News & Views

Opinion / How Brands Can Level Up

by Contagious Contributor

David Black, MD, Branding & Consumer Markets at Google UK, argues that brands can level up by embracing the diverse gaming community



Gaming is often misinterpreted. Most people’s first thought is teenage boys sitting indoors playing shoot ‘em ups. But gaming is one of the fastest growing and most interactive YouTube categories and there’s no such thing as a typical gamer.

They are a diverse bunch: 52% are women and it’s an audience that spans age-groups: 27% are over 44, and children of the original gaming revolution now have children of their own.

Game content has taken on a life of its own and we’ve moved on so far from how-tos and dry reviews. YouTube user gaming content is all about live action, play-by-play, comedies, scripted episodes and cosplay. It’s time brands rethought their approach.

Why are people coming to YouTube? What do they want? Are they here to explore new genres or wake up long-dormant passions? No two gamers are alike. In content terms, we need to diversify.

You don’t need to look far to see how. The V&A recently held a Minecraft exhibition. The museum described Minecraft not just a game but a “cultural phenomenon”, driven by the imagination of the community.

Games design has been described as the avant-garde of creativity and it has the tech to support it. Six out of 10 people think games equal cinema and TV for production values and great literature for content.

There is a unique way in which the game community opens up to creativity. League of Legends was designed by a community. All the developers came from different walks of life, developing the game brought them together. In the future, we will all be using digital tools. Gaming is the canary in the coal mine.

However, despite all of this synergy and engagement, along with the fact that the industry is growing 6.6% annually, it still remains an area which very few brands have ventured.

For brands that want to engage with gamers but only want to dip a toe in the world of gaming then there a couple of ways to get started. First off, understand who “gamers” really are. Spend time with them by going to events such as Insomnia, EGX and E3. The massive size of these events goes against the stereotype that “gamers” are insular and private. They are massive commercial and shared experiences.

For those who want to go a little further, there are some great examples of brands which have really led the way. Nissan’s GT Academy has provided Gran Turismo gamers with the chance to go from a virtual experience to a real-life professional racing career.

KitKat worked with JWT and Google to recreate the mobile game Crossy Road (above). Two top YouTubers dressed as characters from the game hopped out of the way of traffic as they competed against each other – all while being cheered on by real fans.

A quick look on YouTube will help you to find, understand and reach gamers. According to IPSOS, the average age of the UK YouTube Gaming viewer is 32 years old and 39% of YouTube gaming viewers are over 35 years. YouTube is where gamers go to get gaming news, gather information and spend time together. It’s showing no sign of slowing down.

Brands need to position themselves correctly, be genuine and use language which works for the community. Porsche did a collaboration with AliA. It's pretty unusual for a luxury car brand to partner with a YouTuber. But because the brand immersed itself in the world and translated it into language the audience would value, it drove engagement left, right, and centre.

The bottom line is that gaming is only second to the likes of beauty, fashion and music brands. Be the first, make your mark and use the diverse gaming community to build your brand in an open field.