Burn the Banners – The rise of trustworthy marketing in Gaming


This is a guest contribution from the Harviist team run by founder Francesca Mifsud. Harviist is a customer referral marketing platform that plugs into your business giving you access to peer-to-peer marketing campaigns that make it easy for your customers to tell their friends about your brand encouraging overall retention, acquisition, and ultimately customer growth.

Gonzo. The hardest working marketer in iGaming. It feels like that guy is on every banner, email header, ad image and campaign landing page across the industry. Yet, even with that luxurious beard, when every advert looks the same, people will eventually stop paying attention. But what are you supposed to do when every other creative marketing idea you’ve suggested results in the compliance manager looking at you like you’re clinically insane?burn-the-banners-the-rise-of-trustworthy-marketing-in-gaming

The system doesn’t work anymore, and perhaps it’s not so surprising. In the heady gold-rush days of iGaming, there were a more than a few lazy ads with vague small print and eye-watering wagering requirements that have ruined it for the rest of us. Now public trust is wavering, and as a result, the rule book is getting thicker, making it impossible to apply any sort of individuality to our branding.

As the industry is changing, so must our approach to marketing it. Perhaps it’s time to revisit the oldest and most successful form of marketing that, until now, has been largely overlooked by gaming companies.

Word-of-mouth is by far the most effective form of advertising. 83% of people trust recommendations from friends and family, with referred customers having a 37% higher retention rate. The type of player you attract from referrals is absolute gold standard, and they don’t even have to be referred by friends, 70% of people will trust a recommendation from someone they don’t even know.

Think of customer referral marketing as a means to social proof your business. In the way that you would choose to eat in a restaurant that already has customers in it over the empty one next door, social proofing is the digital equivalent of making your current customers visible to your potential ones. It satisfies FOMO, risk aversion, and human nature’s desire to conform, making the decision to purchase a comfortable one.

It’s important to remember that your players are also customers of other businesses. They buy things they don’t need from Amazon, just like you do. They watch influencers on Instagram tell them that if they don’t drink electrolytes then they don’t deserve nice things. They have modern marketing expectations of your brand that are not being met. Their friends don’t talk about you, you have an average review on Trustpilot, and your Instagram account is weirdly just pictures of Gonzo standing in front of different backgrounds with his arms crossed.

Your current players are your hardest working brand ambassadors, so it makes sense to give them the opportunity to talk about you so that potential customers can learn about you from a trustworthy source. New players are far more likely to act on the recommendation of a friend than they are on a brand email with the same promotion that was offered to them by a competitor a week ago.

The beauty of customer referral marketing lies in its highly targeted nature. Instead of creeping out customers by paying Facebook to extract social data to find a look-a-like audience, your customers already know who in their network would be interested in playing with you. Just like you’re not likely to recommend an extreme CrossFit class to your elderly neighbour, Bob (unless he’s a secret badass which is fine), your customers are only going to talk about you to the people who they know enjoy gambling and are most likely to give your site a try.

With paid advertising, it is difficult to completely avoid spending money on people who have no interest in gambling. Investing in customer referral marketing means that if you have €1, it’s more likely that all of it will be spent on generating legitimate leads.

And these are quality leads. The lifetime value of a referred customer is on average 16% higher than a non-referred customer. They also spend up to 25% more and, as a result of increased trust from the non-incentivised recommendation, are 18% less likely to churn.

Nowadays, including customer referral marketing campaigns in your strategy involves more than just slapping a ‘Refer a Friend’ button on your check-out page. It’s about identifying what motivates your players and then putting on your creative thinking cap. Loyalty programs, inviting VIPs to be brand ambassadors, wearable merch, influencer tournaments, fun challenges, freebies. There is a lot to experiment with.

Whereas it might be true that casino players who don’t necessarily want their friends to know they gamble are unlikely to share a post about a slot game on Facebook, that doesn’t mean that they won’t talk about you at all. Spend some time researching where they would be comfortable going and adjust your campaigns accordingly. Forums? YouTube? Trustpilot? There are places outside of social media where people can talk more anonymously.

Customer referral marketing can also be used to increase brand awareness for sportsbook. Everyone knows someone who displays their winning betslips on social media like badges of honour. Sports bettors have little issue talking about their hobby; successfully predicting the outcome of a sport is indisputable proof of their genius after all. Are you giving your customers an easy way to show off their authority on their favourite sport? Sharable quizzes, ambassador competitions and campaigns that engage their competitive nature are all great ways to increase brand visibility and build trust.

Lottery players are not considered your classic gambler, so much so that that in terms of referral marketing, their profiles are closer to that of an e-commerce customer. Loyalty schemes and discount codes, free bets, social media. The absence of stigma around lottery means that you can really work with a range of referral marketing campaigns to get your customers sharing you with their network.

There are a multitude of benefits to word-of-mouth marketing, but the essence of its success lies in trust. There are no tricks here, no “Use this colour because it evokes happiness” or “Use this word because it makes people feel at ease.” If your product is good enough, given the opportunity, people will talk about it. Simple as that.

We’re heading into a new normal, and as this digital revolution hurtles towards us like a speeding bulldozer, it’s easy to get buried under the rising competition. More people are now looking online for their entertainment, and with so much brand choice and lines of communication, the customer has never been so powerful. Focus on harnessing that power so Gonzo can retire, the guy is exhausted.

You can contact the Harviist team via LinkedIn.