Harnessing the passion economy

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SYDNEY, Tuesday: Twitch ANZ head of sales Ricky Chanana takes a look at how brands, marketers and advertisers can reach consumers – particularly Gen Z and millennials – in 2022.

“Unsurprisingly,” he says, “gaming has a role to play, though authenticity and creativity must be at the core of all interactions to generate impact.

It is certainly true that Gen Z and Gen Y audiences are hard to reach and reject traditional forms of advertising.

However, the idea that they reject marketing and brands entirely has been proven to be untrue—especially in 2021.

When brands meet these audiences where they are and engage in authentic and creative ways, millennials and Gen Z embrace brands wholeheartedly.

Gaming levels up to a new-found currency
A second year of rolling lockdowns means we’re all tired of words like ‘challenging year’ and ‘online shopping’, so let’s not go there. One thing that cannot be ignored, however, is the importance of digital communities as a way of connecting during isolation.

It is not an exaggeration to say online connections saved lives during the last couple of years. For some, it was the only human connection they had. And key to this were gaming communities.

Gaming took first place not only as a pastime but as a way to connect, create new friendships, make money and form new businesses. Gaming is no longer just for the select few but is the place where passions and entertainment converge in the mass market. From fashion to music and everything inbetween, gaming is a way to harness the passion economy. 

A recent study found 73% of Aotearoa New Zealanders play video games, with 1.6 million households having at least one gaming device. Along with this, 76% of parents play games with their children, and 67% of people said video games connect people. Importantly, 78% of people say games improve mental health.  

Gaming is truly front and centre within the cultural zeitgeist and this is only set to continue. 2021 saw collaborations between gaming and major fashion houses, luxury brands and popular musicians. Gaming is not a pastime for loners in basements, as the stereotype would have us believe. Gaming is the new way to connect to everyone, and this is a boon for brands.  

“A recent study found 73% of Aotearoa New Zealanders play video games, with 1.6 million NZ households having at least one gaming device.”

How brands can get ahead in 2022
Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen marketers and advertisers embrace gaming and esports to unlock unrealised consumer spending with great success, and this won’t slow down in 2022 as brands look to make their mark.

This brings me to my point: audiences congregate online around shared interests and passions, creating significant opportunities for brands to connect in non-traditional ways.

The importance of digital marketing cannot be underestimated. But not digital advertising as we’ve known it to date. Not generic 30-second video ad spots that people are now hardwired to ignore as they are followed around the internet.

I’m talking about immersive experiences, which are community-driven and two-way. These are conversations, not message pushing. With even larger audiences and new communities coming to interactive gaming, more brands are finding resonance in this way.

Now, custom advertising options transform branded content into interactive games, exclusive moments with influencers, and more.

The industry is on the cusp of the next era of creative storytelling, going well beyond the traditional 30-second TVC spot.

And about time, too. This kind of personalised interactive communication is far more likely to resonate with a generation that has been hardwired to ignore advertising from a young age.

There is no ‘faking it’ here

However, one thing about brands connecting with audiences remains true: authenticity.

It’s surprising how many brands still forget this, despite studies showing over and over again that it is how to connect with the born-cynical consumer.

The most successful advertisers on our platform first understand our community values and behaviours. Our audiences are uniquely invested in the community they’ve built – they love and protect the brand. Authenticity is key to advertising and fostering genuine audience engagement in this passionate space. Viewers are more likely to build trust and interact with brands when brands thoroughly integrate themselves into the community.

With gaming becoming mainstream, the passions and preferences of gamers will reflect those of broader society—not a niche subset within it. The key challenge now is educating brands on the vastness of the gaming community, including their hybrid interests across lifestyle content, and then connecting with them in an authentic, interactive way.

Brands that strike this delicate balance will be the ones ahead in 2022.

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