From sponsoring esports tournaments to running promos with Twitch streamers, beauty brands have recognized the opportunity for marketing to die-hard gamers. Now, Maybelline is getting in on the action with a different audience in mind: the casual gamer.
Today, Maybelline becomes the first beauty brand to launch a promotion in the “hyper-casual gaming” space, unveiling an in-app mobile game that will be available across games owned by Zynga, including Hair Challenge, High Heels and Blob Runner. Called Maybelline Mascara Merge, the game features three mascaras from the brand, allowing users to play to earn points that can keep them going in the main Zynga game they are playing.
“We’re trying to delve into gaming in this way that is a lot more approachable than some of the ways the other brands have done it,” said Tina Liu, Maybelline New York director of marketing for mascara. While the esports and Twitch audience “tends to be a very involved gaming user,” the question for Maybelline was, “How are we going to approach it as a mass brand?” said Liu. “We thought of hyper-casual gaming as an easier entry into the space.”
The reach can be vast: Zynga has 40 million daily active users and 200 million users in total across its 100 games, according to its latest 2022 data. Its players may not be logging on to Twitch for hours a day to get the latest gaming tips, but as anyone riding the subway can see, their attention is just as rapt as esports enthusiasts.
The brand describes the campaign as a hybrid between shoppable ads and mobile gaming. Through Maybelline’s mini-game, users can merge three icons together to reveal a mascara and earn points. They are also presented with information, video content and a link to a special Ulta Beauty landing page created for the campaign with product listings. Mascaras featured are the brand’s Falsies Lash Lift Mascara, Colossal Curl Bounce Mascara and The Lash Sensational Sky High Mascara.
“Gaming is a unique opportunity for beauty brands, in particular, to reach their target audiences in a new space where they are spending time every day, engaging directly with the content,” said Gabrielle Heyman, head of global brand partnerships for Zynga. The gaming company has worked with a beauty retailer in the past, but has upped its focus on beauty brand partnerships since launching new games with audiences that skew female. According to Heyman, the company is currently in discussion with additional beauty brands for future campaigns.
The game is “a novel way for Gen-Z players to experience the brand’s iconic mascara wardrobe and do so in a way that is intuitive and immersive. Rather than offering a passive advertisement or interrupting play, Maybelline New York and Zynga have gamified the social media mash-up trend with the brand’s mascara campaign in order to create a fun game-within-a-game,” said Jennilee Dunwoody, vp of innovation and strategic growth in the office of the chief digital marketing officer at L’Oréal USA.
The campaign is especially focused on Gen Z, who have helped drive sales of Maybelline mascara after it went viral on TikTok in January 2021. Zynga has also partnered in the past with TikTok, which is ramping up its own gaming capabilities. The Maybelline game is part of a broader campaign that will also include components on other platforms such as Snapchat.
The brand is partnering specifically with Zynga’s Rollic, which oversees the company’s hyper-casual gaming category and whose “audience tends to be younger,” said Liu. “Gaming is really almost a cultural tentpole for Gen Z,” said Liu. “Over 80% of Gen Z and millennials are playing games.” In addition, half of Zynga’s audience is female.
“Gaming demands attention and engagement. And given the fact that every younger generation plays games more and prefers it over traditional media, brands have taken notice and are actively looking for ways to gamify their marketing campaigns,” said Heyman.
The game was developed by Zynga’s in-house brand partnership arm. Campaigns are meant to “create positive, engaging experiences for our players, and the Maybelline Mascara Merge playable is a great example of how we bring entertainment seamlessly to every aspect of our games,” said Serra Bilgin, Rollic’s director of corporate operations.