The rise of gaming culture - is this the next frontier for marketing?
Gaming isn’t just changing entertainment - it’s revolutionizing marketing as we know it. That’s a bold statement from TikTok’s head of global gaming business marketing, so The Drum caught up with Rema Vasan to find out if it’s justified.
"Gaming isn't just changing entertainment - it's revolutionizing marketing as we know it"
Attention is the new currency - and if marketers want to capture the attention of today’s consumers in a rapidly evolving world, traditional marketing approaches will no longer cut it. One industry is changing the game, having been quick to adapt to dramatic shifts in consumer expectations and it’s revolutionizing marketing as we know it. Yes, we’re talking about gaming.
The modern gamer has a growing influence, opening up new opportunities for brands, publishers, creators and communities to connect with their target audience. We caught up with Rema Vasan, the head of global gaming business marketing at TikTok, to shed light on why gaming has become a cultural phenomenon and its impact on the future of marketing.
So what does a ‘modern gamer’ look like - or is gaming now too big for that question?
When we talk about gamers today, we’re breaking away from the stereotypes that many may have in mind. The truth is, everyone is a gamer in their own way. The concept of a ‘modern gamer’ goes beyond any specific image or description because gaming has become a massive force in mainstream entertainment.
Gaming is not just a hobby anymore; it has evolved into the fastest-growing form of entertainment worldwide. According to the IAB, gaming is third only to TV and social media in terms of how audiences spend their time. Gaming has become a cultural phenomenon, where people come together to creatively express themselves and cultivate vibrant communities.
So, to answer the question, the ‘modern gamer’ encompasses over three billion players worldwide, which means there is no single mold. By being such a key part of the cultural and entertainment landscape, gaming is opening up new opportunities for brands, publishers, creators and communities to connect with their audiences in a highly engaging and culturally relevant way.
And TikTok has been witness to this transformation - how do you see gamers express themselves on the platform?
Based on the cultural research behind TikTok’s 2023 What’s Next trend report, we know that the next generation of fans and consumers are seeking out entertainment that’s more actionable and participatory. They actively seek out opportunities to engage, which perfectly aligns with the gaming community’s love for interactive experiences.
On TikTok, gaming is not just about the game; it’s about the entire ecosystem surrounding it. Gamers actively engage with challenges and trends, creating their unique twists and interpretations, showcasing their creativity and competitive spirit, while expressing their love for their favorite gaming IP.
So it’s not just about the game but creating a culture around it - tell me more about that?
Many people are discovering games through the intersectionality of their interests. This is absolutely manifesting on TikTok, where we see crossovers with gamers and different types of content and communities. Whether it’s a #FilmTok creator reimagining games as films, or a #TravelTok creator sharing what they are playing on the road, or even a #FoodTok creator crafting our favorite game icons and characters into sweet delicacies - these communities have the power to not only spark belonging, but also spark new interests within or at the intersection of other communities, too.
Gaming culture on TikTok doesn’t exist in a silo. It’s an open space where different passions collide and gamers exchange ideas to get more out of their favorite titles. TikTok creators from all walks of life are getting people to discover and play games through all types of entertainment, every single day.
What does all of this mean for the future of marketing?
First and foremost, the rise of gaming culture into mainstream entertainment signifies that gaming has become an influential force that cannot be overlooked by marketers. It’s not just about targeting gamers as a niche audience; it’s about recognizing the broader reach and engagement that gaming culture offers.
By aligning their marketing strategies with the values and interests of different gaming communities, brands have the opportunity to reach a variety of audiences in ways traditional advertising methods can’t duplicate.
What advice would you give to brands to be able to level up their gaming marketing?
To level up their gaming marketing, brands should consider the following advice:
Embrace authenticity: gamers value authenticity above all else. 80% of TikTok Gamers who make purchases based on TikTok content value brand authenticity.* Brands should take the time to understand gaming culture and create content that resonates with gamers to build trust and meaningful connections.
Create value: gamers appreciate content that enhances their gaming experience. Brands should focus on delivering valuable and engaging content that goes beyond traditional advertising. This can include tutorials, behind-the-scenes insights, exclusive in-game rewards, or interactive experiences that deepen the connection between the brand and the gaming audience. By offering value, brands can establish themselves as valuable resources and trusted partners.
Engage with communities: actively engage with gamers across gaming communities, such as collaborating with gaming creators on TikTok. Among TikTok gamers who took an action off-platform as a result of TikTok, 67% say the credibility of the creator was useful when making or considering a purchase.** Creators understand their audience’s interests and engage with their audience through encouraging user-generated content and creating opportunities for players to showcase their skills. This can foster a sense of community and loyalty towards the brand.
By prioritizing authenticity, providing value, engaging with the community, brands can level up their gaming marketing efforts and effectively connect with passionate and expansive gaming communities.
Vasan will join Assaf Sagy, global head of gaming and TikTok creators in a panel discussion moderated by The Drum’s editor Cameron Clarke on Wednesday, June 21 in Cannes. ‘Who are today’s gamers: understanding the modern gaming audience’ will uncover the complexities of the gaming community, its impact on culture and what it means for marketers.
Sign up here to receive a comprehensive recap of the panel, including key takeaways, valuable insights and actionable strategies directly to your inbox.
* Source: TikTok Marketing Science US, Custom Gaming Community Survey via Suzy, October 2022
** Source: TikTok Marketing Science NA TikTok Made Me ‘Blank’ It Research 2022, conducted by MarketCast
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