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    Ditch the VIP wristbands, young adults demand inclusive experiences

    In the third of a five-part series, we identify the benefits for brands in recognizing rising demand from ‘Generation Twitch’ for greater levels of inclusivity.

    Gaming was portrayed traditionally as an exclusive and homogenized space, populated predominantly by white males. An unfair caricature, no doubt, but one built on an element of truth.

    The good news, however, is that the reality of the gaming community has changed rapidly. Driven forward by increasing recognition of inclusivity and representation in terms of characters, avatars, players, stories and people within the games industry itself. 

    This is a winning approach because the open, inclusive nature of interactive digital services are among their most appealing qualities to emerging audiences. It’s a strength that can deliver a strong impact for advertisers too.

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    From exclusive to inclusive

    To put that in perspective, recent research from livestreaming service Twitch uncovers a series of emerging behaviors that reflect the experiences and cultural understandings of young adults. People who have only ever known a digital world, always been connected, and who are now taking center stage.

    The third of these five new behaviors (following on from ”curated to authentic” and ”fixed to fluid”) is the shift from “exclusive to inclusive”. This describes how audiences and brands are moving away from the hype surrounding exclusivity, where access for events, content and more, was limited to certain groups of people, and VIP was the ultimate title to attain.

    Today’s young adults are growing up in more inclusive environments. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, or who you are, anyone with access to technology can take part when it comes to art, culture, learning and entertainment.

    In this context, audiences welcome the support of online communities, with 78% of Twitch viewers agreeing that the service is a diverse community for everyone. Adam Harris, global head, brand partnership studio at Twitch, says: “It’s the power of technology that can bring opportunities to us all, allow everyone to feel represented, and have a genuine real-world impact of belonging to a community that we can call home.”

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    The rise of inclusive experiences

    Distinct groups of people are taking the opportunity to belong, and to benefit from more inclusive experiences. For instance, SpecialEffect is a UK-based charity that helps people with disabilities experience the fun and inclusion of video games, and is soon to launch a stream on Twitch to support its fundraising and encourage conversations.

    This builds on a sense within the Twitch audience that it’s a service which fosters an inclusive feeling of community. A space that is collaborative, interactive and open.

    One Twitch viewer who took part in the qualitative element of the ‘Generation Twitch’ research said: “Twitch is a place where people feel free to be who they are. A place to hang out with friends and get to know about games you want to play, or even play sometimes. It’s about making virtual friends from all over the world and having fun.”

    Another viewer said: “You can also chat with other people… and find like-minded people there. Almost anyone can stream on Twitch, and they’ll be welcomed onto the platform.”

    Major brands have tapped into the demand from audiences for more inclusive spaces. Adidas supported the Twitch Women’s Alliance, by focusing on the craft and expertise of women gamers as trailblazers in their field.

    Meanwhile Dove, the Unilever skincare brand, recently announced a partnership with activist group Women in Games and Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, to increase the representation of women in video games.

    Dove will release a collection of avatars through Epic’s ArtStation creator platform, aimed at “raising the standard for the authentic, diverse, and inclusive representation of women and girls.” The brand will use the program to work with games developers on avoiding stereotypes and bias when it comes to character design and story construction.

    The initiative also sees Dove partner with Epic on developing a game on the Roblox platform that is focused on raising self-esteem and enabling young girls to experience “more representative versions of beauty.”

    This approach is so important for brands because audience demand for inclusivity extends to advertising. More than two-thirds (69%) agree that any brand can advertise on Twitch, especially when they embrace an inclusive spirit in their own activity. As Twitch’s Harris says: “Best practice is building brand recognition on digital platforms by being open to all and featuring voices reflecting the full range of the Twitch audience.”

    Advertisers that achieve this will benefit from the inclusive power that interactive, digital services can provide in bringing people together. Twitch is driven by the live nature of its content, and when streamers are on Twitch they are live to everyone, everywhere. As one Twitch viewer commented: “What makes Twitch special is the interaction itself. It’s like being at a live concert, sometimes there can be thousands of people sharing emotions at that same moment.”

    Now is the ideal time for advertisers to harness the power, the positivity, and the inclusivity that live, interactive, digital content affords.

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

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