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Pete Borum

What Marketers Can Learn from PewDiePie’s YouTube Success

Pete Borum
What Marketers Can Learn from PewDiePie’s YouTube Success

TV advertising is a $79 billion industry that’s being revolutionized by the prevalence of cord cutters. Over the past decade, more and more people have discontinued their cable subscriptions in hopes of escaping loud, interruptive commercial breaks that only seem to be getting longer and longer.

In light of this mass exodus, television networks are scrambling to maintain the same level of ad revenue they’ve grown accustomed to. They’re either cramming more commercials into their programs or charging brands more money to reach fewer people.

Either way, television advertising is in the midst of a downward spiral, and the industry is turning to solutions that are tone-deaf to the real wants of viewers. As a result, consumers are flocking online for their entertainment needs, and marketers who follow them there find themselves faced with a unique opportunity to reach a highly engaged, targeted crowd that’s better aligned with their message.

PewDiePie and the Feel-Good Marketplace

On television, networks dictate when and where viewers are supposed watch their favorite shows. Then, those shows are interrupted by advertisers who tell viewers what they’re supposed to like.

The growing appeal of outlets such as YouTube is their on-demand, a-la-carte nature. Viewers can watch the content that speaks to them whenever they want, which ultimately leads to a happier base of consumers who feel better about themselves. Soon, they’ll even have the option to do it in a completely ad-free setting.

An increasing number of marketers are beginning to notice the key opportunities they have online, and for evidence of that, look no further than YouTube’s most popular channel: PewDiePie. The man behind the account, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, earned $12 million in 2014 from brands looking to get their products in front of his 40 million subscribers.

The difference between an endorsement from PewDiePie and one from a celebrity is simple: PewDiePie isn’t interrupting your target consumers’ favorite television show to promote a product. Instead, he’s supporting brands in a much more relatable and authentic way.

As a result, any endorsement (product, service, or event announcement) that appears in one of his videos is taken to heart by a massive number of people. His ability to connect with audiences is something that’s nearly impossible to replicate through a celebrity endorsement on television.

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Being Heard Online

Paying top dollar for a big-name endorsement and then blanketing one message to viewers is no longer the way to earn people’s buy-in.

Tons of brands have already made the shift to align with influencers. For the brands that haven’t yet, here are two big things to keep in mind when approaching this medium:

1. There’s an Audience for All Brands

Some people simply can’t stand PewDiePie. “South Park” devoted an entire episode to making fun of the guy, and one of my friends sent me a link about the millions of dollars PewDiePie made last year and said, “Forget everything bad that’s happening in the world — this is the most terrible.”

To me, PewDiePie’s success is the opposite of terrible. He brings joy to 40 million people, and nobody can stop those people from watching his videos. On the flip side, those who dislike PewDiePie are never forced to see his face.

There are thousands upon thousands of accounts like PewDiePie out there, and plenty of them are already speaking to your target audience. Perhaps they don’t have 40 million subscribers yet, but their devoted followings are invaluable to modern marketers and will continue to grow.

2. It’s About an Authentic, Feel-Good Message

Stop thinking of consumers as people you need to con into buying your goods. No one actually thinks she’s magically going to become a gorgeous movie star by using a certain product. Creating a lavish campaign around a mega-celebrity will only remind your audience members that they aren’t famous millionaires.

Traditional spokespeople are hired, dolled up, and Photoshopped into images that simply no longer resonate with the average consumer. It just doesn’t make sense for modern marketers to associate their brands with something (or someone) unattainable.

Show that you care about consumers by crafting an authentic message that explains how your product will solve a pain point of theirs or improve their quality of life. Deliver that message through a more relatable “bro” like PewDiePie, and you’ve got yourself a winning campaign.

In this cord-cutting climate, brands are clearly better off investing in online campaigns that creatively reach smaller, more engaged groups of people. Stop feeding money into an antiquated system and counting on corporate executives, market research teams, and Nielson rating systems to reach disinterested viewers.

Explore the online world, connect with Internet stars who place value on authenticity, and you won’t go wrong.

Pete Borum is the co-founder and CEO of Reelio, where he oversees the business, creative, and engineering teams that power some of YouTube’s most effective branded content partnerships. Reelio’s proprietary technology analyzes social data to identify the ideal YouTube partners for any audience, then automates every aspect of working with them. You can reach Pete at pete@reelio.com.

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