It’s easy to view YouTube as nothing more than a simple broadcast channel. Users create a video, upload it, and people watch it. Simple. But quietly, across the last few years, the site has become much, much more. Part broadcast channel, part social network, part marketing outlet, part blog, YouTube has transformed into a multi-functional platform that can help brands and consumers alike reach millions with all kinds of content. Little wonder then that it’s the second most-used Search Engine (after Google) and the third most-visited site on the internet (after Google and Facebook).
Recent years have seen a huge explosion in YouTube’s reach and cultural influence. The rise of the YouTube Star has proven that YouTube isn’t just a platform for funny cat videos anymore; it’s a legitimate content platform that can catapult anyone with a computer and a digital camera to international superstardom. The likes of Zoella, Caspar Lee, and Rosanna Pansino have generated huge buzz and even bigger follower totals through their YouTube channels, and have recently begun taking their success offline and into bookstores.
It’s not hard to see why they, and so many others, have found fame. YouTube is free, easy to access, and always innovating its offering. Google knows that the long-term profitability of the platform relies on users like Zoella staying on it and continuing to generate high-quality content. So YouTube is constantly refined, more often than not with small, under-the-hood tweaks, but occasionally with significant overhauls and new innovations, such as the recent announcement of YouTube Red, a new platform designed entirely to house original content.
Partnering with YouTube stars is a viable way for brands to tap into their vast popularity, and indeed some brands have already tried, with Nissan enlisting the likes of Dude Perfect and Epic Meal Time to participate in its Super Bowl advert in 2015. Many more partnerships will likely follow in the coming years, but brands don’t have to rely on such deals, which can often be costly and risky (fans and followers can go as easily as they come). They can instead look to create their own content in the mould of YouTube trends.
This is an avenue Disney took when launching its new Star Wars merchandise range in September 2015. Having observed the unboxing phenomenon that has become prevalent on YouTube since 2013, Disney launched a global, 18-hour unboxing event on YouTube, where a number of hosts in major cities across the world opened, displayed, and discussed the new products. This was live-streamed on YouTube, and became a huge talking point among the franchise’s fans – and beyond. Quietly, Disney had executed one of the biggest, and most effective, digital product launches of recent years.
It’s easy to scoff at unboxing, and dismiss Disney’s efforts as an easy win that achieved nothing more than preaching to the converted; Star Wars fans will watch Star Wars content no matter its quality or impact. But their videos, and the videos produced by YouTube stars, gives consumers exactly what they’re looking for: useful, bite-sized content, delivered quickly and efficiently in line with the consumers’ everyday lives. Google stats back this up. The company found that searches for ‘how to’ based videos on YouTube has grown 70% year over year, leading to over 100 million hours of such content being viewed in North America alone.
With 67% of millennials believing they can find out about absolutely anything they want to learn on YouTube, the platform is now demanding to be taken seriously as an opportunity for brands and businesses. In the Micro Moments landscape where ‘being there’ is everything, getting on platforms that consumers are not only active on, but actively looking for answers on, is paramount, as is creating quality content that can tap into that need. Generation YouTube is a phenomenon powered by the public, and as with all marketing, it’s in adapting to the language of the public that the true art (and profit) lies.
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