What Twitch Can Teach Brands About Marketing to Millennials

Four Lessons in Content Marketing from Gaming Platform Twitch

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Visitors stream online computer games on the Twitch Interactive stand at the Gamescom video games trade fair in Germany in 2014.
Visitors stream online computer games on the Twitch Interactive stand at the Gamescom video games trade fair in Germany in 2014. Credit: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

There has been a rapid rise in popularity of one particular gaming platform -- Twitch -- which has generated significant attention since being acquired by Amazon last fall. Twitch is a site on which competitions among the world's top video gamers are streamed live, and millions of users worldwide log on to watch. However, the platform's reach and pull go beyond offering an outlet for gamers; it's also been successful in providing an immersive, interactive and relevant service that ultimately drives content engagement. How Twitch does this is something all marketers should take note of and apply in their content creation process -- on whatever platform they are using.

Twitch appeals to an audience composed largely of gamers. According to Quantcast, nearly 94% of Twitch users are male and 64% of them fall into the coveted consumer demo aged 18 to 34. This millennial consumer is part of an audience that prefers to be active participants in the content they consume. Recognizing this, Twitch has customized its platform and content specifically for the millennial male.

Here are four lessons brands can learn from Twitch in order to effectively tailor and deliver content that will resonate with the elusive millennial market:

1. The content is not polished, but unfiltered. As a live-streaming platform, Twitch allows viewers to see unhindered, unfiltered versions of their favorite streaming personalities. With YouTube evolving into a platform for polished and refined content, Twitch offers the inverse -- a way to watch real-time streamers, with unique personalities and quirks. It's difficult to fake a persona when you're casting live for hours, so it offers viewers an opportunity for authentic interaction.

Authenticity is increasingly becoming the benchmark for which millennials are judging brands. Twitch already provides an avenue for computer gaming brands like Razer and Alienware to show they are actively and genuinely involved in the gaming space via channel and player sponsorships. As demand for authentic interaction grows, brands from other verticals will need to look beyond showing a perfect brand image and connect with their community in the most genuine way possible. A good example is Reddit's "Ask Me Anything" content site, which provides an open and authentic discussion forum between brand and community that lends itself to an unfiltered and transparent experience.

2. Twitch creates an opportunity for real-time interaction. Twitch encourages a distinct intimacy between the video streamer and viewer by providing real-time chat along with the stream. Combining this personal connection with live discussion of events occurring in-stream produces an incredibly engaging and interactive viewing experience.

Twitch's "Old Spice Nature Adventure," which was inspired by the incredible success of "Twitch Plays Pokémon," has at its heart real-time interaction as the game is completely driven by live community actions via chat. Procter & Gamble's Old Spice has jumped on the opportunity to create a shared experience among a passionate and engaged community and shows that a brand can be at the center of this evolving social content experiment.

3. The experience incentivizes a personal connection between content and viewer. Twitch offers an optional subscription model that allows viewers to directly support both the Twitch community and their favorite streamers. Subscribers get perks like avoiding ads, gaining moderator status in live chat rooms and access to emoticons. The Twitch culture is also one of incentive -- viewers can contribute to the prize money of a local game tournament or directly donate to streamers to help sustain their content.

This model could be extended to many different industries. For instance, a home improvement "how-to" streamer could gain support from users to buy new tools, motivating the streamer to try more difficult audience-inspired projects. Additionally, relevant brands like Lowe's or Home Depot could show they care about passionate DIY enthusiasts by funding their projects, tools and ideas.

4. Twitch empowers active engagement. What Twitch does well is provide a platform that not only turns gaming into a spectator sport, but gives viewers a chance to be active in their passion. The audience can "yell" from the onscreen sidelines about a match they're watching, record the live streams, or they can host their own Twitch sessions and invite friends to watch virtually.

It's crucial for brands to think about how to encourage active participation in the content they provide. There's incredible scale and active engagement around fantasy sports leagues -- football, basketball, baseball. It's no surprise there's an active fantasy following for e-sports on Twitch. And there's ample opportunity for brands to participate and sponsor similar fantasy leagues with competitions, prizes and a platform to drive engagement with the content and the brand.

Marketers invest tremendous effort in developing content calendars months in advance to prepare brand-approved campaigns. To reap the biggest rewards for this work, marketers must adapt to changing culture and trends -- and understand the consumers behind it. In the case of millennials, content needs to be authentic, personalized, real-time and interactive, and Twitch scores big when it comes to engaging the elusive millennial male.

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