How Can Brands Better Leverage the Power of Live Streaming in 2021?

Audiences for live streaming have been steadily growing over the past few years, but until recently that growth has come mainly from younger audiences, searching for new and exciting content that they can access on their personal devices. What the global lockdown has done is accelerate a broader demographic’s appetite for streaming, with it now becoming part of the everyday content mix. In the past, audiences that had been reluctant to absorb content through this medium, either because they thought the content they wanted didn’t exist in these channels or through a complete lack of awareness, are now taking advantage of this new form of entertainment.

At the same time, marketers who have sought new and innovating ways to engage their target demographics and connect with their audiences in-the-moment, have grasped live streaming with both hands. With two-thirds of marketers intending to ramp-up their use of live video in future campaigns, according to MediaKix, this trend isn’t going anywhere. Brands have an opportunity to innovate and make great strides in this space, and with the right technical advice they can benefit greatly by connecting directly with audiences through live streaming. This is a space for new ideas and new approaches, and the brands that do get it right will have the capability to grow and influence vast, engaged audiences and create communities around the live moment, all at a lower price than traditional approaches would allow.

For brands to better leverage live streaming in 2021, the following trends should be observed:

Content gets democratised

The introduction of streaming platforms and social media triggered the formation of millions of communities across the internet, with each one possessing unique characteristics and attributes. Over time, some channel owners have built huge, engaged audiences, which, for marketers, are very attractive. But these owners will not simply grant brands unlimited access to those viewers. Building that community has taken a lot of effort and any sign of ‘selling-out’ may be met with annoyance. For marketers to access these audiences, they must be prepared to offer their live content to others to manipulate, tailor and adapt. For any brand or marketer this may seem overwhelming, but new co-hosting technology can be utilised to create a live moment which can be given away for others to own. This way brands have the means to cultivate a meaningful connection with that audience.

Brands will be the entertainment

Previously, brands have been fairly restricted by expensive partnership deals which have required a considerable chunk of their budget. With live streaming, they now have the opportunity to take control of content formerly owned by sizeable media organisations and investigate new distribution deals. In effect, they now have the power to ‘become the entertainment’.

Historically, TV networks have hoarded the rights to all major live events, but they don’t get the same volume of audiences and engagement they used to. That’s why it is time to try out the new streaming model as a means of expanding their reach and continuing to grow their audience. This is where brands have the opportunity to take ownership. There is no reason why Guinness cannot develop a distribution model for the Six Nations, Coca-Cola for the Olympics, or Corona for a series of global beach festivals.

Marketing in real time

Watching live content triggers an emotional reaction from the viewer. Brands understand that a certain emotional response can be used to grow their business, with 83% of individuals being more likely to purchase from a brand that they have an emotional connection with, according to research from Iterable.

The live moment can be leveraged by organisations for this means, harnessing the power of a live experience, gaining insight into audience emotions, and then providing a curated marketing message to align their brand or product to a particular feeling – with the aim of prompting an instant response from those watching at home.

The latest live streaming platforms can leverage data to uncover the emotions being experienced by a live audience, predict their behaviour and then display incredibly targeted advertising in real-time, personalised and customised in line with parameters, including their language, geographic location, age, gender and live chat behaviour. This opens up a new realm of digital data-led marketing, where brands can instantly connect with audiences on an emotional level, helping to dramatically drive sales.

Customisation is key

There is no denying that linear content distribution models are on their way out and traditional ‘live’ models, centred on exclusivity, are losing their appeal. Rather, today’s audiences want the autonomy to select their content channels and platforms of choice. Content that boxes them in is also met with resistance, instead preferring personalised content that they can view at a time and in a place of their choice and have the means to share it within their digital ecosystem.

Every platform has its nuances, in the same way countries have different cultures. Take Twitch as an example – the platform is overwhelmingly male-dominated, with men making up 81.5% of its userbase compared to 62% on YouTube. Given this, marketers should not attempt to make one group assume the behaviours of the other to watch the same live broadcast. That’s why one size does not fit all - the customisation of live content, for each target channel, is vital to best capitalize on the effect of a live moment.

Subscription fatigue kicks in

Digital streaming subscription services have seen huge success this year, however, they are founded on antiquated content models distributed through modern digital platforms. Advancing in tandem to the subscription streaming space, live streamed content exists without the constraints of a paywall, taste algorithms or a pre-prescribed catalogue. What it does provide is in-the-moment collective entertainment, generating a shared, free, and instantaneous experience, distributed via platforms such as YouTube, Twitch and Facebook. Once consumers realise the benefits of these platforms their viewing preferences are set to change dramatically.

The old one-size-fits-all approach, where content sits behind restrictive paywalls and content is delivered in a linear format, is no longer fit for purpose. Some may argue that the consumer has the choice to opt-in to consume that content, but the truth is it’s the same experience they have had hundreds of times before.

It is likely that the digital streaming subscription model will continue to boom over the next decade, but once audience saturation has been reached the only way to sustain this growth is to increase prices. Shifting attitudes towards pay TV companies are a precursor to antipathy toward subscription services. Over the next ten years, live streaming and democratised content will become the ‘new norm’. Those organisations and brands that take advantage now will take the industry lead and will help establish the new ‘live’ environment.

Steve is the Global Head of Marketing for PUSH