How to Succeed on YouTube: Tips from Adidas, Pepsi and Unilever

A series of four films giving tips on how brands can engage the YouTube generation.

“We absolutely recognise that the secret to success for this channel is in its authenticity, its credibility and the real benefit it brings to its audience,” says Unilever global comms director Geoff Seeley of video-sharing platform YouTube.

Seeley is one of the marketers highlighted in ‘Brand Stories’, one of four deep-dive ‘How to Succeed on YouTube’ video guides aimed at advertisers and agencies.

The Drum will be featuring these films throughout the week, with additional insight from marketers on how to best work with the platform.

In Brand Stories, Unilever’s All Things Hair channel, PepsiMax and Adidas are featured as stand-out brands in this space – pertinent examples of how to approach the fast-growing YouTube audience in a targeted and relevant way.

The five-minute film offers seven guidelines for marketers wanting to invest in this space, from the importance of authenticity to collaborating with YouTube stars, whose growing popularity with hard-to-reach youth or niche audiences has caught many marketers off-guard.

It complements The Creators, a new documentary, premiered by The Drum, which goes behind the scenes to discover how YouTube creators like Zoella achieve such huge success, and what brands can learn from them and each other.

Liam Brennan, digital strategy director at Starcom MediaVest Group, believes many brands are still playing catch-up in this space. He says that for too long advertisers have seen YouTube as little more than a repository for their television commercials yet, as Brand Stories shows, YouTube content has its own particular (and not necessarily glossy) style.

He says pre-roll ads have proved popular for brands wanting to be on YouTube because they play in familiar territory, but for real success advertisers should look to either partner with, or learn from, YouTube creators.

“Pre-rolls are great for a lot of brands because they don’t lose control when there’s a certain brand story they want to tell,” he says. “But for those who have worked with creators, myself included, the response rate has been great. It has a huge endorsement factor for a hard to reach audience.”

He cites Starcom client Samsung as a brand doing well in this area. It partners with prominent vloggers by giving them handsets on which to film, offering value to the creators at the same time as building its brand.

Unilever-owned YouTube channel All Things Hair has worked with a “disparate bunch of YouTube talent”, says Seeley, sharing an on-brand message but ceding directorial control to the stars themselves. “We roll with them,” he says.

Both Adidas and PepsiMax also work with YouTube talent but also create content specifically for YouTube. Rob Hughes, Adidas senior global football PR, reveals that the brand plans content six months in advance, with tactical content running alongside.

The brand is emulating the publishing approach of YouTube creators, who know their audience expects regular uploads. As with the YouTube creators content is married with calls-to-action and is published on a regular and reliable basis.

Aman Matharu, PepsiCo digital marketing manager says: “We are really going after what our customers are doing in the real world and then creating content according to what their passion points are.”

Such an approach is critical, suggests Kathryn Parsons, Decoded CEO. “A lot of big businesses and brands are just figuring out YouTube, gaining trust and determining their relationship with this audience. Brands must create new strategies to deal with this.”

She says it is exciting to see brands be experimental and learn from how YouTube creators have grown huge, global audiences by being authentic, relevant, and listening and responding to their audiences. “Brands need to be really open-minded and really honest,” she says, suggesting that the “worst thing to do is put your head in the sand”.

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