User acquisition is at the core of app growth, and creatives are one of the best tools UA managers have to reach and engage new users. Knowing how to leverage them in your campaigns can play a big role in tipping the scales in favor of your app’s success.
But creatives can also be a resource sink - necessitating time to experiment and the budgets to do so. By analyzing trends in creatives - from ideation to execution - you can hopefully skip the sink and get the most out of your creatives.
Here are some of the top creative trends in games to help you drive engagement for your app:
Classic game mechanics
Mobile game developers make their creatives instantly recognizable and familiar to users by employing mechanics from classic games. Examples include games like pipe (connecting pipe pieces to get a flow of liquid from the entry to the exit), snake (a snake-like character is guided to eat pickups, growing as it does), and aim-and-shoot (hitting a target, while avoiding obstacles that move). While the mechanic in the creative might not be relevant to core gameplay, its familiarity can work to help boost conversions.
You too can use classic game mechanics, think Cheetos’ ‘Cheetapult’ or ‘App of Massive Distraction.’ Familiar game mechanics are a great way to get users on your app, and they can also improve user engagement - playables ads have better CTR when compared to video ads.
Before and after transformations
Everyone loves a good rags to riches story. Many games use before and after transformations to engage users, highlighting the progress a user’s character makes in their games. For example, they start by showing a low-level character struggling to defeat a mid-level enemy, then show that character leveling up to where they can dominate that same enemy. Visual clues like new, shiny armor and weapons also help show the character's journey.
This can also be accomplished by transforming an object or person by direct action (for example, a person or object being washed, going from dirty to clean). This technique taps into the satisfaction of completing a journey or difficult task. Other examples include the compelling genre of DIY and ASMR videos, where you can’t help but watch a carpet being cleaned to completion.
You can use these in your creatives to tap into user motivations. For example, use an image of someone hungrily waiting for their meal and then show them becoming full after eating using your QSR app (add in a meter filling for extra effect). Or, you could have a literal rags to riches story featured in a creative for a spend tracking app, showing a transformation from raggedy to well-dressed thanks to the ability to save money through your app.
Laughter is the best medicine
Another great way to entice users is through humor. If a creative for a game makes a user laugh, then that user is already emotionally engaged. By entertaining users before they even download an app, publishers show them that their enjoyment has been put front and center.
One way games do this is by using gameplay with a funny caption or an ironic twist. Another (and currently popular) technique is using real actors in short live-action skits centered around a game.
For your app, the same principles apply. Use comedic skits featuring your app to give users a laugh and make your brand more personable and approachable. It’s a trick advertising agencies have been using for decades, whether for Volkswagen or Nintendo, and one that should be part of your marketing strategy.
Follow the TikTok trends
Short-form video is at the top of the food chain when it comes to share of attention, and TikTok is a goldmine for content that’s proven to get and keep users’ attention. Use the same trends that are dominating TikTok as a way to get noticed by users. Just remember, when it comes to TikTok, relevance is everything - make sure you hop on a trend while it’s still timely or you could miss your window (and feel dated rather than relevant).
Some of the ways TikTok trends can be leveraged include: using the app’s AI voiceover, adapting your game to fit a popular meme, or featuring your app in the corner of a trending video.
Borrow some influence
Another highly effective way to create convincing creatives is through influencer and user collaborations. Partner with users and popular influencers who fit your app’s target audience to get your creatives in front of the users you actually want.
Influencer collaboration comes in various forms but the three most common tiers are micro-influencers (independent niche creators with a smaller following), content creators (social media entertainers or educators with a medium to large following), and celebrities (well known artists/public figures with huge followings). Examples include Calm and Bumble’s partnership with huge stars like Lebron James and Tiffany Haddish for mass appeal, while apps like Whatnot (a collectibles and trading platform) have partnered with smaller Youtubers and streamers for penetration into niche markets.
Another option, if your budget is tight, is user generated content - one of the best ways to speak directly to your target demographic without breaking the bank. Offer select users a sample of your product or service with the condition that they post a testimonial on social media. Although you may lose reach by partnering with users with smaller followings, you gain cost-effectiveness and can still spread awareness.
All of the reaping, none of the sowing
Mobile games have often been at the forefront of innovations in the mobile app industry. But sometimes there’s merit to being second. You get the opportunity to see what’s worked, and what hasn’t. Creatives are a perfect example of this. For every trend that’s proved successful, there are thousands of failed attempts (and misspent dollars and hours). Leverage the learnings from these creative trends and reap the UA rewards.