It’s hard to overstate how important YouTube has become to consumers: It is now the second-most visited website in the world (after Google), the most popular social network with American adults, and the fastest-growing social app with Gen Z and Millennials.
Yet despite this immense popularity and influence, YouTube remains a bit of a mystery to brands. Specifically, many still struggle to understand how to engage on the video platform beyond simply running ads.
To highlight some of the keys to effective organic marketing on YouTube, we’ve pulled together this list (in no particular order) of seven very popular videos from brands. Each was selected because it both resonated with audiences and because it showcases an important lesson for marketers on how to utilize the platform.
Vat19: Gummy VS Real Challenge #1
Vat19 is the second-most popular YouTube brand channel (after LEGO) for a reason: The purveyor of odd gifts truly gets the platform. Its content feels very YouTube-y; it’s filled with bright colors, catchy headlines, big personalities, lots of humor and (sometimes disgusting) challenges. It’s a good reminder that engaging on YouTube begins with understanding what already works.
YouTube isn’t just a video distribution network; it’s also a social network. That’s important to remember because successful videos are often born from collaborations among creators. Nike showed it understood this when it teamed up with popular YouTube channel What’s Inside? to create a series of pieces exploring the workings of its shoes. What stands out when watching the videos is that the enthusiasm of the YouTubers adds a compelling authenticity. Without that tone and expertise, the piece would feel generic rather than specific to the platform.
Of course, brands aren’t simply creating videos for the sake of it: The goal is to ultimately boost revenue. In 2012, Dollar Shave Club (DSC) created an iconic piece which racked up millions of views and proved that YouTube can be highly effective in driving sales. Today a number of savvy direct-to-consumer firms, such as mattress maker Purple, are following DSC’s formula: Engage audiences via lengthy, well-produced videos that simultaneously entertain, introduce the brand and showcase products.
Airtable: Glormax Returns
Here’s something marketers occasionally forget: YouTube isn’t just for B2C brands. In fact, a number of B2B firms use the platform to successfully build awareness and capture leads. A good example is Airtable, which creates witty videos that often feature unexpected situations—such as children producing a major movie—to highlight the capabilities of its workplace collaboration platform.
Slack: So, Yeah, We Tried Slack…
Slack is another example of a B2B firm that engages heavily on YouTube. The brand’s videos aren’t necessarily groundbreaking—they often simply showcase product enhancements or satisfied customers—but they have high production values and a tone well-suited for the platform. The company is also smart about using ad spend to extend the reach of its pieces. This highlights another key thing marketers should keep in mind: The line between organic and paid is far from absolute and combining the two approaches is often key to YouTube success.
BMW: The Small Escape
Because YouTube began as a platform for sharing quick, user-generated pieces—the first video posted to the site was an 18 second-long clip of the founders at the zoo—marketers still often think of it as a home for amateurish content. The truth is that it is also a great place to feature rich, high-quality, professional storytelling. Case in point: BMW’s The Small Escape tells a (true) Cold War tale via a beautifully-shot little film that truly feels like a piece of cinema.
Red Bull: Last Call for Mr. Paul
Finally, there’s Red Bull. The firm not only has one of the most successful brand YouTube channels, but it has also created some of the most successful videos overall on the platform (i.e. Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic freefall). Part of this is due to the visual-friendly nature of its content, but it is also because of smart strategy.
Simply put: Red Bull gets that organic success isn’t driven by executing on just one of the approaches covered in this post, but by combining them. For example, in this video the brand collaborates with a popular creator (Jason Paul), invests in quality production, uses YouTube-y humor, isn’t afraid to do something epic, and showcases its products in a way that feels natural. Ultimately, this savvy mix both delights audiences and helps the brand achieve its goals.
Photo credit: Jaanus Ree, Red Bull Content Pool