The media landscape has never been more fragmented. From instant messaging to social media and video streaming services, customers are now inundated with options, which makes it increasingly important for brands to create marketing that grabs and keeps their attention. Yet few brands buy media on this basis – often preferring to buy on impressions or engagements – and attention itself is becoming harder for brands to win.
It isn’t necessarily the case that adult Gen Z and Millennials simply have shorter attention spans, though. The 2022 ‘Attention Economy Report’ for the US and UK, compiled by Dentsu, Lumen and livestreaming service Twitch, found that video formats on Twitch command attention comparable with TV. It achieved a 103% higher attention rate than the norms identified in the report, based on visual attention insights from social, in-stream, in-article and TV advertising.
“It’s a really engaged audience and community,” said Jonathan Kelly, Twitch’s head of agency development for EMEA, speaking at the Festival of Marketing (FoM). “The experience is exceptionally attention-grabbing as it’s a live environment.”
In order to tap the full potential of today’s digital channels and opportunities, brands need to rethink how they craft content and cultivate relationships with online audiences.
When people feel seen and heard, that’s when they reciprocally pay attention.
Caroline Orange-Northey, Amazon Ads
It begins with getting to grips with what makes customers tick, according to Caroline Orange-Northey, head of lifestyle industries at Amazon Ads, speaking alongside Kelly at FoM. “We start with the customer,” she said. “Where are they? Why are they there? How are they consuming content? We work really hard to understand the time and the place to make messaging that’s relevant, that resonates and is sticky.”
This level of insight in turn helps to build genuine relationships with audiences. “When people feel seen and heard, that’s when they reciprocally pay attention,” added Orange-Northey. Sportswear brand Lululemon is a great example of this approach in action, she pointed out. Its ‘Voice of the Guest’ programme gathers feedback and anecdotes directly from highly engaged customers, applying their insight to future product development and creating a two-way exchange.
Engaging a brand’s “superfans” in this way is a really effective strategy, Orange-Northey said. “They’re not just loyal customers, they’re enthusiastic promoters of your brand, so being able to identify them and then show them some love is really important, whether that’s through personalised shout-outs, early access, user discounts or – like Lululemon – using them to inform your product development. Nurturing that enthusiasm and ensuring that they continue to be advocates creates a ripple effect that extends your brand reach. You don’t need a huge budget to achieve that either, you just need to be really tuned into the people that are passionate about your brand.”
It’s critical too that digital content put out by brands feels impactful, authentic and aligned to their values. According to Orange-Northey, achieving this is at the heart of the opportunities Amazon Ads offers for brand-funded programming, in which brands create long-form video content that sits alongside other premium shows on Prime Video.
In January 2023, sportswear brand Asics released ‘Mind Games – The Experiment’ on Prime Video, a documentary that was born from a groundbreaking global study exploring the power of exercise to sharpen the mind, and which follows the journey of ‘mind athletes’ as they train to compete at the competitive level. The film was distributed across 25 countries globally, had 97% share of voice for ‘mind’ related articles, and led to an increase in branded searched for ‘Asics’ during launch according to the brand’s internal data. Although the campaign wasn’t about sales, it showed how awareness can have a downstream impact on customer action and shift brand preference, because when a customer is spending a whole show’s worth of time with your brand, it resonates.
“As an industry, that’s when we get it right,” Orange-Northey added. “When we create content that is good content and just happens to be brand-funded.” In fact, studies by Ipsos have found that brands showing up online in a novel or innovative way such as this can extend average viewing time of advertising content by 40%.
This level of authenticity is always important on services like Twitch, added Kelly, where streamers may be online for up to eight hours per day and build intimate relationships with fans. “Twitch is all about spending time together,” he said. “The audience come there to learn, engage and chat with streamers and the community. That’s really at the heart of it, and so authenticity can be even more important here than on other channels.”
Engaging with communities
Brands that embrace this and harness these existing relationships can really hold the attention of audiences, he added. For example, in a recent campaign by WhatsApp designed to highlight how the instant messaging service protects user privacy, the brand tapped into an opportunity that was very community-centric and Twitch-specific. When streamers need to take a break, they are leaving the rooms they’re streaming from open to viewers. To create a more private environment in these moments of downtime, WhatsApp and Twitch created an interactive game that encouraged users to battle fictional intruders and ultimately save the stream from attack.
“It was a really fun way of the community working together,” said Kelly, and effectively allowed the brand to take advantage of the strength of the streamers’ fandoms.
It’s an area with plenty of potential. According to research conducted by Twitch Ads and Amazon Ads this year, entitled ‘Anatomy of Hype: Global insights on fan culture and how brands can get involved’, 63% of UK fans say they are open to brands sponsoring content associated with their fandom, so long as those brands make an effort to understand it. There has also been an evolution in the brands engaging with these communities as a result. In the past Twitch may have seen the most interest from gaming brands, but now chain restaurants, FMCG and luxury names are getting in on the action.
For instance, in March, YSL Beauty hosted an interactive live quest on Twitch in collaboration with the service’s Brand Partnership Studio, in which four streamers sought out a YSL Black Opium le Parfum bottle. In the end, according to Twitch Ads’ internal data, the YSL ‘emote’ (a customisable type of emoticon used to reward or engage Twitch users) was shared more than 83,000 times in the chat – testament to the attention that is up for grabs for those brands that get it right.
The bottom line is that, although a far more fragmented media landscape undoubtedly brings about new challenges to marketers looking to build awareness and engagement, by achieving the right mix of personalisation, authenticity and creative impact, it is possible to cut through and win consumers’ attention.