Marketers must stop calling gamers “gamers” and learn how to segment audiences properly, according to David Boyle, director at Audience Strategies. Boyle, who in the past has used his expertise to help musicians like David Guetta and Pink Floyd reach new audiences, was speaking at Most Contagious UK and US over the last two weeks. Interested in hearing what Boyle has to say? Watch the full session below.
He said that at the moment marketing is “in some kind of crazy gold rush” where brands believe that all they need to do to win is to reach out to a generic and homogeneous demographic they refer to as “gamers”.
But this is a wrong-headed strategy that ignores differences between gaming audiences, said Boyle, who used the example of battle royale game Fortnite to make his point.
If you look at the top affinities of US Fortnite players you get mainstream sports brands like ESPN, talk-show host Ellen Degeneres and former presidents like Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Clearly that’s not the demographic that marketers want to reach when they target Fortnite players – and that’s the point.
“If you take the whole of an audience,” said Boyle, “whether it's gamers or Fortnite or anything else, it's gonna be a train wreck. Mass audiences don't work.”
But when you start splitting out groups from within a mass audience, interesting segments begin to emerge, according to him. For instance, within the broad audience of Fortnite players in the US you can find a subset of “super gamers” with affinities for esports and Twitch, which is much more likely who marketers are trying to reach when they ask to target gamers.
Similarly, Boyle looked at whether targeting ‘gamers’ was a good proxy for reaching young people in the UK.
Dividing the 13- to 20-year-old demographic into sub-groups shows that, while there are discrete clusters for whom gaming is a key interest (alongside football, motorsports and geek culture) it would unlikely be an effective marketing strategy for connecting with the entire youth audience.
Even among the 23% of the UK youth audience for whom gaming is a key passion there are yet more sub-clusters, who should be marketed to in different ways. Successfully targeting Discord creators, for instance, requires a different approach than targeting PC enthusiasts or retro gamers.
Boyle’s point is that there is no homogeneous group of ‘gamers’ that can be targeted and engaged effectively with one message. So why don’t more marketers segment audiences?
One excuse that Boyle said he hears time and again is that marketers are simply not asked by their stakeholders to segment, so they don’t bother. He responded that the tools exist to separate audiences into more relevant clusters and that it’s the job of brand and insight professionals to use them to raise expectations of their industry.
“It's my fundamental belief,” concluded Boyle, “that audience segments are the equivalent to having an x-ray vision into your audience. So please, I'm asking you to stop calling gamers ‘gamers’. Stop saying ‘nobody asked me to inspire change’, and tell your stakeholders that segments really, really matter.”