaming service) brand activation needs to go where people are instead.

As BBH Singapore’s Chief Creative Officer told The Drum:

“We‘re living in times where our audience literally is paying money to avoid seeing our work. We really need to work a lot harder to provide value. A shortcut to that are those cultural moments… because they immediately make you relevant and interesting. It‘s really important that we leave this bubble of the hip, Netflix-watching ad men and women and really look out to see what the majority of people really care about.”

These are still early days.

And many brands are still building their approach to gaming. You can go the influencer route or run strategic campaigns like Samsung

But no matter the road you take, you need to start talking about your approach to gaming with your team. Now.

Newzoo’s Remer Rietkerk has relevant advice for any brand manager looking to define their approach to gaming:

“Brand activation in games can take many different forms. Fortnite is a trailblazer for in-game activations, making it a perfect case study. Travis Scott performed an in-game virtual concert, a collaboration with Nike which generated 27 million unique virtual attendees. This was only the latest in a series of events Epic Games launched in its Fortnite game world, with previous examples including Marvel, Batman, and Star Wars.”

He also advises sticking to these key principles:

  • Any collaboration must make sense in the game‘s universe; it shouldn‘t feel forced.
  • It needs to feel authentic, resonating with the community the promotion is servicing.
  • Promotions cannot interfere with gameplay, especially in big-budget games

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