Today’s youth eschew traditional media and brands that want to reach this elusive group of consumers can look to gaming, says TotallyAwesome’s Pablo Gomez.

In these days of fragmented media, it’s much harder for brands to reach consumers. Some groups, like youth, are often cited as being particularly elusive, eschewing traditional media and moving from channel to channel, while younger demographics are proving to be nomadic, moving between different content and social media channels, from memes and videos to chat and gaming.

Totally Awesome’s 2023 Youth First Digital Insights research has found however that youth are reachable. It’s also reinforced the importance of this demographic for brands, both as current and future product consumers, with children and young adults increasingly influencing personal and household buying decisions to make them a key audience in the purchase cycle.

Youth First Digital Insights explored youth (4- to 24-year-olds) across Asia Pacific. It delves into their media habits, purchase behaviours and more, delivering a deep understanding of what youth are currently engaging with and how brands can unlock the potential of a youth audience.

So what are the key behaviours identified and what does it mean for marketers? 

Traditional viewing has declined

Youth today are no longer static TV watchers, particularly in family settings. If they are in front of the TV, it's likely they're simultaneously engaging with other devices, filtering out traditional advertisements, especially when ads don't resonate with or captivate them.

Detaching from social media

We are seeing younger people move away from conventional social media in favour of gaming. Gen Alpha (52%) and Gen Z (48%) cite gaming as a way to feel more connected with their friends and family. This sentiment is particularly strong in China (Gen Alpha 60%, Gen Z 62%) and Hong Kong (Gen Alpha 62%, Gen Z 58%).

Gaming is gender agnostic

Advertisers have traditionally overlooked female gamers and yet from our research, we know that females represent half of gamers. Our data found near equal numbers of APAC females and males playing for Gen Alpha (49% vs 51%) and Gen Z (47% vs 51%).

Gaming is the new youth universe

The shift to gaming has propelled Gen Z towards gaming as a social experience. It represents a blended realm where distinctions between physical and digital interactions blur. Across APAC, 42% of Gen Alpha and 43% of Gen Z "play games to play with their friends". They’re also turning to gaming to deal with stress and anxiety, with 45% of Gen Z youth saying games "help relieve stress and anger".

Brick-and-mortar retail remains important

Despite their extensive digital use, brick-and-mortar retail is not dead for the youth audience. Gen Z likes shopping in stores just as much as they do online. Visiting physical stores is particularly popular in Australia and New Zealand, where 54% of Gen Alpha and 62% of Gen Z do so, compared to 43% and 48% across Asia Pacific. The appetite for digital innovations, such as virtual try-on, is growing but they’re still visiting physical shops.

Based on our Youth First Digital Insights, we define four key approaches for brands wanting to successfully reach and engage with younger generations through gaming:

  1. Consider the path to brand loyalty

Brand loyalty starts with youth, so brands need to rethink their path to purchase strategy to become more youth-first and build long-term loyalty and sustainable growth. That means brands need to show up when and where it matters to a youth audience. It’s no longer about prime time or traditional media; it’s 2pm to 10pm and it’s in-game advertising.   

And it’s no longer just about being in the game – you need to be in, around and beyond the game. A youth audience is consuming “all things gaming”, from gaming videos and gaming content to gaming influencers.

  1. Rethink media planning

Brands need to adopt integrated campaigns to achieve greater reach. Marketing campaigns need to include multiple mediums and screens that are beyond just TV – it’s gaming, influencers, YouTube and more. 

In nearly every market, over 90% of Gen Alpha and Gen Z play games on multiple devices. Japan is slightly below trend (77% Gen Alpha, 69% Gen Z) but there's still an overwhelming majority of multi-screen gamers. This presents a huge opportunity for brands in the gaming advertising space, especially for those who can authentically engage this group of gamers.

  1. Become more deeply involved in gaming

Marketing strategies that capture in, around and beyond the game experiences will build positive associations with youth. Gaming is their new social. Brands need to be part of their social world and social connections.

Across APAC, 32% of Gen Alpha and 37% of Gen Z look products up online and 32% "talk about it with their friends" after seeing a sponsored ad in a gaming environment, while 43% of Gen Alpha ask their parents to buy the product for them or buy it themselves.

  1. Embrace omnichannel retail

The younger generations are digital natives who are well-versed in shopping across digital, physical, e-commerce and social environments. Youth have grown up with a digital world, it’s all they know. While they engage with all things digital, they continue to visit physical stores.

Brands should ensure a seamless purchase experience, whether discovery starts online and ends with a physical purchase, or the reverse.

  1. Understand their values

Brands aiming to resonate with these younger demographics must rethink and recalibrate their marketing strategies. For advertisers, it’s not merely about being present but being relevant and genuine, in a responsible and privacy compliant way. Authenticity, presence in the right platforms at opportune moments and alignment with youth values are paramount.

APAC-wide, 25% of Gen Alpha and 21% of Gen Z shop with brands that "understand me", while 23% of Gen Alpha and 21% of Gen Z shop with brands who "represent my values". This was particularly important for young people in India and Thailand.

Navigating the complex world of Gen Alpha and Gen Z media consumption is challenging but brands can’t afford to ignore youth. Traditional marketing strategies need a rethink. Younger generations are redefining the way they consume content, shifting from traditional media towards gaming, YouTube and other platforms, and embracing integrated digital experiences.

Totally Awesome’s research underscores the importance of meeting young people where they are, emphasising genuine engagements over mere visibility. Resonating with their values, aspirations and needs has to underpin any marketing strategy. Brands need to be nimble, adaptable and authentic.