Ten years of YouTube, ten insights to drive brand success

July 2015

Online video has changed the way the world watches content and, more than ever, YouTube is where the world comes to watch on every screen. For the advertising industry, YouTube has been revolutionary. Brands have been quick to embrace it as a creative platform, delivering iconic breakthrough advertising moments that have become a part of culture and conversation. As we move onto the next decade, here are ten insights on how to make memorable video content that captivates your audience.

Online video has changed the way the world watches content and, more than ever, YouTube is where the world comes to watch on every screen. For the advertising industry, YouTube has been revolutionary. Brands have been quick to embrace it as a creative platform, delivering iconic breakthrough advertising moments that have become a part of culture and conversation.

As we move onto the next decade, we've been busy studying the trends, understanding what makes content great, analysing the YouTube Ads Leaderboard and gathering observations from thought leaders, research studies and internal data. Here we present ten insights on making memorable video content to captivate your audience.

Create ads that viewers choose to watch

When we first launched our skippable TrueView video ad format, we weren't sure if people would stick around to watch. But we discovered when ads are as engaging as content, people choose to stay and view them. Research reveals humour is the number one factor associated with watching an entire ad, and it's positively correlated with ad recall, too.1

For a great example, see Turkish Airlines' Selfie Shoutout. It's gained more than 140 million views and was named ad of the decade by the industry. More recently, Clash of Clans harnessed the power of celebrities and humour and engaged the Super Bowl audience with their Clash of Clans Revenge video.

Think mobile first

With more than half of YouTube views coming from mobile devices, brands can no longer afford to think of mobile as the "second" screen. It's a small but mighty powerhouse when it comes to grabbing and holding viewers' attention. Think what role video can play in your campaigns on smartphones and what companion experiences you can create. This is an opportunity to deliver in-the-moment, real-time engagement to make use of viewers' full attention.

For inspiration, look to Burberry — the brand has become expert at creating seamless experiences that bridge the real world with desktop and mobile.

Be authentic

On YouTube, authenticity is always key. YouTube creators like Zoella and TomSka have built massive followings with their personable, straight-to-camera videos. Brands can learn a lot from creators about authentic communication to engage and build a bond of trust with an audience.

For more on this, watch Engage your Audience from The Creators Documentary on YouTube.

Position content around a community of passion

Smart brands have learned to build communities around the topics their audience is passionate about, and position their own content around communities that already exist. A solid base of content can help make the most of the conversations already happening around a product, category or interest area, providing a springboard for engaging with your core audience.

An example is Ad Council's Love Has No Labels; a powerful video on diversity and inclusion, that has gathered more than 53 million views. The #LikeAGirl video from Always meanwhile helped girls everywhere keep their confidence throughout puberty and beyond by showing them that doing it "like a girl" is something to be proud of.

Collaborate with creators

Many successful brands understand the power in tying up with YouTube star talent. The likes of Sorted Food and PewDiePie get millions of views and have hugely engaged audiences. They offer a very different relationship than the traditional entertainment star — it's authentic, direct and two-way. Partnering with an experienced YouTube creator provides the added bonus of engaging a fandom of millions.

Take Heinz for example. The brand partnered with Sorted Food — a YouTube channel with particular strength in the 18-to-30 age bracket — to inspire younger cooks to use Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce. The partnership resulted in 2.2 million channel views, increased brand awareness and secured a whole new audience of younger consumers.

Tell a deeper story

Today, brands are no longer constrained by the 30-second spot. The emergence of YouTube has opened up distribution opportunities for long form ads and other formats that could never find a home on TV. Suddenly brands can shift focus to producing stories that viewers want to watch.

For example, see Nike Football's Winner Stays (at over four minutes long it's achieved more than 111 million views) and The Last Game (which counts more than 85 milloin views). With this series of ads, Nike built a narrative for a new generation of football fans, engaging them in a new and surprising way.

Take advantage of big moments

Brands have always been smart about amplifying big events like the World Cup, the Olympic Games and the Super Bowl, but now YouTube offers so many more opportunities to create content around spontaneous cultural moments and trends. Because audiences love to discover, share and participate, humorous and relevant videos and memes spread quickly.

For instance, Hyundai went bold and created their own big moment by setting a Guinness World Record with A Message to Space, sent from a daughter to her astronaut father. LA-based fashion brand Wren's First Kiss inspired audiences to such an extent that thousands of spinoff videos were created by fans. Felix Baumgartner's Redbull-sponsored super sonic freefall, Pepsi's Harlem Shake, and T-Mobile's flash mob are other memorable examples.

But make sure to capture those everyday moments, too

It's equally important to be with your consumers for the everyday moments, too. For big projects and small fixes, people seek out how-to videos on YouTube, increasingly on mobile. How-to-related searches on YouTube are growing 70% year over year, and more than 100 million hours of how-to content have been watched in North America already this year.2 YouTube allows brands to capitalise on these opportunities, be ready with answers and appear at the very moment when a people need them most.

A case in point: Home Depot created a series of educational videos spanning simple repairs to home renovation projects. Offering practical knowledge and money saving tips, this content positioned Home Depot as a trusted partner.

Use data as a creative tool

Data enables the creative industry to shape new ideas, drive mass engagement and tell a more powerful story than ever before. Interpreting, analysing and applying this data unlocks a new, powerful form of creativity, enabling game-changing campaigns. With YouTube Analytics, brands can both gather significant insights and use the platform as their creative playground. The result is a more valuable experience for viewers.

Durex provides an excellent example; the brand used insights to deliver impact with its #Connect campaign on YouTube.

Make the most of new production tools

Thanks to low barriers to entry in production and distribution, today all the world's a stage. With 360-degree videos, the capability to load 4K and ultra high-definition videos and developments in augmented reality, brands now have the opportunity to use technology in ways we could only dream about before.

For example, feast your eyes on John Lewis' bespoke 360-degree virtual reality experience during its last Christmas campaign. Or look at GoPro, which built a successful content strategy out of videos made on the brand's cameras. GoPro was an early adopter of the TrueView ad format, which launched five years ago (watch GoPro's very first TrueView ad here.)

What will the future bring?

Over the last decade, brands and marketers have redefined advertising through YouTube. Brands are using ads to tell great stories, cultivate relationships, build communities and invite viewers to interact. Whether you're just getting started or tweaking an existing strategy, we hope these trends serve as inspiration. We can't wait to see what you'll bring to YouTube in the next ten years.

The first 5 seconds: Creating YouTube Ads that break through in a skippable world