YouTube has changed since we first published this back in 2013 – that’s why we’ve decided to hit F5 on the article so it’s more relevant to a 2017 audience.
Overt marketing campaigns that resemble TV commercials still have their place, but the rise of the YouTube star has given brands cause to rethink their strategies.
YouTube users want to watch content they can relate to in some way, and the very best campaigns nowadays reflect that. Brands are increasingly choosing to tap into influencers with huge reach, or create their own content that more closely resembles a mini boxset than a down-your-throat ad spot.
We’ve picked out what we think are five of the very best YouTube campaigns to demonstrate how brands can capture an audience with just a bit of imagination.
Nike: Margot Vs Lily
As part of its efforts to boost its Nike Women business, the sportswear giant produced a series of short videos focusing on two sisters who make an unusual bet with each other. The films have a clear athletic focus and Nike products are scattered liberally throughout. But crucially there is also a story arc that ensured video views remained consistent across the eight-part series.
NB: Nike has since deleted the videos from their channel, so we’ve linked to a third-party user below.
Outcome: Nike’s large reach enabled the videos to generate millions of views, but as Kerri Hoyt-Pack, VP of Nike Women’s brand marketing globally, said: “We’re past the days of impressions and reach. For us it’s about connection, and the quality of connection. It’s about how the conversation is shaped.
“We couldn’t have been happier about how we came out of the gate last spring and summer with this. So, for us, the true measure is that response, and how this unites a community of athletes in a deeper and better way around the world.”
Audible: Influencer campaign
So-called YouTube stars boast some pretty impressive numbers. Not just their video views, but also in terms of how influential they are on their subscribers. Seventy per cent of teenage users say they relate to YouTube stars more than traditional celebrities, while 4 in 10 millennials believe their favourite YouTuber understands them better than their friends do.
Such loyalty is hard to ignore for brands looking to tap into an audience on YouTube. Audible – Amazon’s audio book arm – launched an influencer campaign involving some of the channel’s biggest names, such as PewDiePie, Roman Atwood and Grace Helbig.
Outcome: Just in the first half of 2015, Audible’s marketing campaign with top YouTubers garnered over 83 million video views. The series above – a podcast featuring YouTube superstar PewDiePie – attracted almost 20 million video views alone, standard fare for him, huge for Audible.
PooPourri: How To Poop
When you make a product designed to tackle an embarrassing subject, you can either whisper about it quietly or unashamedly shout about it from the rooftops. PooPourri chose the latter. The Texas-based brand makes sprays that, um, eliminate certain bathroom odours, but they certainly aren’t shy about it. Their How To Poop campaign featured a series of comedic, relatable YouTube videos that offered advice on, well, how to poop in a variety of awkward situations.
Outcome: An earlier video entitled Girls Don’t Poop generated a startling 40 million views. While the How To Poop campaign hasn’t reached such heady heights, PooPourri have undoubtedly cemented their reputation as a brand that entertains as much as it innovates.
The very best video campaigns manage to tread that fine line between story and product promotion, and BuzzFeed’s Purina dog food campaign is a shining example.
The series of short videos follows the adventures of a man who spontaneously decides to adopt a puppy. Their interactions are cute, amusing and – from a brand point of view – subtly guide home the message that puppies should only eat specially made puppy food.
Outcome: The first video in the series generated more than 15m views and more than a quarter of a million likes. A Campaign review summed up why the series was such a success: “Puppyhood’ succeeds because it doesn’t feel like a typical ad, it just feels like a funny video you’d send to a particularly puppy-happy friend.”
Discovery Channel: 360⁰
The television giant has created dozens of 360 videos showcasing some of their most prominent properties such as MythBusters and Shark Week. Some of the videos are breathtaking and terrifying in equal measure (a spine-tingling shark dive springs to mind), and are the perfect vehicle for the kind of content the channel is globally known for.
Outcome: Users have rewarded Discovery’s efforts in their droves – the rollercoaster video above has generated more than 24 million views. Standard stuff, maybe, but a YouTube search for ‘360 video’ currently has Discovery in top spot, with three of their other videos also on page one. Mission accomplished.