3 behavioural and cultural shifts we saw on YouTube this past year

Gina Shalavi
/ November 2019 / Video, Consumer Insights

The latest trends come and go in the blink of an eye. By the time you’ve mastered how to floss, there’s a new dance move to learn. The minute you splurge on a tiny pair of sunglasses, you find out that big frames are back in fashion.

But dig a little deeper into those and other trends, and you start to see that they often speak to bigger changes. So rather than rattling off a list of flash-in-the-pan YouTube trends from 2019, we instead wanted to look at the behavioral and cultural shifts they represent. Here are three YouTube trends that all marketers should know about.

1. Local content went global

All too often, brands think about their advertising campaigns in terms of market-specific silos. You might have one creative asset for the Indian market and a different one for the U.K. Sometimes this makes sense. After all, it’s important to be culturally relevant. And what works in one place might be badly received somewhere else.

But looking at the biggest recent YouTube trends, we have reason to believe viewers are more cosmopolitan than they sometimes get credit for. For example, in research we carried out this year about the fashion industry, we found that 60% of the content produced by U.S. YouTube creators is watched by users in other countries.

Globalization and the spread of trends beyond national borders is nothing new, but platforms like YouTube are accelerating the process. Take live streaming as an example. It has never been easier to watch events taking place on the other side of the planet in real time, which is perhaps why, of the 100 most popular YouTube live streams,1 more than 60 of them happened in the past two years.

A globe icon with YouTube logos representing video watched around the world accompanied by text that reads 60% of the content produced by U.S. YouTube creators is watched by users in other countries.

2. Shopping content became entertainment

When we carried out a survey of U.S. shoppers earlier this year, we discovered that 93% of them said they’d used an online resource at some point throughout the customer journey. It’s something we’ve seen play out around the world. For example, in global research from 2018, we found that 55% of shoppers said they search for a product on Google and then head to YouTube to learn more before buying it.

But somewhat surprisingly, people aren’t looking up shopping content simply because they need help knowing what to buy; they’re also looking to be entertained. From new takes on shopping sprees to videos that took viewers on virtual hauls — a genre that grew 3X in India this past year — YouTube creators blurred the lines between “shopping” and “entertainment” in 2019.

A circle with icons representing search and video browser windows accompanied by text that reads 55% of shoppers said they search for a product on Google and then head to YouTube to learn more before buying it.

3. YouTube viewers went green

In September 2019, children in 150 countries, from South Africa to Canada, took to the streets in one of the largest climate change demonstrations ever seen. “We fight for our future,” Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist who initiated the movement, told U.N. World Leaders.

Rather than scrambling to jump on board the latest bandwagon, savvy marketers will realize that these trends hint at deeper cultural and behavioral shifts.

If the data we’re seeing from YouTube is anything to go by, this desire to think more carefully about our planet’s future and how we, as consumers, can help is more widespread than ever before. Indeed, we saw a surge in content championing the protection of the environment. For example, there was a big spike in monthly views of videos with “clean beauty” in the title and a huge increase in both uploads and views of haul videos with “sustainable” in the title.

Understanding the people we’re trying to reach

It’s anyone’s guess what new trends 2020 will bring. Rather than scrambling to jump on board the latest bandwagon, savvy marketers will realize that these trends hint at deeper cultural and behavioral shifts. By taking the time to understand them, we can better understand the people we’re trying to reach.

YouTube viewers are going green. Here are 3 things marketers need to know