Can YouTube influencers help grow your brand?

A recent article on the Marketing website urges us to "think differently about YouTube influencers", suggesting that "brands and marketers should gleam with excitement at the opportunity that YouTube Influencers pose for the future of brand advocacy to teen and millennial audiences." Wow. That's a single sentence that manages to cram in not one, not two but three buzzwords: "influencers", "advocacy" and "millenials".

So, should we all be peeing our pants with excitement about the opportunity presented by YouTuber advocacy?

1. Youtubers are a potentially important channel

There is no doubting that Youtubers are becoming an increasingly important channel for teens and millenials, as covered here in a post here. The biggest YouTubers do have huge audiences. But they also have two more key things going for them. First, they have influence. If Zoella says something is cool to her 7 million followers, chances are a decent number of people will want to buy it. Second, as they are online, her audience can instantly interact online with the brand in question, and maybe even buy it.

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For example, fashion brand New Look partnered with YouTube Influencer Beckii Cruel, here. Beckii did a "Wear it in four ways" video, where she wore a New Look winter scarf in 4 different ways. She then asked her audience to also wear an item of theirs in their way, sharing over social media to win a shopping trip with Beckii to a New Look store.

2. How far can you reach?

The first issue with this approach is reach. In the New Look example the brand saved money by using a relatively unknown Youtuber, with an audience of under 100,000. As a result, the "Wear it four ways" video seems to have been watched by under 8,000 people (see below). To put this in context, the monthly traffic to is 5 million, or 170,000 a day. So its hard to see this campaign having a big impact, although the agency doing the campaign, Fanbytes, claim a 45% increase in traffic during the campaign here (not sure how 7,926 views could translate into an extra 85,000 site visits a day?). 

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3. Getting brand linkage

The second challenge I see with this sort of YouTuber influencer marketing is brand linkage. Yes, the New Look example shows Beckii (that double "ii" is a getting a bit irritating) wearing the brand's scarf. But there is no overt New Look branding. And the interactive element asked viewers not to buy one of the scarves and  post a picture of how they wore it, but rather to "wear an item of theirs in their way". I guess this lack of brand promotion is because the Youtuber needs to stay in editorial mode and not be see to actively advertise the brand she is partnering with, to avoid losing her credibility.

4. Short-term impact

The third issue with this sort of marketing, like any sort of promotional campaign, is the short-term impact. Unless the Youtuber in question is huge, and the brand linkage is strong, its hard to see this sort of activity having much long term impact. I'm not convinced that getting 8,000 people to watch Beckii and maybe even pose and post a photo will "create an army of advocates who spread their message", as the article claims.

In conclusion, even though Youtubers are a potential new communication channel for brands, the good old fashioned rules of PR seem to apply. To get a big impact you need a big star with big reach who really plugs your brand and product overtly. This costs lots of cash, and needs weighing up against other forms of marketing, such as advertising on Youtubers' channels. 

And when it comes to advocacy, the best way to create this is, I suggest, from stimulating word-of-mouth by  having a great product or service that people want to talk about.