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PepsiCo’s strategies for marketing via online games and esports

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PepsiCo's strategies for marketing via online games and esports


Marketers have never had more opportunities to break into in-game advertising, due to the growing number of users and the evolving technology for brand placements. PepsiCo has a vast portfolio of beverages and foods, and Paul Mascali, PepsiCo’s head of gaming and esports, has put together a multipronged marketing strategy to connect the right products with the right customers in the right game environments.

“In-game advertising is a highly-engaged instance,” said Mascali. “Attention is fully on the game and not passive, it’s a lived-in experience. The biggest thing is that it’s the right type of integration, and that’s why we’re working with premium publishers to maximize those eyeballs.”

Not every brand is a world-famous soft drink, however. Fortunately, there are many entry points for brands to tap into the highly-engaged gaming community.

Getting started with dynamic in-game advertising

One of the easiest low-cost ways to get started with in-game advertising is also one of the newest – dynamic in-game advertising.

Marketers don’t have to get in early when a video game is being developed in order to claim a spot for brand integration. Instead, game publishers create and sell inventory for advertisers after the game is released.

Think of all the advertising opportunities during a Formula One race or when you take a walk down a busy street in the real world. Well, in the virtual environment of a video game, those same billboards and car sponsorships can be made available to advertisers, and swapped in and out programmatically in real time.

Read next: How the gaming universe is preparing marketers for the metaverse to come

“Dynamic in-game advertising is more of a turnkey solution for brands who don’t have a strong foothold in games, don’t have bigger budgets and haven’t really leaned in,” said Mascali. “It’s a good way to test the waters.” 

This lets marketers new to gaming test and learn which game environments work best. And they don’t have to commit a lot of their ad budget or time, because adtech vendors like Anzu are making dynamic ads accessible across many game publishers.

Hard-coded in-game advertising

Brands with clout, and the budget to match, can get involved earlier in the development of a (hopefully) blockbuster game, creating a more integrated ad experience. A hard-coded in-game advertising placement means marketers collaborate closely with developers to make the brand an actual part of the game and not just a digital billboard.

In order to pull this off, marketers should already know some of the games and audiences that work for their product.

For instance, PepsiCo has had a long history in video game integrations, including the NBA 2K series developed by Visual Concepts and played on top consoles, PC and mobile.

In the NBA 2K22 update for the most recent basketball season, the game included the branded GatoradeTraining Facility. Far more than a fleeting ad during gameplay, players could go to this part of the game and consume drinks with their player avatars, thus improving their player’s performance level.

Cross-promotions in-game and on other channels

A popular game’s devoted audience will interact with other audiences, amplifying brand marketing.

That’s why Mascali’s team jumped on the opportunity to create The Dew Court in the NBA 2K game. It is modeled on the real-world three-point contest during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend, which is sponsored by PepsiCo’s MTN DEW.

Having the branded experience consistent between the actual sporting event and the in-game experience adds to the realism of the game for players. And it adds to the brand exposure for PepsiCo. In the game, players shoot three-pointers on the Dew Court and can earn in-game rewards, adding higher stakes and more perks for players.

Similarly, NBA 2K22 also included the 4-Point Ridge Tournament. This experience replicated the Ruffles “four-point line” from the celebrity game at All-Star Weekend. Ruffles is another PepsiCo brand.

“From our experience, hardcoding is more customized and dials deep into why these consumers play and how we can be additive to their experience,” said Mascali.

Growing e-commerce through games

Traditional retail channels for brands have been disrupted by e-commerce. Consumer packaged goods companies like PepsiCo have adapted by launching their own direct-to-consumer offerings.

When the company launched their first owned portal for a beverage in 2020, gaming was an integral part of the strategy, and continues to be. MTN DEW Game Fuel is a line of beverages designed for gamers. Some flavors are tied to specific games, such as Activision’s Call of Duty Warzone.

Instead of having to run off to the local 7-Eleven, gamers can go to the Game Fuel portal and order drinks. They can also earn rewards through purchasing drinks and other products, making Game Fuel a loyalty program and D2C play.

Game Fuel has also partnered with the Atlanta Faze esports team, bringing exposure to fans who follow esports online and watch broadcasts of league tournaments.

Gaming influencers get deeper in the community

Another of the company’s beverage brands, Rockstar Energy Drink, recently announced a multiyear partnership with gaming organization NRG.

NRG is a leader in gaming lifestyle content shown on YouTube, Twitch and other video and social hubs where gamers and esports fans can watch masters display their skills on Fortnite, Valorant and other popular game franchises. To give an idea of the scale, NRG-owned channels, which feature top esport figures, have 50 million monthly active users.

The first marketing initiative is a sponsored livestream music experience called SOUND SERIES.

“From our standpoint, these guys and girls are modern day celebrities for this generation,” said Mascali. “With the engagement they get, when we find the right influencer-brand fit, it’s great for us and their communities. When we find the right brand fit, we have them talk about them, and that becomes a powerful marketing avenue for us.”

According to Mascali, every game has its own culture and its own community. Top influencers know these communities the best, so it’s about giving them the creative independence to carry through brand values and enthusiasm to their audience.

Marketers should have a firm grasp of these brand values before approaching game developers, publishers or influencers. Once they do, marketers have a wide array of options to get in quick, say through dynamic in-game ads, or take a more studied and integrated approach through hard-coding, cross-promotion, influencers and e-commerce plays.


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About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.



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The keys to digital marketing transformation

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The keys to digital marketing transformation


As digital marketers face a rapidly growing market and higher competition, the structure and effectiveness of paid advertising campaigns become more complex. Optimization, visibility and improving processes matter now more than ever.

But, it can be easy to lose visibility over what needs to be done and how those campaigns perform. This can lead to subpar results and a lack of understanding of how to improve your next campaigns. 

In this informative SMX Advanced session, Nadiia Sharipova from Wrike, now part of Citrix, addresses three keys to digital marketing transformation:

  1. Why optimization and visibility matter
  2. How to reduce your competition in key areas
  3. Critical processes that help improve CRO

Join the session to learn better visibility and workflow for your search engine initiatives, how companies like Hootsuite optimized their workflows to reduce complexity and the essential tools and strategies you need to do your best work. 

After watching the presentation, you’ll be able to:

  • Identify pitfalls negatively impacting your search campaigns 
  • Discover solutions for establishing better visibility over assets and results 
  • Streamline SEM/PPC campaign workflows and optimize collaboration

About The Author

Wrike, the world’s most versatile collaborative work management solution, has transformed the way marketing teams work together. Bringing everyone into a single digital workspace makes it easy to monitor progress, identify dependencies, and keep collaboration and projects on track. With Wrike, marketers can increase agility and velocity by automating workflows to achieve aggressive growth goals. Create and launch complex, integrated campaigns at scale across multiple channels and geographies knowing you’re maintaining visual brand consistency and quality. Improve external and internal customer experience no matter how complex your campaigns are or how many marketing channels you’re operating. Wrike accelerates creative production, increases on-time delivery, and makes maintaining brand consistency easier. 



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Turn Dry Data Into Rich, Relatable Stories With These Tips

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Turn Dry Data Into Rich, Relatable Stories With These Tips


One of the best things about being a content writer is that no matter the topic, we have a lot of insights at our fingertips. You can use it to provide perspective, validate ideas, give more context, etc.

Of course, all that data also is one of the worst things for a content writer. How do you dig out the story behind the numbers without getting buried under the mountains of facts and stats?

At Stacker, we shape our newswire stories around data and use it to drive all our storytelling. We’ve found the best-performing articles – regardless of topic – share similar strategic data-centered approaches. Here’s some of what we learned by creating data-driven content that engages audiences and earns links from other sites.

Go local and meet readers where they are

A story tailored to a region, state, or city feels instantly relatable and captures the attention of readers’ living in that geographic area. In fact, 71% of our publishing partners say their most-prioritized stories have local news angles.

Narrowing data-driven stories to a state or metro level may seem limiting. Content writers think the more hyper-focused a story, the smaller the reach. But presenting localized data doesn’t have to be an either-or choice.

#Content writers can use data to give stories both a hyper-local and national appeal, says @Stacker’s Elisa Huang via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

CNBC didn’t make a choice in their story about how much the top 1% of U.S. households earn each year. It mentioned the broadest geographic figure – the national number ($597,815 a year on average). Then it detailed the average for each state, from West Virginia’s $350,000 to Connecticut’s $896,490.

CNBC gives its data-driven story national and hyper-local appeal.

One of our top-performing stories for a brand partner looked at the rural hospitals most at risk of closing. It broke down the status of rural hospitals over 43 states, then distilled local versions that would feel most meaningful for targeted audiences from California to New York.

Takeaway: Data at a state- or city-level can have local appeal while still connecting to a newsy national trend. It also opens up your content’s promotion potential to national and local news sites.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

Host a hometown showdown by comparing data

People love comparing their corner of the world with others. A recent Redfin report found an unprecedented 8% of U.S. homes are now worth at least $1 million. The story didn’t just reveal the top five or 10 cities but ranked 99 so readers can see how million-dollar neighborhoods compare to other million-dollar neighborhoods.

In this snippet of the comparison content, six of the cities are in California – half of which have a 50% or greater share of homes worth at least $1 million in 2022. Other cities at the top of the list include Honolulu, Seattle, and New York City.

A snippet from Redfin’s story that ranks home price data by state.

When people can see their cities’ results juxtaposed with others, it puts the information into a more powerful context. Ranking stories, such as states with the lowest income taxes or the cities with the highest rent, often perform well.

Ranking stories – where readers can see how their locale compares to others – perform well, says @Stacker’s Elisa Huang via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Writing headlines with phrases like “highest-to-lowest,” “biggest increase,” and “lowest-priced” also signals to readers the underlying numbers-driven methodology used in the content. They not only reinforce the data-first approach, but they build confidence in the prospective reader that the content is powered by data, not opinion.

Takeaway: Use data-driven rankings to tap into readers’ curiosity by showing how their region compares with others in timely trends.

Let time tell the story by thinking past the latest data

Many content creators understandably focus on building a story around the latest numbers or study results to be relevant and trendy.

But pulling in a bit of history through older data sets can add a richer dimension to the storytelling. Not only does historic information add more context to the latest data or breaking news, but it helps the piece become more evergreen. Long after a news headline fades, readers may be still interested in the richly layered content.

Historical data can lead to a more relevant story today, says @Stacker’s Elisa Huang via @CMIContent. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

We did this with a story about how commuting in America changed over the past 50 years.

Stacker used historical data to highlight how the American commute has changed over time.

Without adding historical data, it would have been impossible to highlight that the average length of work commutes has increased 10% since 2006. This contextualization offers a perspective that wouldn’t be possible by only detailing the current average commute time.

Self, a credit-building app, mapped poverty levels state by state using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Instead of just mapping the country with the latest poverty rates for each state, the story also charted the rates over time. With this valuable context, readers could see how states’ poverty rates rose and sank after natural disasters, financial booms and busts, and ultimately COVID-19, giving a more thoughtful story that identified contributors to those poverty rate changes.

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce tackled the value of higher education with another data-centered approach: It looked at the salaries of college graduates in 10-year increments since their enrollment. The findings, picked up by Yahoo! Finance and others, assessed how many decades it took for a student to earn a return on investment on the cost of their college.

Takeaway: Using data over time can add richer context to what numbers mean today – and make the content feel more evergreen.

Liven up humdrum stories with different data filters

Data-driven stories emphasize relatability – they can connect better with your audience and often present a new angle that stands out from your same old story approaches. You can find local angles, make a comparison, and use historical data to provide unique context.

Unsure what data to start with? Poke around government sites like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Education. They can be great places to dig into and see how national-level data looks when filtered across industries, career fields, household incomes, metropolitan areas, and more. By adding focused data to your content, you can tell stories that feel more personalized – and meaningful – to your readers.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute





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How to turn the great buyer resignation into B2B career opportunities

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Create a B2B GTM strategy that buyers, execs and revenue teams love


Marketers play a large, proactive role in the buying-selling process to generate revenue across the entire buyer lifecycle – from generating a new customer, to contract renewal, to solution expansion and cross-sell/upsell.

This is no small task, especially when B2B buyers, barraged by untimely automated messages, random cold calls and lackluster outreach from both sales and marketing, are opting out of vendor conversations. B2B marketing expert Tony Zambito calls this the “Great Buyer Resignation.” This phenomenon has progressively intensified over the last five years and is both a challenge and an opportunity for B2B marketers.

A reality check

Let’s tackle the B2B challenge first by capturing today’s reality. The B2B buying process has gone primarily digital; most B2B sellers and teams have not. Sales has limited access to prospects and customers. We know the facts. According to Gartner, more than two-thirds of the buying process is complete before buyers engage directly with a brand rep. Only 17% of the B2B buying process time is spent with a salesperson across all suppliers. And this scenario is only accelerating as digital native professionals become influencers and decision-makers.


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To contribute to revenue and customer generation, B2B marketers are cranking out “leads” to help sales generate revenue. Marketers are often using legacy marketing automation-centric practices developed during the first wave of marketing technology and lead generation. The teams are pushing out random campaigns in a world where prospects and buyers already know what’s coming when they download a white paper or attend a webinar. Cringe — here come the automated nurture and cadenced phone calls.

Compounding the challenge, prospect and customer outreach happens in silos via one-off campaigns, isolated channels and focused functional teams. And data is being used to justify spending rather than apply buyer and account intelligence to deliver more timely information, better buyer engagement experiences, and more creative outreach.

The change and challenge revenue teams face are real.

Marketing’s impact opportunity in the buyer and customer generation lifecycle

With change comes opportunities for B2B marketers who understand, embrace and develop a smarter approach to identify, engage and delight buyers. And it should be emphasized that B2B teams and marketers have begun their transformation as marketing works across their entire company to play a more proactive role in all revenue and customer generation aspects.

From talking with progressive B2B go-to-market (GTM) leaders, here are strategies to stop mass buyer resignation, advance your career and have a much more significant impact on revenue growth.

1. Drive the shift from push to pull marketing

We often focus our effort on pushing email, cranking out business development representative calls, blasting ads and putting up forms to engage B2B pros. The breakthrough strategies are built around moving from pushing stuff at prospects and customers to pulling buyers through their process. Give them control. Provide options and let them guide their own journey, based on their needs, with value-added assistance. This is an art and science to master. This playbook and skill-set is, and will continue to be, highly coveted.

2. Focus on moments we create, not just those touchpoints we capture

Capture” is primarily what we do today in the form of paid media engagement to generate leads, drive web traffic and white paper downloads, and sponsor events to scan and swipe badges. The best marketers are flipping this model and asking, “How can we create moments for the buyer?”

Moment creation requires a proactive, experiential mindset putting ourselves in the shoes of our most coveted buyers and accounts. Breakthrough moments and experiences can be done through:

  • Product-led growth (PLG).
  • Interactive and self-guided applications and videos.
  • Personalized workshops for prospective buying teams at your target accounts.
  • Curated web pages that feature topical and popular content aligning with themes your buyer has been researching or engaging with over the last quarter.

It doesn’t have to be over complicated.

3. Master the full customer lifecycle

Today’s market realities and company growth mandates underline the need to build GTM models, strategies and resources around the entire customer lifecycle. With today’s prevailing Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and cloud subscription customer financial models, 50 to 70% of the profit comes from existing customers.

For a deeper perspective, a five percent increase in retention results in an estimated 25 to 95% increase in revenue.

4. Embrace data intelligence and science

We will not be effective marketing leaders or pros without the ability to access, use and interpret data. At a minimum, we must be proactive in using data to understand markets, customers, accounts and market trends. The ideal case is to be confident in turning data into insights and actions and applying data science to help guide investments, programs and experiences. Data cannot be used simply to justify or defend marketing spend.

The most in-demand marketing skills in a B2B buyer-driven world

Let’s look at a few past examples of marketing career breakthroughs to plot the future. Ironically, the emergence and mastery of marketing automation tools, data and campaigns created a generation of what turned out to be the marketing operations (MOps) profession. It’s become a well-compensated, highly respected and in-demand role. In another example, the rise of account-based marketing (ABM) created a shift of sales support-focused field marketers to revenue generation-focused members of the GTM team.

Based on the Great Buyer Resignation reality and market shifts, here are a few high-impact career opportunities for talented pros who want to up-level their professional world while positively impacting their company’s growth. It is important to point out these re-imagined roles all focus across the customer lifecycle and obliterate internal silos whenever and wherever possible.

  • Growth marketing: This high-impact role is the next level of demand marketing, which today has largely been focused on digital and paid media spend to generate qualified leads or pipelines. Growth encompasses the full customer/buyer lifecycle of revenue generation in today’s Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscription world. It also focuses on identifying and activating the markets, drivers and industries to grow revenue and expand the company’s total available market (TAM).
  • Journey architects: To align with best-fit buyers and accounts, this craft is an ability to use buyer and account intelligence to create experiences to more naturally pull a buyer or buying group through their journey. With a full view across buyer channels and company touchpoints, this role expands beyond marketing to ensure more timely information. For perspective, this is the buyer-driven outgrowth of what was integrated marketing.
  • Revenue ops: It is very difficult to identify and engage buyers and target accounts if your view is only on sales, marketing, customer success or finance. This progressive function demands a full view of buyer and customer lifecycles. It unifies and analyzes data to empower the rest of the front-line, customer-facing players to act on intelligence and insights.

The bottom line on what buyer resignation means for our marketing careers

Now is an opportunistic time to capitalize on market and marketing shifts and commit to buyer-centric GTM strategies and tactics. If you see a new role or transformation opportunity inside your organization or at a new company, raise your hand and dive in. These are the times when careers are made and energized.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Scott Vaughan is a B2B CMO and go-to-market leader. After several CMO and business leadership roles, Scott is now an active advisor and consultant working with CMO, CXOs, Founders, and investors on business, marketing, product, and GTM strategies. He thrives in the B2B SaaS, tech, marketing, and revenue world.

His passion is fueled by working in-market to create new levels of business and customer value for B2B organizations. His approach is influenced and driven by his diverse experience as a marketing leader, revenue driver, executive, market evangelist, speaker, and writer on all things marketing, technology, and business. He is drawn to disruptive solutions and to dynamic companies that need to transform.



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