Ever since the advent of the internet, marketing has gone through a metamorphosis. Companies have been fumbling to identify new tactics in order to successfully compete in the endless sea of digital advertising. For years, the mediums through which base marketing tactics were implemented stayed the same. Newspapers, magazines, television commercials, billboards, and radio plugs, to name a few. Then the internet changed the entire landscape of what was once considered traditional marketing.
In lieu of radio plugs, companies throw ads on songs in Spotify and other music streaming services. In lieu of newspaper and magazine snippets, companies pay to have ads featured on the borders of any article they can get their hands on. In lieu of television commercials, companies vie for ad space on videos through websites like YouTube, Google, Facebook and Twitch. In fact, between 2015 and 2021, the percentage of adults in the U.S. who watched T.V. through cable or satellite dropped from 76% to 56%. While there is still a sizable amount of the population that watches T.V., commercials have been the marketing method that's been most impacted by digital content creators. In this piece, we'll explore why.
A Brief History on Digital Content Creators
For the past 20 years, a new breed of entertainment has arisen from the depths of the internet; digital content creators. Starting off on websites like Newgrounds, where animators would make short animated skits, digital content creators were predominantly an obscure niche. Fast forward a few years and you have the launch of YouTube, which was the start of something huge. Intended as a place where people could upload various types of videos, the digital content niche found a new home.
While many channels and videos were intended purely as side projects or interesting/funny videos, some started to make a career out of said content. Channels like sxephil (The Philip Defranco Show) would talk about recent events much like a news channel, but in a more concise manner with a generally impartial view. In an increasingly fast paced world, this style of news has turned out to be incredibly successful. Equals Three took the place of Americas Funniest Home Videos, discovering funny and trending videos many times accompanied with re-enacted skits. Channels like ShaneDawsonTV or Smosh would post side splitting short comedy skits, easily accessible to anyone with a stable internet connection.
As YouTube began to capitalize on these types of content creators by enabling ads on videos, the channels themselves also benefited. This mutual benefit allowed the platform to grow and creators to earn a living. Through the now established demand for digital content creators, a new niche began to emerge.
The Dominance of Streamers
Riding on the coattails of YouTubes success, the streaming site, Justin.tv, found a way to carve out it's own section of the internet. Founded in 2007, Justin.tv was initially established as a website where people could broadcast live videos from a variety of different categories. The site was very successful, pioneering several new types of digital content. One of these new types of digital content was people streaming video games. In fact, this new type of digital content was so successful, Justin.tv reorganized it's entire company into a platform solely dedicated to streaming video games; Twitch.tv.
Since it's public beta launch in 2011, Twitch has grown into the worlds largest video game broadcasting platform. With over 30 million daily active users, Twitch presents enormous marketing opportunities. Between sponsorships, partnerships, and video ads, Twitch shares a similar ecosystem to that of YouTube; Where the content creators on both platforms are paid via the ad revenue/sponsorships which also fueling their respective platforms. Piggybacking off the popularity of Twitch, YouTube implemented a feature called YouTube Live, which offers a similar streaming experience. Here's a few key metrics relating to the massive success of these absolute online behemoths:
- Twitch averages 2.5 million concurrent viewers at any given moment.
- In 2020, Twitch accounted for over 16.5 billion hours of content watched.
- Twitch currently has over 7 million unique creators streaming each month.
- Twitch averages 117,000 concurrent streamers every hour.
- YouTube has more than 2 billion logged in monthly users.
- YouTube is the world's second most visited website, just behind Google.
- People watch more than 1 billion hours of content everyday on YouTube.
- Over 100 billion hours of gaming content was consumed on YouTube in 2020.
- 70% of users bought from a brand after seeing it on YouTube.
- YouTube is projected to make 5.56 billion dollars of ad revenue in 2021.
These numbers are absolutely insane, and they increase every year. The 2020 Covid-19 lockdown has dramatically boosted consumer interest in digital creator content. Between complete boredom, interest in home workout routines, and achieving just a little dopamine hit, online video platforms have completely exploded in popularity.
Understanding Your Digital Target Demographic
Marketing campaigns can vary greatly from eachother, and just because one marketing campaign works for a particular product doesn't meant it will work for a different product. Concerning marketing through digital content creators, it usually boils down to who the creator is, who their audience is, and to what degree the advertisement affects the content. Knowing what type of content a streamer creates and what their audience positively responds to is absolutely crucial.
Scenario: Investing thousands of dollars in a FPS streamer to help sell your revolutionary new kitchen appliance probably won't result in a good ROI. You would be better served (please laugh at this pun) by sponsoring a variety streamer who is currently playing games like Overcooked 2, Battle Chef Brigade, or Cooking Simulator.
At Gamesight, we've compiled mounds of data to explore how effective different campaigns are. Knowing your digital target demographic is incredibly important. It's just as easy to create negative sentiment through a poorly utilized ad as it is creating positive feelings through a good ad. When I see an ad for a game with a header such as "This game is the most insane experience of the year!", but it's a medium paced puzzle game, I feel like I was bamboozled and my valuable time was wasted.
Scenario: Creating a Mortal Kombat ad featuring a sexually provocative woman with low cleavage may generate clicks, but not necessarily sales. On the flip side, an ad featuring Raiden might get less clicks, but will generally end up with more sales. Because the people who willingly click an ad featuring Raiden are the most likely audience to purchase a Mortal Kombat product.
Methods of Advertisement
When it comes to advertising via digital content creators, there are several tried and true methods, which are as follows:
The most common method of advertising via a content creator is, of course, commercials. Video ads are one of the most effective ways of advertisement, and when done well, result in a favorable ROI. In Wyzowl's State of Video Marketing Survey performed in 2020, they reported 92% of marketers said that video ads are an important part of their strategy, up from 78% in 2015. In addition, 88% of marketers claim that video ads bring in positive ROI. Video ads are especially effective with mobile users, who are less likely to have access to an ad blocker. Considering that overall mobile usage surpassed laptop and desktop usage in 2016, crafting ads with mobile users in mind is a good play. People also tend to respond better to short video ads rather than long ones, as it cuts into less of their content viewing time. Successful ads aim to be short enough to keep viewers engaged while also being long enough to fully explain/sell the product. These plugs work especially well during short breaks on streams, and are a massive source of revenue for both stream and their respective platform.
Creating, building, and maintaining sponsorships with compatible digital content creators is another firm way to build a brand with key demographics. Depending on the terms of the contract, your brand can eventually become synonymous with the content creator. When Ninja streams for tens of thousands of viewers at a time, he has a Red Bull mini-fridge right behind him. When the viewer gets thirsty or needs an energy boost, what drink do you think comes to mind first? That's right! M̶o̶n̶s̶t̶... Red Bull! Adding to the product placement, how convenient would it be to have a referral link in Ninja's about section; Resulting in a discount plus a fast and easy way to stock up on energy drinks?
Almost every major content creator on Twitch/YouTube accepts a sponsorship, either short term or long term at some point. Some interesting facts compiled by our team here at Gamesight show that time spent watching sponsored content increased from .7% in 2018 to a forecasted 2.7% in 2021. Additionally, we also found that there were sponsored streams across 5,018 unique games, up from 2,682 in 2018. Many digital content creators find ways to make the sponsorships more entertaining. A common method is to film or broadcast a short skit featuring the product. When a plug is entertaining, the audience views it as additional content, rather than an interruption.
A sure fire way to ensure that a digital content creator commits to a product placement is by making them a partner. A partnerships differs from a sponsorship in that the content creator has a vested interest and partial responsibility in the success of a product. This could either be a product that the content creator helped design/create, or a case where they just express a genuine interest in becoming a partner of an already established product. This also gives the added benefit of the audience having a deeply ingrained affiliation between their favorite content creator and a product. This type of strategy works especially well with content creators who have a generally loyal audience. Audiences who would be easily interested in a product their content creator is personally involved with.
Partnerships also allow for an easy way to integrate influencers and content creators into other marketing campaigns. This is another effective way to induce positive brand outreach to the greater market. According to Linqia's 2019 State of the Influencer Marketing report, 57% of marketing company respondents claimed that influencer based content outperforms brand-created content.
The Future of Marketing
In summary, the numbers alone make a compelling case for the future of marketing lying within digital content platforms. But taking into account the decline of other traditional marketing methods, are there really any other options? The sooner companies jump on the bandwagon, the more firmly ingrained they can become in the culture. Establishing lasting, trusting relationships with content creators through sponsorships and partnerships will result in massive ROIs.
With the constant exponential growth of Twitch and YouTube, investing towards a strong presence on these platforms is crucial for marketing success. According to a study conducted by the Financial Times, 83% of business executives insist that the strength of the brand heavily supports the bottom line. Enlisting the help of the fastest growing celebrities and supporting platforms to accomplish brand awareness through well-articulated campaigns is the future of marketing. The digital landscape is constantly shifting and evolving, but the popularity of digital content creators is on the uptrend, with no signs of stopping.
At Gamesight, we help PC and console marketers implement performance marketing techniques for their games. If you are seeking help setting up and measuring your campaigns, working with influencers, or would like to simply talk with us about this article, please reach out on our website!