Ad Spend Creativity Brand Purpose

‘Generation Twitch’ is rejecting curation in favor of authentic experiences

By Ian Darby | journalist

August 8, 2022 | 8 min read

We’re at a tipping point in media, one driven by generation Z and the influence they have over culture. A new piece of thought leadership from Twitch explains the new rules of the game – revealing what really matters to these meme masters from their values and social behaviors. In the first of a five-part series, we explore why brands must move from curated to authentic content.

We're moving towards more community-led, connected, decentralized experiences

We're moving towards more community-led, connected, decentralized experiences

Throughout recent history, younger generations in society with high purchasing power have driven the most significant cultural and societal change. For evidence, just look at baby boomers embracing rock and roll, millennials and their high levels of social media adoption, and generation Z’s drive for environmental awareness.

Their ability to shape change, together with burgeoning economic power, explains the attraction of fresh generations to advertisers. That’s important because, right now, brands have a new event to understand – the rise of ‘Generation Twitch’.

“We are at the start of the next big upturn when it comes to media,” says Adam Harris, global head, brand partnership studio at livestreaming service Twitch. “We’re moving away from individualized social amplification that social media provides, to more community-led, connected, decentralized experiences, born in gaming environments but now broadening across content and culture.”

Anyone who viewed Spanish streamer Ibai Llanos break the livestreaming record on Twitch recently, with an audience of 3.3 million for a boxing event he hosted, would have seen this shift in action.

The emergence of Generation Twitch

‘Generation Twitch’ describes an audience that has only ever known a digital world and has always been connected. It embraces generation Z (those born between 1997-2012) and those most swayed by their influence, namely millennials (those born between 1981-1996) and generation alpha (post-2012). Digital environments such as Reddit, TikTok and Twitch are their playground, and targeting this audience is attractive to advertisers because the earnings of the 2.5 billion people that make up gen Z alone is set to rise five-fold to reach $33tn by 2030.

Twitch’s Harris argues that it’s the right time for brands to build relationships with ‘Generation Twitch’ because acting now will provide “the right, and the opportunity, to engage with them over time and build lifetime value.”

To understand this opportunity in greater depth, and to guide advertisers, Twitch is exploring five major themes emerging from a new report, ‘Generation Twitch: Leading Cultural Change – Advertising in an Emerging World’. These key trends, stemming from deep dive semiotic research across 12 markets, chart present behaviors that are fading quickly as ‘Generation Twitch’ comes to the fore, and the emerging behaviors taking their place.

Moving from ‘curated to authentic’

The first of these trends is a change in behavior among audiences from expecting and enjoying “curated” experiences towards a greater demand for the “authentic”.

Harris describes how ‘Generation Twitch’ has been brought up in a time of information overload. Authenticity is constantly being questioned, whether in the form of fake news, deep fakes or algorithmic echo chambers.

The most prevalent realization among this audience is that those who are deemed influencers – however relatable they may seem – utilize technology to cultivate a “projected life”. They do so by selectively curating and sharing only the moments in their lives that are tailored to their specific online identities. This has the potential to create a false and inauthentic representation of life, and therefore an unattainable picture of happiness.

Harris says: “Today’s emerging audiences are gradually moving away from this, instead seeking out far more raw, real and authentic experiences. By authenticity we are referring to the intimacy of the experience where it’s not constructed nor polished. For this generation, true happiness lies in being authentically, unapologetically human. In celebrating and laughing at our flaws, being true to ourselves and proud to share who we really are – anytime, anywhere.”

But what does this mean for brands?

Looking to the Twitch audience, 75% agree that what’s happening on the service is authentic due to it being live and interactive, which creates real moments of genuine emotion and drama.

The findings highlight that ‘Generation Twitch’ reflect their true selves in the content they share online, and that they want brands to follow suit. To be able to trust these advertisers, the audience must first understand what they authentically stand for before committing and becoming a loyal customer.

With this in mind, there are clear steps that brands can take to build trust – including showing their human side, welcoming spontaneity, and embracing the unpolished candor of livestreaming.

Snack brand Pringles is a good example of this in action. It adopted a clear mission to become gamers’ number one snack brand and to achieve this created a Pringles-loving zombie cowboy called Frank, who appeared as a non-playable character in the video game ‘West of Dead’.

Pringles’ achievement, working with Twitch and its popular streamer Leah, was to go a step further and eliminate the barrier between the online and real worlds. For the first time ever, the brand broke a video game character out of a game, out of a screen and into a streamer’s room. The resulting activation delivered not only a high number of views but also drove brand awareness – with 42% of the exposed audience agreeing that Pringles is their snack of choice when streaming or gaming (an upward trend). In recognition, the campaign won several industry prizes, including three at The Drum Awards for Content 2021.

“The key point is, it was unexpected, it was interactive and therefore authentic for Pringles,” explains Harris.

Pringles is just one brand that has engaged successfully with ‘Generation Twitch’ through building trust and understanding with a gaming audience and interacting in a highly authentic manner. We should expect many more to also embrace the opportunity.

For more insights on Generation Twitch, download Twitch’s ‘Generation Twitch: Leading Cultural Change – Advertising in an Emerging World’ report here.

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