With generative AI and the metaverse at the forefront of emerging media conversations, Roblox cannot be ignored as a frontrunner in the digital experiences space. Having joined the online game platform myself in 2009, it has been fascinating to watch Roblox grow and mature over the years. And now, the platform is at a critical juncture. What started as a relatively small group of game developers and users has exploded into a vibrant community spanning the entire globe.
As a result, brands ranging from Duolingo to Chipotle have taken note—and we have, too. At the Ad Council, we’re exploring what this new horizon looks like as a tool to advance progress on social causes in new and exciting ways. Here are some best practices for making the jump.
Marketing on Roblox
While marketing on Roblox shares many similarities with traditional principles of advertising, the platform is simultaneously rewriting the rule book when it comes to how success is measured—and these almost always differ from other metaverse platforms. This is partially because of its unique structure. At its core, Roblox is a website and cloud service that allows people to create their own experiences like digital environments and games, digital clothing, and communities, with comparatively little friction for an audience of over 66 million daily active users—half of which are under 13.
Throughout the platform’s nearly 17 years, many top experiences, communities and generations of users have come and gone—but some themes have stuck around. This is wildly different from other metaverse platforms that are still developing their initial audiences. Importantly, it’s only in the past few years that Roblox began using “metaverse” verbiage to describe themselves, and users haven’t quite bought into it yet. My advice:
Speak to community values: We all know it’s important to meet people where they are. Keeping things fun, simple and tapping into a little bit of Roblox culture (see: Dominus) is especially important when deciding how to show up on the platform. Remember, most players are under 18 and generally come to the platform to play with and make friends. Making your experiences social and interactive will go a long way in promoting your campaign—though if you try too hard, it’ll show.
This playful culture can admittedly be more difficult to navigate for efforts that discuss sensitive topics. In these cases, try being less explicit in the messaging to bring hesitant audiences in. When appropriate, wrap the themes of your campaign in an interactive experience, or ask audiences for their opinions to begin your own community around your work. Doing these things can be more effective than sharing out campaign messaging directly. Along those lines, try tapping grassroots Roblox developers and influencers to get their insights and create legitimacy in the communities you’re trying to reach. The key here is that Roblox is built on community-created content, so you should lean into that when possible.
Remember that each “experience” has its own culture, like any social platform—so try not to homogenize. Your approach here will vary, of course, whether you’re trying to build out your own experience or promote through an existing one.
Gamify when appropriate and possible: When it comes to the metaverse, it can be easy to lean too heavily into what an experience means, and looks like, rather than what gives people reason to engage with your campaign on the platform in the first place. As you’ve likely gathered, gaming is a key component of Roblox culture, and although your executions do not need to be games, they should be interactive to satisfy what the audience expects.
This is the throughline that makes any experience (branded or not) successful on the platform. While content and aesthetics are important, engagement and connection is foremost. This means that you do not necessarily need to create the most high-end production as long as the story and interactivity makes sense for your brand and your audience.
Thread the needle on age demographics: As a gaming-first platform traditionally, Roblox has attracted a younger demographic than other metaverse platforms over time. However, a key part of the platform’s strategy is to gradually expand their demographic, which is reflected by their fastest growing age segment of 17-24 year olds. This doesn’t change the fact that most of Roblox’s users are still under 16, meaning they will likely make up a solid chunk of your audience for the foreseeable future.
With this in mind, as with any campaign, it’s important to tailor your content. Some starting points might include market research around what games your audience already plays, what they’re looking for in a brand interaction, and searching for partners who can help you come to life. If you are looking to bring your existing audience to the platform, you should first examine how they perceive Roblox and account for those findings in your approach to any implementations.
Coming to Life on Roblox
By now, you should have a solid overview of Roblox and its culture—but what does it mean to actually launch something on the platform? Some options are inherently lower lift than others—both in terms of time and cost commitments. Let’s explore a few ways to make your mark on the platform.
- Influencer partnerships: Partnering with Roblox YouTubers, streamers, and other influencers provides tangential inroads to a captive audience that don’t require reinventing existing marketing strategies.
- Experience integrations: Collaborating with individual games or entire genres for in-experience immersive ads is an area of exploration that Roblox is still in the process of rolling out. Additionally, you could explore more tangible integrations like virtual pop-ups and sponsored items.
- Branded experiences: Development groups big and small are popping up to serve the needs of organizations seeking to have their own branded experiences on the platform. This is by far the most popular and impactful option used by brands, and for good reason—experiences are a way to make your mark on the platform and drive engagement that other options can’t offer.
- Branded merchandise: Creating virtual branded merch, is a great way to let your community share their pride for your campaign. This is often hosted within a Group, which is the core community function for like-minded players on Roblox.
- Community development: To build on the previous point, starting a campaign Group, or engaging your community on other social platforms, is a great way to ensure longevity on Roblox. If players are invested in your experience, they will gladly offer feedback to make it better over time. The goals of your campaign should include this as a metric, which will help you measure awareness on a greater scale.
- Events: Just as in the real world, hosting virtual branded events provides an opportunity to generate buzz around your campaign. Also, tying your event to an influencer or real-world launch is another great way to compliment a cross-functional campaign.
Leveraging Roblox for Social Good
At the Ad Council, our mission to convene the best storytellers to educate, unite and uplift doesn’t stop at traditional advertisements—we’re constantly looking for new ways to engage audiences around the country’s most pressing issues. Roblox and other metaverse platforms provide a unique opportunity to do this by engaging audiences in the entire process, from beginning to end, and have become a very effective way to disseminate messaging.
Despite all of these opportunities, given the breadth of the Roblox community, there will always be some number of bad actors looking to disrupt your work. As such, asking questions ranging from the handling of “exploiters” (people who inject their own code into experiences) to how you’ll manage your community to maintain a healthy environment should all be discussed, especially in the context of social good and brand management.
Regardless of these potential roadblocks, remember the impact you’re having for the people who are there to positively interact with your creations. Creating a community around a topic like mental health, for example, can leave a lasting impact on a younger audience who might not have the resources to navigate those complex topics in their real lives. Long-lasting social change often begins when people feel personally connected to campaigns, and creating virtual spaces is a great way to build that connection in a low-risk environment.
Ultimately, how you reach your audience on Roblox won’t be that different from traditional campaigns—but they do come with unique considerations given the medium. Prioritizing data privacy, authenticity, and ensuring your content aligns with Roblox’s advertising standards are all great ways to get started. Whether you’re looking to reach a younger audience or the next generation of your existing audience, Roblox is a valuable tool to do so.
Photo by Yan Krukau / Pexels