Complex topics and cultural nuance: how McDonald’s and MCI are tackling tough strategies to lead on YouTube

McDonald's leads the H1 Youtube leaderboard in Singapore

We all know the stats by now - over 300 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute - and while there are plenty of users to lap up the content, it’s a busy playing field for audience-hungry brands.

As YouTube releases it’s latest results for its brand chart in Singapore, The Drum asked two of the brands on the top of the leaderboard about their strategies for success.

Just taking a watch of both videos - McDonald’s 2018 Ramadan ad and Singapore’s Ministry of Communication and Information (MCI) edutainment series on misinformation and fake news - they have taken potentially risky strategies.

For MCI, tackling such a complex and new topic in an entertaining way is always going to be a challenge, while McDonald’s is latching onto a religious festival and not many brands can pull off cultural hijacking.

Karen Tan, senior director, Public Communications Division, MCI

Misinformation online can be a complicated topic – how do you make that interesting and informative for people?

The content we produce must be relevant, timely and simple. When dealing with complex topics such as fake news and misinformation, we try to dissect the topic and communicate it in bite-size nuggets of information. This makes it easier for our target audience to understand and remember the key messages.

For the “The Devil, The Angels and I” series, we leveraged on popular local celebrities and influencers, who helped to make our content more relatable to the man-on-the-street with a touch of humour.

What’s your secret for making such important topics popular with people? Does it have to entertain too?

We believe that useful government messages can be delivered in an educational yet entertaining way. To make content engaging, it is important to be bold in concept, witty and to use humour appropriately so our audiences can easily identify with it. This includes minimising the use of jargon and using terms that people can relate to. Continuous innovation and experimentation helps us find the best ways to engage our diverse audiences.

How does your use of video for these campaigns compare to other channels?

The content produced for Gov.sg social media platforms are created chiefly with the general Singaporeans in mind, and serves to communicate important Government messages in a timely and engaging manner. We also understand that attention spans for online audiences tend to be short, so we try to make our content simple and snackable for easy understanding.

Agatha Yap, senior director of marketing and digital innovation, McDonald’s Singapore

In this half, your full length Ramadan ad made it top – what does that signal to you about what people want to watch?

We’re encouraged by the positive response received. In the spirit of Ramadan, we wanted to create a video that celebrates our community spirit and togetherness. The success of the video signals to us that our audiences can appreciate the simple and poignant everyday human connections our people have with the community they serve.

How does that fit into your strategy?

As a brand that has been in Singapore for almost 40 years, we are privileged to be woven into the local fabric as part of many of our customers’ experiences. We continue to find ways to celebrate these key moments with our customers and connect with them on a personal level.

How do you make sure you’re finding the right tone when attaching yourself to key cultural milestones like Ramadan?

It definitely helps when we have been in Singapore for almost 40 years! It is exciting to serve a multi-cultural market like Singapore and we see our customers as our extended family. At the end of the day, it’s about being true to who we are as a brand – treating our people, customers and community with respect, and celebrating what truly binds us together.

What’s next for McDonald’s digital video strategy?

With the ever-evolving digital landscape, only one thing matters – how to tell an authentic story – and we are always trying to do better.

Overall, Youtube released four themes or trends from the winning list that it believes will help brands be successful on Youtube. Firstly, it says that short films will usually do best, while secondly, it says that local works well as six out of ten in the leaderboard was made by Singaporeans for Singaporeans. The third point is around the tactic of teasing, which has worked for several brands on the list, versus telling a story. Finally, and in a nod to the MCI ad, is the tackling of hot topics, which Youtube says is a way to show that a brand is relevant.

Leaderboard H1 2018

  1. McDonald's Singapore - McDonald's Ramadan - full length
  2. Apple - Three Minutes - a short story by Peter Chan
  3. Singtel - Mr Lim's reunion dinner
  4. Ministry of Education - Magic
  5. Lego - Lego City Mountain Madness
  6. GovSingapore (MCI) - The Devil, The Angels and I
  7. Shell - On top of the world
  8. Resorts World Sentosa - #HHN8 things are getting stranger
  9. DBS - Live more, bank less
  10. Samsung - The camera, reimagined

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