Marketing reaches peak intensity from the month before Halloween to the end of the year. With major global brands competing over holiday dollars and game companies promoting seasonal events, pricing and CPIs skyrocket. So, how can smaller companies keep up with a holiday rush? At SuperScale, we help game companies of all sizes drive success, so if you want to win during the festive season, read on.
In this article, we’ll cover how game development studios with smaller marketing budgets can spend for the best Q4 results, including:
- When to spend more to compete in the festive season.
- When to hold back or find alternative tactics.
- Planning and launching during the holidays.
- Avoiding ad fatigue and keeping engagement high.
- How to turn a festive UA boost into long-term retention.
Here’s a typical question we hear at this time of year.
“We’re a mid-size studio working with limited budgets. Should we spend more on UA during the holidays? Or step back, seeing as we can’t compete?”
Honestly? It depends.
When it might be worth spending more:
- Determine whether your game experiences an increase in user engagement and player activity during holidays. Many games see a surge in downloads and in-app purchases during festive seasons. If your game is holiday-themed or offers special events or promotions during these times, it’s a good opportunity to increase UA spending.
- If you already have a well-established project in your niche and have a dedicated user base, maintaining a competitive UA budget during the holiday season could be a good strategy to capitalize on increased user engagement.
- Budgets can be effectively spent when targeting a specific niche audience interested in your game’s unique features or themes, especially during holiday seasons when users seek specialized content.
Increasing UA spending during holidays can be reasonable if it aligns with your game’s performance, competition, and budget. Make data-driven decisions, allocate your resources wisely, and focus on maximizing ROI to ensure a successful holiday season and long-term growth for your game company.
When it’s better to be cautious:
- Look at the competition and analyze their UA strategies, especially the top players in your niche. If they are significantly increasing their UA budgets and you can’t compete on that level, it might be challenging to maintain a competitive edge. Beware of market saturation and CPIs that simply aren’t worth it. In such cases, you may need to get creative with your marketing strategies.
- Ensure that you have a clear budget allocation strategy. You don’t want to overspend on UA to the detriment of other important aspects of your game, such as development, updates, and customer support. Plan your holiday marketing budget while considering the year-round financial health of your company.
- Remember (and we can’t stress this enough): it’s about ROI — not just player numbers. Look closely at acquisition costs versus the revenue those players will bring. Check the data and make the right call for a successful holiday season and long-term growth.
Whether to stay competitive or lower UA budgets during holiday seasons for games with smaller budgets should be a well-thought-out decision. If you can’t compete with bigger players in terms of ad spend — concentrate on maximizing return on investments from your campaigns. Even with a smaller budget, if you can target your audience effectively and generate a positive ROI, it can still be worthwhile. Focus on targeting the right audience and leveraging creative strategies to make the most of your resources
Planning and launching your holiday campaigns
Launching user acquisition campaigns during the holiday season can be highly effective, but it requires careful planning and execution. Here are tactics to amplify the impact of your marketing budget during the festive season.
Let’s begin with the fundamentals, which are often overlooked.
- Know your target audience inside and out. Understanding their behavior, preferences, and habits during the holiday season will help you tailor your campaigns effectively.
- Get ahead of the game. Plan your seasonal UA campaigns early. So when users are starting to look for holiday-themed content, you’ll be there.
- Create seasonal ad creatives and messaging that tune into the festive spirit. This helps you stand out and connect with players who are in a holiday mood. The strategy that proved effective for us at SuperScale involved blending a festive theme with a game character while incorporating a reference to a popular geek culture moment or meme.
Ok, now we can move to more advanced tactics.
- Divide your audience into segments based on behavior, demographics, or engagement levels. Tailor ad creatives to each segment, ensuring that the content is relevant to their specific interests and needs.
- Choose ad platforms that work best for your game. Consider platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Google Ads, Unity, IronSource, AppLovin, or other networks with robust targeting and analytics capabilities.
- Use seasonal keywords in your ad copy to enhance visibility and relevance in search engine and app store optimization (ASO) efforts.
- Instead of solely relying on ad spend, consider using influencer marketing, social media campaigns, or partnerships that may offer cost-effective ways to reach your target audience.
- Run campaigns focusing not solely on the holiday theme but also on in-game incentives. Offer holiday-themed promotions, discounts, or in-game events. Users are often looking for deals and unique content during the holidays.
- If you have multiple games, cross-promote them during the holiday season to maximize user acquisition and retention.
- Implement retargeting campaigns to re-engage users who have shown interest in your game but haven’t yet converted.
Remember that the holiday season is a competitive time, so it’s essential to make your campaigns stand out by being creative, engaging, and timely. The more you can tailor your user acquisition efforts to match the holiday spirit and user expectations, the more successful your campaigns will be.
Avoiding ad fatigue and keeping engagement high
You’ve got a great campaign running, and you’re on track and budget. How do you sustain interest and installs? Ad fatigue is real and can put possible players off your game. Here’s how to keep players engaged and converting week after week.
- Refresh your ad creatives regularly with new visuals, messaging, and calls to action. Pay attention to the content of your ads. Ensure they align with the user’s current stage in the game, making them more contextually relevant. These add variety and relevance to your ad content.
- Diversify your ad formats. For instance, you can use video ads, interstitials, rewarded videos, and playable ads. Different formats can help maintain user interest.
- Apply frequency capping to limit the number of times a user sees a specific ad in a given time period. This prevents overexposure and annoyance. The ideal cap will vary based on your game and audience, so testing is essential.
- Schedule ad delivery during specific times or days when user engagement is higher. This way, users are less likely to be overwhelmed by ads during less active periods.
- Continuously run A/B tests on ad creatives, placements, and targeting options while checking for signs of ad fatigue, like falling click-through or conversion rates. Respond and optimize quickly to keep things fresh over time.
Ad fatigue management is an ongoing process that requires a deep understanding of your target audience and continuous optimization of your ad campaigns.
How to turn a festive UA boost into long-term retention
While a holiday boost is undoubtedly beneficial, the true measure of success lies in achieving sustainable, long-term growth. Therefore, it’s essential not to concentrate solely on acquiring new users. Make sure your UA strategy is balanced with efforts to retain existing users through engaging in-game events, updates, and special offers.
- Show appreciation for your users by sending them holiday-themed “thank you” messages or gifts. This gesture can create a positive and lasting impression.
- Create excitement by running holiday countdowns or advent calendar-style promotions within your game. This can keep users engaged and coming back for more.
- Consider extending holiday in-game events or promotions for a brief period after the holidays. This can keep users engaged and maintain a festive atmosphere.
- Even if you don’t have an engaged community of players in socials, consistently collect feedback from users through various channels, such as app store reviews. Understanding players’ needs and preferences will aid in tailoring your post-holiday content and updates effectively.
- Host in-game or community events that encourage user engagement and interaction. Users who feel part of a community are more likely to stay engaged.
- Maintain an active presence on social media platforms to engage with your user community. Share user-generated content and respond to comments and messages.
- Use data-driven personalization to deliver content and offers that are specific to each user’s behavior and interests. Personalized experiences can increase user retention.
- Encourage users to refer their friends and family to your game by offering referral rewards. Word-of-mouth marketing can be a powerful retention tool.
Post-holiday retention takes constant effort. Cultivate a strong relationship with your players, keep the game fresh with updates and content, and create a sense of community to build long-term engagement.
If you’ve read through this article, you now have a wealth of knowledge to handle the challenges of launching successful holiday UA campaigns. With insights on when to increase spending, the importance of a well-balanced strategy, and methods to maintain engagement while avoiding ad fatigue, you’re well-prepared for the festive season ahead.
Daniel Rysan, Head of Growth Marketing
Milan Strba, Director of Professional Services