New technology is changing marketing, but storytelling remains key

Matthew Taylor's avatar
Matthew Taylor

Vtubers, good storytelling, and social media with a purpose – these are just some of the environmental highlights from the 2023 event in Lisbon. Here’s what some of our speakers had to say about them. 

Web Summit 2023 brought together speakers from across the globe to discuss not just tech, but many of the things impacting society and the economy. 

Social media and social media are not only big business, they are a big part of all of our lives. So what is the shape of it in the 2020s? How do you make an impact, and how is it being impacted by emerging technologies?     

Here are some of the marketing highlights at Web Summit 2023, from speakers including the Shuji Utsumi, COO at Sega, Piabo Communications founder and CEO Tilo Bonow, and Kelly Rutherford, actor and investor in social media startup Whyzzer.

Sonic, VTubers and a Western invasion

Sonic the Hedgehog is a film, television and video game star, and as well-known to people as any actor or celebrity. Soon, the blue blur might be stepping off the screen and into your life.

“We’re planning to expand transmedia initiatives to our major IPs,” said Shuji Utsumi, COO at Sega and keeper of the Sonic brand. “We firmly believe it plays an important role, allowing us to strategically expand the values of numerous IPs in innovative ways.”

Japan is a content pioneer, with gaming at the forefront. Nowhere is this witnessed more than in the world of ‘VTubers’ – Japan’s virtual gaming YouTube streamers who are breaking a new frontier by bringing gaming characters to life.

These VTubers use virtual, computer-generated avatars with real-time motion-to-capture technology for streaming.

Of the top VTubers, just 10 percent are real human beings. And it’s big business. “They’re some of the most-subbed and superchatted livestream influencers of both the real world and virtual,” said AKA Virtual CEO Jia Shen.

“In Japan, they’re now everywhere, appearing on TikTok, streaming platforms and live television. They’re so mainstream that you can find them in your local convenience stores adorning your favourite snacks,” Jia continued.

According to Jia, this is a trend that is also beginning to catch on in the West, particularly as younger audiences gravitate towards self-curation of their content diets on TikTok, YouTube and Twitch.

Money, trust and the key to good storytelling

According to Piabo Communications founder and CEO Tilo Bonow, storytelling is vital to any brand’s success. It’s what separates successful companies from competitors, driving consumers to spend exponentially more on products and services.

“A great communication strategy and good storytelling can help you as a founder in many, many dimensions. Of course, it helps with your valuation. But it also relates to big parts of your story; to your narrative,” Tilo said.

Communication and trust go hand in hand, according to the founder. And, regarding trust, Tilo doesn’t just mean getting customers on board with your company’s messaging. 

“When we’re talking about trust, it also relates to investments. When money is the currency of transactions, trust is the currency of interactions,” said the founder.

Social media with a purpose

Toxicity and polarisation have been a feature of many social media platforms for years, in spite of multiple exposés, scandals and promises of change. But a new startup aims to change the way society thinks about social media by building meaningful content from the ground up.

“As much as I love social media, I really felt something was missing: the nourishing aspect,” said Kelly Rutherford, actor and investor in social media startup Whyzzer (pronounced ‘wiser’). 

The company promotes education in its social media community of people keen to learn from and teach one another – but “not in a boring way”, according to founder and CEO Benjamin Buthmann.

Both Kelly and Benjamin believe that Whyzzer can capture the new trend in social media: people’s boredom with division. 

“We’re over quick-fix content,” said Kelly, while Benjamin added that “the founders and companies that are growing have purposeful content. Not pure entertainment, but something with insight”.

No doubt everyone would benefit from a social media on which users learn to love something rather than hate something.

Web Summit Rio takes place from April 15-18. Book your tickets now.

Main image: Web Summit

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