The rise of celebrity YouTube creators presents marketers with new opportunities to extend consumer reach and engagement. These video bloggers, or vloggers, amass millions of YouTube subscribers who follow their video blogs and online tutorials and gather by the hundreds, or even thousands, for their public appearances. Their reach amongst youth audiences is comparable to more traditional celebrities and their following has similarly enabled them to build personal brands and launch personal product lines. Take, for example, the most talked about vlogger this year – UK beauty, fashion and lifestyle vlogger, Zoella. The 24-year-old fields 6.8 million YouTube subscribers and 2.7M Twitter followers. She has her own product line, Zoella Beauty, which hit Superdrug shelves in September 2014, and her recently released debut novel Girl Online set records by selling over 78,000 copies in week one.
What makes these celebrities different to traditional celebrities is their relationship with their subscribers and their influence. Their viewers are not fans or followers, a term which is seen as degrading to their relationship, they are friends or communities. The nature of this relationship changes the nature of influence. So when Zoella tests and recommends a product it is perceived by her subscribers as a recommendation from a trusted friend rather than a celebrity endorsement, and is more likely to influence their purchase decisions accordingly.
So, how can you best work with vloggers to support your marketing strategy?
- Know your audience and objectives
Understanding the audience you’re trying to reach and why is critical across all marketing activities to ensure the activity can successfully deliver value for the business. Partnering with YouTube creators is no exception.
Unilever’s All Things Hair channel is notable for its clear objectives and for bringing an analytical approach to a creative channel. The channel features video tutorials from a range of vloggers, including Zoella, Tanya Burr and Essie Button, each showing how to create different hairstyles using Unilever products. Unilever maintains high traffic and engaging content by using Google data to understand what hair advice consumers most frequently search for and asks the vloggers to create their content around those themes. It also directly promotes online purchases by linking to relevant product and ecommerce sites beneath the videos.
- Look for brand affinity
Make sure there is a natural fit between your brand and the vlogger, in terms of their own interest in or affinity with your brand, the content they typically publish and their audience. Authenticity is key both for the vlogger’s reputation and credibility and for the content to promote the brand or product well.
Burberry invited fashion and beauty vlogger Essie Button to the preview of their Spring/Summer 2015 Collection, where she filmed her experience and gave a make-up tutorial for Burberry’s latest look using their products. A great example of working with a vlogger to create content that excites them and is relevant to their audience.
- Provide creative opportunities
Approach vloggers with projects that will enable them to create great content for their communities that would not have otherwise been possible, whether that be by providing the idea, by providing the resource, or by a combination of the two.
Example: Sony Pictures / The Amazing Spider-Man 2
In Summer 2014 Sony Pictures worked with a group of vloggers to promote the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on Blu-Ray. Sony approached vloggers who were Spider-Man fans and gave them the idea and the opportunity to create new and exciting content by flying the group to New York where they filmed themselves doing Spider-Man stunts and other related activities.
- Give creative freedom
The most important element of partnering with vloggers is to be open minded and trust that the vlogger understands their community and what will work well on their channel better than anyone else. By working with a vlogger brands are not simply buying views or buying access to an audience, they are buying in to their brand or product being a part of the vlogger’s creativity and content.
Example: Twentieth Century Fox / The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
In 2013 Twentieth Century Fox offered YouTube creator Casey Neistat $25,000 to make a video in the theme of “live your dreams” to promote the upcoming release of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Fox gave Neistat full creative control which he used to go to the Philippines to spend all the money supporting the Typhoon disaster relief efforts. The 6-minute video about his journey and the help he provided has reached over 4M views.
- Be transparent
As with other marketing activities brands need to adhere to industry standards by ensuring that the commercial relationship with the vlogger is clear to the consumer.
Unlike previous examples, this is a great demonstration of what not to do and the fact that there is still a lot to learn in this space. Last month, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that a series of YouTube vlogs featuring Oreo cookies should be taken down as the commercial relationship between the brand and the vloggers was not made sufficiently clear.
Working with YouTube creators represents a new approach for marketers, who need to learn to share creative control with the vloggers to produce content that will be both successful with their subscribers and successful for the marketers’ brands. This shift can be difficult, but is something which the industry has begun experimenting with over the past year and will continue to embrace in 2015.