Love them or loathe them, influencers are the modern face of marketing and PR.
In years gone by, celebrity endorsements were the go-to tactic for reaching audiences. From Doris Day perched atop a road roller, to Jennifer Aniston suggesting her notoriously youthful complexion is all down to the miracle ingredients in Aveeno – we see them, we know them, we trust them. Brands know this, and brands use this to pull us in and snap us up.
Want to be as suave as George Clooney? Treat yourself to a smooth cuppa Nespresso. Fancy a packet of crisps? Lineker’s got it in the bag.
Whatever product you’re selling, there’s a celebrity with a hefty price tag happy to step in and show it off.
In recent years, the dynamic has shifted somewhat. Of course, you’ll always have celebrity faces as the front of the newest campaigns, but now brands have a new tactic. A way to reach more niche audiences, those that beforehand may have gotten lost in the hustle and bustle of larger scale marketing.
Enter stage left…the influencer.
The idea of an influencer isn’t necessarily a new one, but if we look back, it also hasn’t always been a a positive one. Oscar Wilde historically penned the idea that “all influence is immoral. . . . To influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him.”
This sentiment rings true today. More and more, we seek honest and meaningful interactions with those around us, including our favourite brands.
But are influencers helping, or hindering in this? Can you call it a genuine interaction, when the most interest an influencer may have in a product is the pay cheque they receive at the end of their promotion? Are we buying products because we want them, or because our favourite celebrity tells us we want them?
Of course, this isn’t fair to say for all influencers. There are a large number who see the companies they work with as a reflection on themselves, and of their own reputation. Who have a genuine love and interest for a product or service, and want to share that passion with their audiences. But for many, the idea of a lucrative payday is the only convincing they need to flog questionable products, from questionable brands.
So where does gaming fit in?
NewZoo estimate that by the year 2023, the gaming industry will be raking in an eye watering $217.9 billion dollars a year.
As gaming and live streaming become ever more so a staple in popular culture, brands are cashing in on the power of the gaming influencer.
Anyone who’s been a regular viewer of gaming content over the last couple of years, be it YouTube, Twitch, Facebook or any other streaming platform, will have at some point heard the words “shout out to Raid Shadow Legends for sponsoring the stream!”
The mobile game became so synonymous with sponsoring streams, that it became a meme in its own right. But it seems Plarium, the devs behind the game had the last laugh, with over 380 million users worldwide since it’s launch in 2018.
For many brands, sponsoring a live stream means they’ll pay for a streamer to either play a game for a designated amount of time or show off a product – such as a piece of gaming equipment, have a stream overlay which promotes the game or company, or it could be simply just mentioning the game from time to time during the stream. Even brands like Reece’s have jumped into the gaming world, often sponsoring cooking streams.
But in my experience, sponsored content in streams has a much different feel to that if influencer content you might see on Instagram, or Snapchat. Of course, it all depends on the streamer.
Some will poke fun at the sponsorship, being very transparent about the fact that they’ve just taken the deal for money. Others, will make sure they dedicate their entire stream content to the sponsor. With some, you can see an immediate shift in their personality as soon as the sponsored portion of their stream comes to an end. They relax, they don’t have to watch their language, they can be themselves again. Others, take it in their stride and incorporate their personality into the sponsorship.
It feels like within the gaming industry, at least in my experience with the streamers I tend to watch, there is a lot more transparency, a lot more honesty, and a lot more integrity. And brands aren’t mad about it. It’s a reflection of their own values. If a streamer can poke fun at the brand, surely that’s how they want to be seen? It certainly ticks the successful PR box.
The term ‘influencer’ is something that many in the businesses and celebrities alike seem to be trying to distance themselves from, and a term that I think few gamers would identify themselves as.
But put it down on paper, and the requirements for both influencers, and sponsored streams look suspiciously similar.
Yet, the fact that the term ‘influencer’ is not yet synonymous with the gaming world could be the opportunity brands are looking for – it gives them an opportunity to tap into readily established communities, and align themselves with streamers or content creators that hold values that reflect their own.
Do you think there’s a difference between an influencer, and a sponsored stream? Do you think a live stream format encourages honesty and integrity?
Let me know your thoughts!
Until next time,
Banner image source – https://unsplash.com/photos/QFZ_72_NxIQ
Doris Day image source – https://insights.digitalmediasolutions.com/articles/history-celebrity-endorsements