[Column]Gregory Edelenbos: Seven misconceptions about creating branded content on YouTube
Because of the global lockdown, online activity has skyrocketed. Marketing leaders predict that many more companies will invest in branded content in 2021 as this type of advertising gives them an opportunity to share their brand purpose with the general public. Why is sharing this brand purpose more important than ever, you might wonder?
Covid-19 has dramatically changed our priorities: how we work, interact with other people, spend our time and money. Generation Z, in particular, communicates a strong opinion regarding the current state of affairs and ways to manage challenges. According to Story Science's report, The Science of Generation Z Consumers: How to Avoid Irrelevance in a Post-Millennial World, 86% of Gen-Z consumers believe that companies should take a stand on social issues.
Three-quarters of this group, which is an overwhelming majority, are even willing to pay more for sustainable products. Are Gen-Z consumers part of your target audience? Then as a conscious entity, you can no longer get away with a superficial business plan.
Branded content is certainly not a new tool in the marketing arsenal, but the playing field and the rules of the game are constantly changing. What works on television, for example, will undoubtedly fail on YouTube.
Many companies had to use the trial and error method to learn this lesson. Taking their experience into account, there are several misconceptions regarding branded content creation on YouTube you, as a creator or a business representative, should be vigilant about if you don’t want to fall into the same trap.
Create a viral
A viral, who wouldn't want that? Brands that go for this option are basically looking for the golden ticket to get them all set for success. Before the YouTube algorithm was first introduced, in 2012, making a viral video was an option worth pursuing, but now it’s like beating a dead horse, it won’t get you far (pardon the pun). For one good reason that the YouTube algorithm prefers watchtime over clicks. Furthermore, there are these “gatekeepers” that want to enjoy a share of that viral branded content.
The third and, perhaps, the most important point: as a brand, you won’t win with this “one-of-a-kind” success that everyone will forget tomorrow. Even if the viral does work, the fame will be short-lived and it will not necessarily benefit your brand image.
Viewers want entertainment
Although viewers do expect to be entertained, your content should be more than just that. By focusing purely on the entertainment genre when developing your brand channel, you run the risk of creating an illusion that your content can compete against almost all the great creators on the platform and beyond. Unless you manage to drop Felix Baumgartner off somewhere on Mars, competition with Netflix is a futile battle. No one is going to pause The Crown to watch the sequel to Shell's The Great Travel Hack.
Think outside the box
Going too far with creativity can turn out to be too much of a good thing. If you create a branded content piece people can’t relate to or don’t really know how to work with, it won’t bring substantial long-term value. A couple of creative concepts that graced the platform were: “win plane tickets at a spontaneous quiz on Dam Square” arranged by an airline; a romantic dating show held between supermarket shelves arranged by the Albert Heijn chain and a piece by McDonald’s where you could apply for a mini-McDonald’s to be delivered to your doorstep which would then be recorded as a show.
Some say those were questionable investments and can you blame them? The videos outline situations that no one, most likely, would get into in real life. They are cleverly conceived, but you can hardly find either reality or relevance here. It’s much better to stay true to your brand purpose and become an authority in your field on YouTube. When one types in GAMMA, they expect DIY tips; and on the channel "Wintersports" — winter and sports. What's in a name, right?
Video content should appeal to a wide audience
A YouTube video of that kind usually carries zero relevance. How so? In order to create a piece of content that would be relatable for a wide audience, one needs to play it safe, stay within the lines of superficiality. Contrary to popular belief, there is no need to be afraid of appealing to a small group of die-hard fans, such as gamers, fishing fanatics or extreme sports enthusiasts. To illustrate, here’s Feadship, a YouTube channel doing an excellent job at creating a detail-oriented series for real yacht connoisseurs.
High Production Value Yields (Many) Views
When it comes to television and many other platforms, this idea still applies: the more money you pump into a program, the more views you will get and the better the output will be. However, this is not the case with YouTube.
You will often see that a vlog recorded somewhere in a messy room will land more views than some content created with professional equipment in a multi-camera studio. Not every video has to cost a fortune and there is no need to polish every minute to perfection. Invest the money in a long-term strategy: start low and build up slowly, while the right audience gravitates towards your channel.
Enlist Influencers for YouTube Success
It’s quite tempting to arrange a cooking battle between influencers, get a celebrity to host the show, and boost all of that with some paid promotion. Bon appetit! You’ve got a successful YouTube series with many views right there.
But what happens if you take the influencers away and get an ad budget cut? A Hello Fresh meal without much flavour. Influencers are a nice addition, but they should not become a dependence. Quite the same, paid promotion is a good investment to kick-start the engine, as long as it is not the only fuel.
YouTube Is Merely For Brand Awareness
YouTube is often seen as a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have and this is a shame. The popular idea behind this is that the platform can increase only brand awareness and nothing beyond. However, with the right YouTube knowledge, there are long-term opportunities to launch new revenue models, build communities and much more. YouTube is just the beginning.
As both a social media junkie and a professional writer-director, he has a keen eye for good video content. As a creative director, Gregory specializes in branded content, from format development and creation to distribution and promotion.
He has been part of this international MCN and successful YouTube Agency since 2019. With a career spanning more than ten years, he is an online media experience expert, helping creators and brands create successful content by applying the right strategy that resonates with the target audience.