There are more than 400 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube each minute, and a billion hours of film watched every day, so it can be hard for brands new to the channel to cut through the noise. Yet, says Mary Healy, YouTube’s Brand Partner Program Manager, it’s still very possible. Here she talks to Content Magazine about the formula for success, working with YouTubers and a one-hit wonder campaign that earned a brand 30 million+ views and a 600% increase in sales.
Content: With more than 400 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube each minute, how can brands stand out on this already crowded channel?
Mary Healy: YouTube just crossed a major milestone of a billion hours of video watched every day on the channel. To put that in perspective, it would take an individual 100,000 years to watch that much. So, there’s a lot of content being uploaded, but there’s also a lot being watched. There isn’t a magic formula I can give to brands. As with all good marketing, it all starts with a very clear objective and a very clear target audience and then having a great creative idea. There is no silver bullet; it’s about having a really thoughtful distribution plan in place from the beginning.
What advice do you give to brand partners as to what "works" on the channel?
We often recommend the “bite, snack, meal” approach. No one wants to only eat bites, only snacks or only meals. In the same way that YouTube users don’t want to exclusively watch six second ads or a 10-minute branded film. They want to watch what they want, when they want it. We see brands have success when they build a library of content and create a deliberate plan that links these pieces of content together. Sometimes this is through savvy, very targeted media placements on YouTube while other brands use their 30-second TV ad as a springboard to drive users to their brand’s channel. There really isn’t one clear-cut path to follow – there are many different ways – but it’s about being present on the platform and having a deliberate approach to distribution and discovery.
What role does data play in forming and shaping content? And how can brands use it to their advantage?
YouTube is part of Google; and Google loves data. We give our brand partners very granular analytics about how their content and channel is performing over time. One of my favourite data points is the “audience retention curve,” where we show brands what percentage of their audience watched [their video] to the end vs those who dropped off after just a few seconds. We can also see where users fast-forward or rewind, and we can benchmark this against content of a similar length/style. If a lot of people drop off, it’s probably a sign to your creative team that something was amiss – whether it was an edit, a sound change or a character leaving the scene. This is very powerful stuff for a brand.
What is a good metric for brands to monitor?
We care very much, and are leading voice in the industry, on video viewability metrics. But in addition to whether a video was viewed, we believe watch times are a really powerful measure of success. It’s a little too simple to just look at views and impressions. I always say peel back a little; while view counts are public, they’re easy to see and report against, but you have no indication how many of those views might have been purchased. So, the best indicator is minutes spent or time spent, which isn’t public and is a much stronger currency. If someone watches five seconds of an ad or 35 seconds, one gives a very different signal than the other.
How can video serve the consumer's micro-moments of “I want to buy/know/go/do?”
YouTube is the number two search engine behind Google. It’s an amazing place for people to go and find the answer to questions. If you, say, don’t know how to truss a chicken, you can search for it on YouTube, and there will be a video that answers that question. It’s far more efficient than reading an article in that moment. There are lots of micro moments happening on YouTube, and they present a good opportunity for brands, with tons of videos related to their products, to publish what we refer to as “help content,” This is content that is helpful for users searching in the moment. I always recommend that brands start with help videos, as they feed the search.
Is it realistic for brands to expect organic growth on YouTube, or should they put some paid media budget into promoting content?
With 400 hours uploaded every minute, it’s important that brands have realistic expectations for their videos. You wouldn’t make a television ad and not pay to put it on TV, so make sure you’re setting aside a media budget if you’re looking to reach a large audience with your videos on YouTube. That said, the platform is amazing at building audiences. If you have a brand channel and you upload a video, you’re still able to communicate this activity to your subscribers via email for free. Brands that are successful on YouTube actively manage their channel and post regularly. They won’t pay to promote every single video they release but will wait and put their paid budget behind their big spots or critical moments. Also, you have to be realistic, as a brand you’ll be competing for an audience’s attention along with creators like the NFL or musicians, so paid media has to be part of that calculation.
Do you recommend brands get involved with/team up with YouTubers on your channel, or should they go it alone?
I don’t think every brand needs to work with a creator, but there are some great partnerships out there. For those that do want to collaborate with a creator, it’s important for brands to realize that these people are brands in their own right. Some have millions and millions of subscribers, are building mini media businesses of their own and are being very thoughtful about the partnerships they enter into. Brands that want to work with a creator need to respect the fact the creator isn’t “talent for hire,” like a traditional actor might be. The creators want to work in partnership, collaborate on ideas and not just be handed a pre-written script with a brief to execute against.
VR has hit the headlines and is set to become the next big content marketing trend. What advice do you give to brands experimenting with this medium?
YouTube is investing heavily in trying to equip creators with VR expertise. We have YouTube Spaces around the world, where we allow our creators to come in and produce content at no cost with equipment that we have purchased. We have VR demo stations and 360 cameras as well as workshops and courses to arm creators with an understanding of how it all works. But brands need to be aware that VR is still in the very early stages. There’s a lot of potential, but it’s a more expensive medium, and it generates less reach and interaction than traditional video does as consumers are not fully on board with it yet. Brands experimenting with VR need to set realistic expectations of ROI and perhaps see it as a test, rather than it being the cornerstone of their big campaign.
Do you have a personal favorite branded YouTube video?
I have lots, but one sticks in my mind, Squatty Potty. It’s completely inappropriate, but somehow it works. It just shocks you into remembering the product. I won’t go into detail. You’ll just have to look at it yourself, but this is a video that has amassed 30 million views and went viral in its truest sense. Squatty Potty has attributed amazing business results—a 400% increase in retail sales and a 600% increase in total sales. It’s my favourite wacky video, but it shows you what YouTube can do for a brand.