In case you haven’t seen the writing on the wall, the days of passive spectatorship are over and done. With the rise of social media, brands have been handed the opportunity to engage in two-way conversations with their audience, as the power of conversation shifted towards consumers. Still, as innovation never sleeps, this system may soon lose its popular standing: word has it that Web3 is slowly but surely becoming a bigger dot on the horizon, paving the way for an internet era that’s governed by the collective. While people like you and me are enjoying this strong wind in the sails, brands are figuring out how to stay afloat in following the currents of our industry. After all, brands are always searching for the best strategy to connect with new and existing audiences, our Social Innovation Lab says in their latest report, The Year of Digital Creators.
It’s all in the name, because collaborating with digital creators has proven to be one very effective way for brands to work their crowd. With influencers and creators—yes, they are different and the report will tell you why—the “creator economy” has rapidly expanded to a $20 billion industry. As such, it’s a growing focus for brands in catching the attention of consumers. This fast-expanding segment of our industry is driven by the ease of producing high-quality creative content, forging connections over shared interests and passions, and serving the desire for an authentic community.
Gaming, our Social Innovation Lab highlights, is a great example of an industry where this creator economy can thrive, as it offers a digital space where influencers and creators, like livestreamers, are consistently strengthening connections with their communities at the intersection of content and entertainment. While the report touches on several areas where digital creators are adding depth, let’s use this space to dive into gaming and explore why it’s not only super fun, but also super efficient in speaking to your audience.
Getting Ahead Of The Game
As social distancing reigned these past two years, many people moved from physical to virtual worlds in search of new forms of entertainment. As such, it may not come as a surprise that the global gaming market has grown 21.9% compared to pre-pandemic levels, Statista reports. In 2020, there were nearly 2.7 billion active gamers worldwide and this number continues to grow, especially among Gen Z. The gaming industry has an incredible global reach—and leading brands are taking note, increasingly embracing this culture with open arms.
“The gaming industry, particularly the culture, is becoming more crucial for every brand that wants to survive in the next twenty to thirty years. This has everything to do with upcoming generations, who will grow older and with time gain more buying power,” says Funs Jacobs, our Gaming Category Lead. “81% of Gen Z’ers have played video games—the highest share of any generation—so if you fail to understand this culture, you’re going to miss the connection with this audience and every following generation.” Check out our podcast episode with Funs Jacobs.
So, collaborations between brands and gaming platforms are not just becoming more common, but also more serious, with the former owning virtual spaces inside video games or even producing their own unique, artistic gamified experiences. That said, the gaming industry is completely new territory and vastly different from what brands are used to creating in collaboration with influencers. Nevertheless, many industries don’t shy away from a challenge. Fashion and luxury, which is known for its innovative spirit and commitment to speaking to the moment and shifts in culture, was one to quickly tap into the upcoming gaming trend. Nike, for example, recently built its metaverse store Nikeland in Roblox, allowing nearly 7 million visitors worldwide to try on virtual products and play various games. Through such gaming platform collaborations, fashion brands are able to gamify their virtual products, thereby making the shopping experience all the more exciting.
Livestream to Streamline Your Community Engagement
Talking about excitement, live action is indispensable to a gamified brand experience in an era of digital creators. While gaming was originally a digital experience that combined gameplay, interactivity and narrative, it now also entails streaming technologies that enable the creation of online communities centered on the acts of playing and watching. Nowadays, popular game streamers are able to interact and connect with fans around the world and across platforms like Twitch, Instagram and YouTube. Brands want to reach audiences far and wide, whereas streamers want to be sponsored and earn an income from doing what they love. So, it wasn’t long before the two joined forces—it’s a true win-win.
Community-building is central to the gaming experience. “Communities are being formed in and around gaming, which is fascinating,” says Jacobs. “However, many brands don’t have a strong community at the moment. They may have fans, but they don’t have that 360-degree relationship with their consumers—and that is something that needs to change in order for brands to survive.” Through collaborations with game streamers, brands are able to tap into diverse digital communities. Within these communities, the work of game streamers especially contributes to building an environment in which fans are not just entertained, but also gain a sense of belonging.
Our Social Innovation Lab argues that “community” is the new version of word-of-mouth, and the opinions of people who are influential online can either boost or block sales. Belonging, information-sharing and the demand for a product are all stimulated by the powerful influence that digital communities can wield. Moreover, they provide a very useful space for brands to gather insights and feedback. So, by getting to know the digital community and looking closely at its behaviors, preferences and needs, brands have a unique opportunity to deliver tailored products, services and content. In other words, the digital community is an innovative, effective and fast-paced way for brands to sell directly to their consumers in the social media space—but more about community commerce can be found in the report.
Forecasting The Future Of Creators
While subcultures and tight-knit communities interacting across platforms characterize gaming culture today, it could look completely different tomorrow. The industry is growing, innovating and evolving faster every day. Fortunately, we now know that brands are paying close attention to these important developments. Always ahead of the industry, our Social Innovation Lab expects that one will be metaverse integration, predicting that in the next five years game streamers will interact with fans through their avatars in the metaverse while wearing virtual products and playing games together. Again, both efficient and super fun.
What else do we think might change? Explore the report and find out more about the current state and future of digital creators.
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