2 February 2023

Culture's changed. Has your marketing?

Gen Z is set to inherit the earth and they’ll be live streaming on Twitch while it happens. Here’s how to understand, connect with and align your brand values to digital natives.


As cultural changes develop, it’s generally the youngest demographics with purchasing power that create the largest behavioral shifts in society.


Think boomers buying records and attending concerts, Millennials posting selfies on social media and Gen Z campaigning for eco-friendly products.


We are on the cusp of the next great generational change and Twitch is at the forefront. An interactive live streaming service where millions gather, it has its origins in gaming but its usage has broadened to a wide range of live experiences.


Central to the Twitch experience is a raw, authentic, unvarnished, uncurated community. There’s a shift away from the individualised amplification that social media provides, to more connected experiences that were born in gaming environments but now extend across content and culture.

This audience, which is being termed “Generation Twitch”, spans Millennials, Gen Z and Gen Alpha. It’s an audience which has only ever known a digital world and has always been connected. Digital environments like Twitch are their playground.


The importance of Gen Z – and their successors Gen Alpha – cannot be overstated. They’re coming of age and are becoming an increasingly influential demographic.


Gen Z is expected to drive the conversations about social change for the next 15 years. This cohort of 2.5 billion people currently earn $7 trillion but this figure is projected to rise to $33 trillion by 2030 or 27% of the world’s income.*


It is vital for advertisers to understand this audience in order to build a brand relationship with them.


It’s important to understand how to communicate with emerging audiences and it’s not as straightforward as it sounds to resonate with a generation that speaks in memes, GIFs and emotes. Each emote (a visual to express emotions) has its own history and meaning on Twitch, unique to their various communities. 


The different nuances between Gen Z and Millennials are becoming more pronounced, making it easier than ever to distinguish the two. 


Have you ever recorded a video on TikTok or other digital platforms and waited for a split second before speaking? If so, you’re guilty of the “Millennial pause” – a cause of much mirth to Gen Z. Don’t be too hard on yourself though – even Taylor Swift has been called out for it. Skinny jeans or a side part in your hair could equally identify you as a Millennial.


Language also evolves with every generation, each has its own codes and idioms that might seem incomprehensible to its elders.


Take, for example, the ways of expressing an outburst of laughter. Gen X might use the text-speak LOL while a Millennial would use the crying-with-laughter emoji. But Gen Z would express this emotion with the seemingly sinister use of a skull. To Millennials or Gen X, this would spell danger but to Gen Z it means they are “dead” from laughing too hard.

Brands need to be aware that communication styles change over time and this often results in changes to how ‘meaning’ is perceived. It’s crucial for brands that their messaging is unambiguously understood and culturally relevant. 


Twitch’s global research study of its online community across 12 countries (UK, US, Germany, Brazil, France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Japan, Korea, Thailand and Taiwan) featured a semiotic review - the study of signs and their meaning - to unlock these important mysteries.


Twitch’s research was conducted by analysing four of the key Generation Twitch communication lenses of live experiences, shared experiences, live streaming and gaming.


Twitch identified five behavioural shifts as Gen Z and Gen Alpha form a set of attitudes and ways of engaging that are very different to those of Gen X and Millennials. These new behaviours can be found on services like Twitch, TikTok and Reddit. 

Curated to Authentic

In an age of information overload, there is growing suspicion of fake news and algorithm-driven echo chambers. Authenticity is increasingly preferred to the curated, cultivated projections of influencers. Today’s emerging audiences want more raw, real experiences. The live nature of Twitch provides an amplified environment for these emerging behavioural shifts.

Fixed to Fluid

We’re moving away from the linear, one-way experience of entertainment consumption to more fluid, interactive, spontaneous experiences, as technology blurs the lines between IRL (in real life) and virtual worlds. 

Exclusive to Inclusive

The third shift is away from the idea of exclusive content towards inclusiveness. It shouldn’t matter where you are or how much money you have – everyone should be able to experience art, culture, learning and entertainment, facilitated by technology.

Passive to Collaborative

Generation Twitch is all about community and active collaboration, as opposed to individualistic passive experiences such as sitting back and watching a TV show or going to a concert. Technology such as livestreaming, AR and online gaming enables us to take part in experiences together and connect live, sharing emotions and supporting each other, creating a sense of unity.

Disengaged to Purposeful

The democratisation of technology has brought many complex societal issues to the fore. Today’s audiences expect brands to stand for something and it is important their values match. Recently, Z Event - the French charity livestreaming marathon that took place on Twitch - raised a record-breaking €10 million which will be shared between not-for-profit organisations committed to defending the environment and climate. 

Learn the language

Language evolves with every generation and each emerges with its own codes and idioms. Gen Z is expected to drive conversations about social change for the next 15 years, so it’s important to understand how to speak to them.

Align your values

Communicating with Generation Twitch requires personalised approaches and an understanding of changing cultural values. Align your brand with these emerging values to establish meaningful connections with this important audience.

Be authentic

Today’s emerging audiences want raw, live experiences. Create real moments and genuine experiences to truly engage with Generation Twitch.