Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes’ recent project with Twitch, the Amazon-owned livestreaming platform, demonstrates why VTubers are emerging as valuable brand marketing assets for reaching gaming audiences. Here is what you need to know:
- VTubers (short for Virtual YouTubers) are virtual avatars portrayed in real-time by a 3D model that perfectly tracks the movements of a human performer
- Despite the term’s connection to YouTube, VTubers can be found on other platforms like Twitch – the content category increased 467% YoY.
- On August 19th Frosted Flakes mascot, Tony the Tiger, made his VTuber debut on Twitch alongside gaming influencers Brennon ‘GoldGlove’ O’Neill, Chrissy Costanza and Jakeem ‘BigCheese’ Johnson
Tony the Tiger’s VTuber debut is a prime example of how non-endemic brands can engage the gaming community without interruptive advertising. Where instead of purchasing ad placements, marketers can and should create VTuber personas who stream games-based content.
Towards that end, here are three reasons VTuber activations are more effective than traditional advertising options when it comes to connecting with gamers.
Unpolished content wins
A large chunk of gaming video content online, whether live streamed or pre-recorded, is user generated content (UGC). And unlike linear TV content, UGC is attractive precisely because it is unpolished. Likewise, gaming content creation is a do-it-yourself domain in which unfiltered, spontaneous moments are a hallmark.
To demonstrate, drawn-out breaks in dialogue during Tony the Tiger’s Twitch stream made the content feel more, not less, authentic. Especially since things like “awkward pauses” are core to gaming UGC’s unique appeal compared to professionally crafted video content.
That is precisely why interrupting UGC broadcasts with polished, made-for-TV commercials is a recipe for disaster in terms of creating positive brand impressions. Imagine corporate salespeople decked in three-piece suits crashing a picnic to promote a paper towel brand. There are better ways to get a message across, in other words.
So, even though it is an advertising vehicle, branded VTuber content meets the general expectations for gaming content so well that the marketing exercise blends into the medium. Not to mention, the personal and intimate feel of gaming UGC makes VTuber content an effective one-to-one marketing channel.
Brand integration is back
The early history of TV advertising in the USA was characterized, not by 30 and 60 second commercials, but instead by sponsored programming. Where companies funded entire production budgets for TV shows – in exchange for integrating their products directly into the script. Agencies and brands held the final say on everything that appeared in a TV show, as a result.
While this model seems outdated by 21st century standards, non-endemic marketers stand to benefit from a similar media strategy in gaming today. Specifically, investing in the creation of a VTuber which personifies the brand as a gamer is a winning approach on platforms like Twitch and YouTube.
Why? Because VTuber content is one of the most effective forms of non-endemic brand integration in gaming. And a well-designed VTuber personality embodies brand marketing goals that are mostly unreachable through paid ad spots.
Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes’ Cereal Bowl achieved more in a single livestream than would have been possible in hours of interruptive advertising, including:
- Interacting with the gaming community in real-time
- Establishing a brand ambassador
- Communicating an organic, non-endemic product association
VTuber activation also allows companies who do not already have a recognizable mascot like Tony the Tiger to translate their brand into gaming in a fun, playful way. In those scenarios, a special purpose personality who represents an association with video games may make the most sense. Where the VTuber is used as the brand’s face in the gaming community.
Regardless, whatever additional costs associated with VTuber livestreams are offset by the ROI (Return on Investment) from creative control over brand presence in an out-of-market medium. Most importantly, the combination of entertainment and commerce is a powerful form of “advertainment” perfectly tailored to the needs and wants of gaming audiences.
Everyone hates ads (on Twitch)
The symbiotic relationship between advertiser revenue and freely available user generated video content does not reduce the gaming community’s distaste for pre-roll and mid-roll ads. For instance, there are countless Reddit threads detailing the never-ending battle between ad-blocking software and Twitch.
This reality puts marketers in a tricky situation. On the one hand, gaming is a growing part of the media mix – due to its popularity among younger generations who watch less linear TV. On the other hand, the same demographics are also more likely and willing to go the extra mile to avoid viewing ads.
Yet, unless viewers subscribe to services like Twitch Turbo or YouTube Premium they will have to deal with ads. VTuber content relieves a great deal of tension by balancing freely available content with the commercial necessity of ad revenue.
Imagine a scenario where Twitch creators regularly co-broadcast with a portfolio of VTuber brand partners of their choosing. Audiences could be rewarded with an ad-free viewing experience featuring their favorite creators playing games. Only this time, the commercial and content are seamlessly weaved together.