In this new digital age, the real opportunity for brands is to not use the creators as brand ambassadors instead to become creators
By Naresh Gupta
This year YouTube has been in news thanks to the raging battle between Pewdiepie and T-Series. The crown of ruler of YouTube oscillated between the two for some time. Supporters of PewDiePie did everything to ensure that he keeps the crown, but eventually T-series won the battle hands down. Today, T-series is the most subscribed channel of YouTube across the world.
So what is YouTube? How do you describe it? And the bigger question, how have brands used it and what more can they do?
At approximately 300 million subscribers, India is YouTube’s biggest market. At this number YouTube is a significant TV channel in its own right.
Its just that YouTube is not a TV channel and can never be one like exists on either linear TV or on OTT. And therein lies the challenge for YouTube.
YouTube is not like any other social media channel that exists. A social media channel allows you to express your idea and connects you with likeminded people (who you curated) and lets you have an interaction with them. YouTube is more like an online catalogue where the user has to search what they are looking for and interact with the content.
This makes YouTube very different for brands. A good brand will use YouTube as a broadcast channel to ensure more and more people watch its content. The properties like masthead are designed to be broadcast oriented. Brands can drive engagement, but that’s a much smaller metric to measure.
YouTube is also a key property in the entire targeting matrix of Google. This is where the advertising potential truly comes alive. Brands have been using the platform to create smaller biteable ads and banners that drive traffic to brands’ website or app to do transaction.
This is where YouTube is adding a new layer to communication that brands can use. Video ads take longer to produce and they often aren’t topical or on the button. Now with realtime data and search trends, brands are experimenting with smarter targeting on the platform, and riding the video content of YT to serve contextual brand messages.
The brands can treat YouTube like a social media network and leverage the platform to create social engagement. This may not be happening right now, but in the ever-evolving digital engagement scenario, this can happen.
Tik-Tok took the YouTube template and created a platform that allowed anyone to become a video star. The new smartphones are very capable devices and they allow its owners to what they dreamt of doing just a few years back. Runaway success of Tik-Tok is a clear signal that today’s audience loves new and they will accept anything new with open arms if it lets them explore their own ability. Tik-Tok influencers are the creators.
Same creators who are the real power behind the success of YouTube. This content is original, created for YouTube (and not created say for TV channel) and then broadcast on the platform. This actually allows the brands and its fans to create content that lets them engage with their consumers in multiple ways.
Now if we go back to PewDiePie and T-Series battle, the difference will start to become clear. The battle for supremacy was between a creator and corporate entity. The corporate entity eventually won, but that cannot take away from enormous popularity of the content creator and the following he has created.
Closer home you can see the creator community becoming mainstream. Bhuvan Bam and the likes, has leveraged the power of platform to create a massive following. YouTube has almost come of age as one of “YT Creator” is now a mass media celebrity with multiple brands signing him up as brand ambassador. This wasn’t a possibility even at the start of the year 2019, but it did happen.
The real opportunity for brands is to not use the creators as brand ambassadors, but to think like them and become creators. This is the new frontier for brands and this new challenge can add a fresh new dimension to how brands connect with its fans.
The author is the managing partner of Bang in the Middle