For brands, relevancy means tapping into modern culture. And modern culture unfolds daily on YouTube. In this first installment of “Trending now on YouTube,” Earnest Pettie — a YouTube trends analyst who spots videos piquing viewers’ interests — shares three kinds of videos trending now and the insights they reveal.
A version of this article previously appeared in Adweek.
1. “Van Life” videos
We’ve seen YouTube channels devoted to “living in vans” frequently enough now that we’re digging deeper to understand the insights behind this video trend. Van living is a subset of the tiny-home-living trend, which is itself a subset of the minimalism trend.
Growth in van life videos
There are just under 1,200 YouTube channels whose descriptions include some version of “van life,” “van living,” “life in a van,” or “living in a van.” This year, subscriptions and viewership of van life have reached an all-time high.1
Who to keep an eye on
The most subscribed “van life” channel is Exploring Alternatives, which has 448,000 subscribers. The couple that runs this channel simplified their lives in 2012, moving from a four-bedroom home into a camper van. They make videos about other people’s attempts to create alternative, minimalist lifestyles.
The insights behind van life videos
There’s been much discussion of the idea that the recession deprived millennials of earning potential, leaving them priced out of home ownership. And it’s been widely discussed that millennials find more value in experiences rather than possessions. Minimalist living is where those two notions intersect, and van life videos allow people the opportunity to experience, vicariously, the fantasy of the minimalist lifestyle.
2. “I tried following…” makeup tutorial videos
Sure, beauty videos are often about perfecting a particular look. But who needs perfection, when trying — and failing — can be more fun? With over 67 million collective views under its belt, the “I tried following...” video trend has established itself as the first big viral beauty challenge of 2018.2
How “I tried following…” tutorial videos got started
In January, beauty guru Thomas Halbert uploaded a video titled, “I tried following a Jeffree Star makeup tutorial.” In it, Halbert attempts to follow Jeffree Star’s “My ex’s funeral look,” providing his own deadpan commentary over Star’s complicated directions. Two weeks later, Gabbie Hanna uploaded her own, “I tried following a NikkieTutorials makeup tutorial,” where she credited Halbert for originating this new challenge.
Since then, the “I tried following…” makeup tutorial trend has inspired more than 2,100 uploads from creators both within and outside of the beauty community.3
Why these videos caught on
Part of what has contributed to the growth of this kind of video is how easy it is to replicate and riff on — both for beauty gurus and even creators outside of the beauty community. The challenge has since been replicated by lifestyle vloggers and comedians poking fun at the ridiculously complicated “everyday makeup looks” that often trend on YouTube.
My hunch is that it’s not just the ease of replicating that’s fueled this trend. There’s something deeper afoot here that calls to mind a more meaningful reflection on beauty standards. Though culture often defines beauty as an endless pursuit of perfection, there’s something to be said for trying a new look, failing miserably, and laughing it off — as these creators have done. In that sense, these videos are like the “Pinterest fails” of YouTube beauty tutorials.
3. “Speed cleaning” videos
Often the hardest part of any task is getting started. So it’s no wonder that speed cleaning videos have been on the rise on YouTube as viewers search for cleaning motivation.
“Speed cleaning” videos on the rise
While these speed cleaning videos come with numerous names — “Clean with Me,” “Spring Cleaning,” “Speed Cleaning,” “Cleaning Motivation,” and “Declutter!” — they follow the same format: a creator filming themselves cleaning up or cleaning out their cars, houses, desks, closets, beauty collections, and even dog houses.
These cleaning and organizing videos have acquired over 212 million views and 5,600 new uploads in the past few months alone.4
Who is behind these videos
It’s not just channels devoted to organizational content that create these trending videos. In fact, the opposite is true. The bulk of speed cleaning videos are created on channels devoted to something other than organization and cleaning. The channels driving the most viewership around spring cleaning videos are the same ones creating content about hauls and reviews: lifestyle and beauty channels.
The insight behind “speed cleaning” videos
What these videos help viewers accomplish is the act of getting started — an act that studies show is often the biggest mental hurdle to overcome. By seeing healthy, productive habits reflected on the screen, viewers may feel more inspired to do the same.
Cleaning can be a lonely, cumbersome task. “Speed cleaning” videos fill that void and make the act of cleaning feel a little less isolating. These videos are also a way to avoid the risk of being distracted by a real-life friend. And they can serve as a timer to show viewers how long they’ve been cleaning or how long an undistracted task realistically takes to complete.