So much more important than you think
Branding refers to the process of raising awareness and purposely influencing an image of something (e.g. a company or an industry). The goal is to attract people (e.g. winning over and keeping clients, employees, investors)1Keller, Kevin “Strategic Brand Management” Global Edition Pearson 2012.. Establishing a brand generally serves various purposes and actors.
Compared to product marketing, brand marketing takes a more comprehensive and long-term perspective. It encompasses all aspects of the entity it stands for. These could be e.g. working conditions or sustainability instead of focusing on the features of single products or services.
The Aim of Branding
The aim of branding is to create a long-term relationship between an entity and its client. The aim is for consumers to become loyal. In the case of product or service provider branding the aim is for the consumer to become less price sensitive. Therefore, branding also goes hand in hand with experience and trust building. In particular for products or services for which the quality is difficult to evaluate before purchasing, using a known brand might be a decision criterion for consumers.
Branding for an industry and / or region is a very special case with distinct characteristics. The main motivation usually is to create economic growth and employment for the whole region and/ o r industry. Branding for a specific industry is often motivated by a disadvantageous reputation of the industry or developments which might threaten the respective industry (e.g. digitalisation, environmental concerns, etc.).2Bajde, Domen “Branding an industry?” Journal of Brand Management 2019.
For a long time, the game industry had the image3Yanev, Victor “Video Game Demopgrahics – Who Plays Games in 2020” Techjury 2019: https://techjury.net/stats-about/video-game-demographics/#gref as being dominated by a mostly young and male audience4Hanson Smith, Elizabeth “Negative Stereotypes of Online Gamers and the Communication Consequences” University Honors Program 2010.. In recent years however, this image seems to be changing. Gaming has gradually been more widely accepted as a common hobby performed by all kinds of people.
Yet, e.g. the industry in the Baltic Sea region is still struggling to be taken seriously as a professional business by large parts of society (e.g. general public, investors, policy makers, etc.). Hence, there are grounds for improvement through the creation of an industry-wide branding which aims for a more professional image of the industry.
The motivation for regional branding is often a willingness to expand to new markets due to globalisation5Dinnie, Keith “Nation Branding – Concepts, Issues, Practice” Routledge 2015.. In most cases, the focus here lies on specific industries as well.
The video game industry can be considered as a rather competitive and volatile industry which shows oligopolistic structures6Marchand, A.; Henning-Thurau, T. “Value creation in the video game industry: Industry economics, consumer benefits, and research opportunities” Journal of Interactive Marketing 2013.. Small and / or new studios might face considerable disadvantages compared to established companies regarding visibility and quality signalling.
Additionally, most larger players come from a few larger countries (for games – US, Canada and China). Creating a joint brand for several smaller countries from one region might help to overcome this imbalance. A positive branding of e.g. the Baltic Sea region game industry might help (further) improve the reputation of the game industry in general. This wouild also help in competing against other industries (e.g. the film industry) globally.
The aim of industry branding is an improved performance of an entire industry which is usually driven by competition from other industries or markets. Compared to corporate branding which usually focuses on potential consumers, target groups such as political institutions and the general public become more important in the case of industry branding.
Hence, branding activities should be adapted to these purposes. Instead of a differentiation between single companies of one market (e.g. by covering different price segments), focusing on commonalities must be paramount. Based on this, common branding tools like logos and slogans are crucial for industry-level identification.