Who wants to watch videos of normal people doing normal things? Just about everyone

Laura Ludena
/ November 2019 / Video, Consumer Insights

Laura Ludena is the global head of research for YouTube ads. She conducts research to understand all the ways people turn to online videos — and to YouTube in particular — around the world.

I’m one of those research-obsessed people who dives deep whenever I consider trying something new: making beef Wellington, getting (back) into yoga, or getting a new raincoat. What can I say? I’m a planner. I like to get a feel for what I’m getting into. That used to mean blogs and reviews, but lately, I find watching videos is the best way to learn and get that more in-depth understanding.

That’s true for me and a whole lot of other people: More than 70% of people around the world feel empowered, motivated, or confident after learning something new from a YouTube video.1

And the more we dug into what kinds of videos people turn to for learning, we noticed a pattern. “With me” videos are a thing, and they’re pretty ubiquitous across the world, and even around different categories. Here are a few examples:

Growth in the last year of “with me” videos around the world

A map of the world with data callouts for each country. Germany: 2X growth in “study with me” Japan: 3X growth in “cook with me” India: 3X growth in “shop with me” Brazil: 20X growth in “exercise with me” US:  3X growth in “clean with me”

You may have come across one of these deceptively simple videos: People film themselves going about ordinary tasks like cooking, studying, cleaning, or exercising. But don’t be fooled by how commonplace they might seem. Viewers turn to “with me” videos for company, in-depth information, and even motivation.

“With me” videos instill confidence, from cooking to studying

As a research scientist, I couldn’t help but wonder about the human insight behind these videos. What deeper human truth is revealed by the fact that “with me” videos exist across countries and categories? The cynic in you may think, "Are people no longer self-sufficient? They have to watch a video to be able to study or clean or cook?" But it’s quite the opposite actually. People make themselves more self-sufficient — and empowered to act — with these videos. Whether getting motivation to clean, to finish that study session, or even to get that pristinely cut lawn. (Yes, “mow with me” videos are also a thing.)

Global research shows that online video helps people feel more confident about reaching their goals. And seeing normal people — rather than seasoned pros — master a task can inspire viewers to give it a go. The soaring watch time for “with me” videos shows how often people all over the world turn to these videos for encouragement.

Viewers also love “study with me” videos. Yes, these are videos of YouTube creators quietly studying. But they can be incredibly motivating. Scroll through the comments on these videos, and you’re likely to find many along these lines: “I’ve used this four or five times already in the past two weeks,” and “Didn’t think these types of videos would actually work for me, but it’s helping me stay incredibly focused.” Maybe these videos make the act of studying a little less isolating. Plus they serve as a built-in timer for study sessions.

“Shop with me” videos help viewers go from watching to buying

“Shop with me” videos are where things hit closer to home for marketers. These videos feature YouTube creators walking through the store, showing products on the shelves, talking about deals to keep an eye out for, and helping viewers get an idea of what their own shopping trips may be like. Once people watch creators look for home decór at stores like IKEA and H&M, they may feel compelled to take the lead and jump into action.

A few years ago, we saw an interesting YouTube trend in the U.S.: Mobile watch time for “shop with me” videos was growing quite a bit. That could indicate people are using these videos in the store aisle, considering creators’ opinions about brands, stores, and products as they make purchases in real-time. In these in-the-moment situations, “with me” videos effectively act as product reviews.

Brands are making their own “with me” videos

Brands are already embracing the personalized spirit of popular “with me” videos. Cosmetics brand Glossier has a “Get Ready With Me” playlist on its YouTube channel, featuring celebrities and industry leaders using Glossier products in their everyday lives. Fashion brand Kate Spade’s YouTube series features store associates unboxing new merchandise and sharing their style tips, much in the same way YouTube creators talk about their favorite products in “with me” videos.

Seventy percent of YouTube users are receptive to learning more about new products from brands on YouTube, so marketers have plenty of opportunities to drive action with video.

Like many people, I’m drawn to brands that offer me useful, helpful, and engaging content, and creating “with me” videos is a great way for marketers to add a personal touch to their video campaigns. If a brand can show me exactly how and why its products are relevant to my lifestyle, it’s much more likely to pique my interest — and inspire me to finally roll out that puff pastry or venture out to buy that raincoat.

Reflect, connect, learn: How video is fulfilling new roles in people’s lives