Ian Styles of DesignStudio: why YouTube is still a missed opportunity for brands

Out of the 5000 most popular channels on YouTube just 74 are brands. It’s a mind-blowing statistic, given the video platform’s millions of daily users and the size of marketing budgets for international brands.

Make it into this golden circle however, and the rewards are vast. These 74 high fliers often enjoy one new view every two seconds, with their content liked and shared by legions of loyal fans.

But it begs the question – what are 4926 brands doing wrong? How can a teenager in a bedroom with nothing but a webcam be gaining hundreds of times more traction than a multinational giant with a six-figure budget?

A challenge, which brands have historically struggled to overcome is creating content which is compelling and engaging. Brands need to consider the ways that YouTube and its community works and engages. The power of YouTube as a platform needs to be leveraged to add value to users whether this be through entertaining or educating, however the reality is many brands are still not getting this right.

Only 50 per cent of branded content achieves more than a 1000 views. How should this be addressed?

One place to start is looking to the top of the pile. Go Pro’s channel sets the brand benchmark on YouTube and according to The Touchstorm Video Index is the fifth biggest brand channel. Go Pro has built up a base of 2.4 million subscribers through posting regular compelling pieces of content that uses the product to capture the story.

The recent campaign – The Adventure of Life in 4k – has attracted more than 4.6 million views in over just two weeks. This in turn has helped raise brand awareness and build emotional connection with potential new consumers.

John Lewis’s strategy of launching their infamous Christmas advert starring Monty the Penguin on social channels prior to TV has worked to the effect of gaining seven million views in the first 24 hours – a much more cost effective strategy than launching first on TV, reaching nearly the same amount of viewers in comparison to a prime time T.V slot and with the added value of much more user engagement with shares and comments.

Tone of voice is also important – all too often brands produce content for YouTube, which bears little resemblance to their established tone. As a result, this has a detrimental impact on its overall messaging. Whether it’s producing a product launch video or a lifestyle film to connect from different demographics, a brand’s value needs to be expressed consistently and authentically.

Earlier this year, LA fashion brand Wren commissioned a promotional video – First Kiss – which went on to become the most viewed fashion film of all time. The intimacy of pairs of strangers kissing went viral almost instantly leading to over 90 million views on YouTube and leading to a 14000 increase in sales.

It proved that you do not have to go to the end of the earth to create great content (circa Red Bull and Felix Baumgartner). While the budgets for Red Bull and John Lewis were significant, Wren has proved that it is possible to deliver an outstanding result on a smaller budget if the storytelling and content is right.

To really generate a return on investment, brands need to think creatively if they want to craft engaging content that resonates with a global audience. Some argue that creativity in the context of profit is somehow counter-intuitive to the creative process itself – but we argue this is not the case; ultimately ROI is a business necessity and also drives growth and innovation.

Our recently launched campaign for winter sports brand HEAD is an example of this. ‘Race’ is the first of four films to be rolled out as part of a campaign which aims to take the brand to new heights.

The film tells the intimate and never seen before stories of HEAD-sponsored alpine ski racers Anna Fenninger and Askel Lund Svindal’s rituals prior to a big competition. By humanising the story, it takes viewers inside the locker room while they are preparing to push their own limits, in turn inspiring people to stretch their own personal goals. Authentic storytelling is at the heart of the campaign, which was created solely with an online audience in mind.

If you look at each of the top 74, we see them applying a similar methodology – the content is consistent, authentic, relevant, and timely. It communicates a message that’s both engaging for its target audience and true to its brand values. It’s only with this creative strategy that brands will start to see success on this channel.

DS_Studio_2560x1440_100_01-672x378Ian Styles is ECD of DesignStudio.

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