August 22nd, 2006

Brands Will Have a Tough Time on YouTube

by

I wonder whether any of the brands that YouTube is approaching to create customized video channels will really take the time to look at what kind of content is acutally driving the outrageous success of this much-hyped video sharing site.

Let’s take a look at what’s on the front page of YouTube today.

There’s the human experiment with Mentos and Diet Coke, and two rabbits eating.

YouTube Featured 1

Then there’s the Snakes on a Plane spoof, amateur guitar playing, and amateur rapping.

YouTube Featured 2

Lastly, we have a cat flushing a toilet, an All in the Family musical intro immitation, and musical pancake making.

YouTube Featured 3

Here’s what’s most telling — compare the ratings on these videos to the ratings of the sponsored Paris Hilton music video on the same home page (i.e. “the bizarre cultural icon Paris Hilton,” as Marshall Kirkpatrick at TechCrunch aptly puts it).

YouTube Paris Hilton

Cats flushing toilets and rabbits eating are apparently far more entertaining than Paris Hilton — and I have to agree that at least the bathroom cat was good for a laugh. Even the amateur rapper beats Paris.

Instead of signing up Paris Hilton to promote their new branded video channel offering, perhaps YouTube should have signed up Gizmo the Cat. I bet Gizmo and the other talent on display at YouTube today would be happy to participate in any kind of paid brand channel efforts, but you have to wonder whether the magic would be lost.

Here’s some advice for brands looking to tap into the success of YouTube — remember that the users are in control, and what they think is entertaining and worth their time — particularly as to raw humor and home-grown talent — may not generally align with your branded content. Your value proposition needs to align with the actual value that YouTube creates for its millions of users everyday.

  • Brett

    Scott, a great article in New York Magazine should make you wonder if a branding campaign that actually "gets" YouTube might be right under your nose, in the form of lazydork and lonelygirl15.

  • Scott: interesting look at this. However, I don't think users are in control of YouTube. What is posted on the YouTube homepage, and the main video page is not ranked by user ratings, like Digg. I have wondered about the editorial practices of the YouTube staff in terms of what goes up. If a popular poster creates a new video, it is up on that page quickly, rating or not. Likewise, some videos don't have many ratings at all, and certainly not high ones.

    There are many ways to break into the content on the site, but I think that YouTube has a lot of control in positioning partners prominently. Whether or not this changes the homegrown nature of YouTube... well that is already changing. Is the world a worse place for it? I don't know.

  • Just remember the long tail folks.. youtube is only partially about the stuff on the front page, ie, the stuff the masses want. There are an almost infinite number of niches to carve out an audience.

  • Well, nobody can compete with renetto on YouTube, the users just love everything he does. And a cat flushing the toilet? If the quality of some of the "talking dogs" footage on YouTube is any indication then Paris is probably out of luck there too. But as a B level YouTube star I think she'll do fine.

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