While YouTube has long been a place for independent creators to find an audience, larger companies have often struggled to engage viewers on the same level. Because most people go to their favorite YouTubers for casual, personality-driven content—like story times, vlogs, skits, and video game walkthroughs, among others—brands have a difficult time locking in their audience with the scripted ads and salesy content that we typically find on their channels.
But fear not: Brands can find success as YouTube creators. Although the journey to creator stardom can look different for every company, it’s important to remember the basics—strive for authenticity, avoid pushy ads, and trust your creative teams. Here’s how our favorite brands have achieved creator status on the platform:
Align on a Direction
While it seems like an obvious first step, brands should begin by identifying their path forward. Company channels typically range from advertising content and quirky originals to somewhat cringey videos that try—and fail—to do both. Aside from the inauthentic attempts at keeping up with trends, marketing content and standalone original content both have a time and place. Brands can begin by choosing which type they’d like to focus their platform on.
Nintendo, a video game company with 8.61M subscribers, sticks mostly to marketing and advertising on their channel. The company’s most viewed videos are console and game trailers with the occasional “how-to” video that helps users navigate its products. If a brand wants to stop here, that’s perfectly fine—as evidenced by Nintendo, this type of content can be enough to find success.
Of course, brands should want to move beyond simple advertising and create meaningful native content specifically for YouTube. By following a unique approach to content creation, brand channels can generate more authentic engagement and eventually achieve creator status.
It’s always important for brands to be intentional with their content—while sticking to fundamentals is key to establishing a solid subscriber base, don’t be afraid to get creative.
Identify Your Team
In addition to prioritizing intentionality behind channel direction, corporate leaders should identify talented creators within their team—or even look externally—to lead this new endeavor.
Appointing the right people is essential to success—and ensuring that they aren’t busy juggling other equally important projects is also key to executing an effective content strategy. The worst thing a company can do is entrust the right person with the job, but not give them enough time to do it. Developing an engaging YouTube channel is no small feat; a dedicated YouTube content manager is far better equipped to deal with the intricacies of video production than an overworked marketing lead who doesn’t need another project on their plate.
And with a creative team in place, companies can turn to spokespeople who authentically represent their brand. Trusted representatives are a way for brands to ditch their corporate feel and focus on the people that are most relatable to their audience. For example, brands like Nintendo adopt a playful, interactive approach by pulling its own fans into the limelight—allowing for more genuine engagement across the brand’s fan base. Going a step further are mission-driven brands like retailer Patagonia, who uses its channel to promote activists and spotlight environmental issues that are important to the brand.
Let Your Creators Create
This last step is arguably the most difficult. Corporate leaders will need to take a step back and trust their creative teams to take ownership of their content. The entire process of elevating your brand as a creator falls flat when executive teams hover and try to infuse marketing language where it isn’t needed and, frankly, doesn’t fit.
Unsurprisingly, LEGO sweeps YouTube’s brand competition with almost double the views of the second highest ranked channel. And their 10 billion views aren’t from 30-second television spots or product trailers—subscribers are actually watching original shorts and engaging stories featuring their favorite toy bricks. Other toy brands like Mattel’s Monster High or My Little Pony have found similar success with original stories about their characters.
Even small businesses are leveraging YouTube as a platform for gaining brand recognition. Rather than overly promotional product ads, small stores and artists are attracting viewers and customers alike by sharing an inside look into how they create their products and run their business. Amii Ceramics often posts vlogs molding clay or fulfilling orders while John Santos designs shirts and discusses entrepreneurship to help others get started.
While marketing content has its purposes, needlessly forcing it into native YouTube content is not the way to attract viewers. Allowing creators to take charge can lead to uniquely original content that attracts viewers first to the story, then to the product.