How and why tech brands should work with YouTube and Twitch stars

If you’ve not heard of Zoella or PewDiePie, chances are you’re not fully aware of what’s probably the biggest disruption to take place in media and marketing since, well, the internet brought us pop-up ads and Google Adwords.

YouTube channels and vloggers are a huge phenomenon – and they’re not going anywhere soon. Millennials (or Generation Y) don’t watch TV – and if they do, it’s via ‘catch-up’ or TV channel apps, skipping past the commercials. And they don’t read newspapers or magazines. They watch Youtube channels or, if they’re gamers, alternative platforms such as Twitch.

And boy, do they watch. And in numbers that traditional terrestrial, cable and satellite stations could only dream of – even back in the days of the Morecambe & Wise Christmas Specials (see box-out).

Take PewDiePie. This 25 year-old Swedish YouTube sensation has 40 million subscribers to his channel and boast some 10 billion views. And he basically broadcasts videos of himself playing video games.

[For the record, Zoella is a beauty and lifestyle YouTube blogger who is worth an estimated £2 million.]

The big brands in tech and games (and other sectors) may not have moved swiftly in the early days of this new movement, but the likes of Samsung in particular have recognised the shift in viewing patterns of Millennials and are embracing this Brave New World. They do, of course, have the budgets to woo these online video stars too.

However, on a smaller – but no less impactful – level, savvy technology companies of all sizes are also starting to extend their marketing plans into this space.

Retailer Utopia Computers has enjoyed some strong experiences working with YouTubers and Twitch streamers. And the firm launched the Utopia Alliance Program last year as a way of working with this sector and giving content creators of every size an opportunity to create a revenue stream.

“When you speak to the next generation of gamers, they don’t watch as much TV as you would expect, they would much rather watch their favourite YouTube and Twitch stars,” explains MD Craig Hume. “Companies have a great opportunity to engage with this audience, but it has to be done correctly. In my opinion, typical advertising doesn’t have the same effect as working together to create the correct brand messaging.”

Overclockers too, is very smart on how it works with these channels, but also has a distinct advantage in that its PR and partnership manager Mark Purdy is a Twitch streamer himself (and can be found via valkia – where he regularly talks to almost 15,000 fans).

Even security software vendor Kaspersky Lab teamed up with popular British Youtuber Ali-A to help raise awareness of the importance of threat protection for the online gaming community. Ali-A showcased Kaspersky Lab’s recently launched consumer solution, Kaspersky Internet Security 2016, in a video (which has almost 800,000 views).

Rachel Gordon, Mad Catz European marketing manager, adds: ““For a company such as Mad Catz, it can be a very cost-effective and also a very organic way of reaching a highly concentrated and focused audience. It is also relatively easy to measure the success of a campaign or video in real time. By using the ‘specialists’ and influential guys in these fields as ‘impartial’ representatives, this can be more effective than any traditional advertising campaign. Activity can vary between simple product placement to a longer term ‘sponsorship’ agreement and anything in-between.”

So why should you consider working with YouTubers, Twitch Streamers and vloggers? How do you go about it? And what are the pitfalls? Along with Hume and Purdy, Charlotte Le Rougetel of Big Top PR (Gadget Show Live, Wearable Tech Show) and Peter McCormack, a digital marketer who’s worked with leading lifestyle and mobile brands, give us their thoughts and advice…

What are the benefits of working with online stars?
Charlotte: “If your product is focused at people under 18, vloggers are the best way of targeting them. They don’t read newspapers or magazines, and they watch little television, preferring to stream content, watch clips on YouTube and play games. Basically, it’s your only choice.

“Get it right, though, and your product can be seen by a very specifically – and organically – targeted audience of millions, putting the power of brands like X Factor in the shade.”

Peter: “It’s a great opportunity to engage with younger audiences who are less exposed to traditional advertising. These kids are on iPhones, iPads and consoles, they dual screen too. Also they seem to love YouTubers as they are a new kind of hero whose life is a more exciting version of their own.”

Mark: “Content creators and streamers are influencers in their own right. They have a fanbase which listens to them, so their word is very powerful. This means you can evangelise a whole audience on a topic through a select few key broadcasters.”

What are your top tips for working in this field?
Charlotte: “My advice is the same for working with content creators as it is for any media sector: have a clear understanding of who your audience is and what your objectives are, then look for a content creator who works with both.

“If your budget is tight, keep an eye out for underground and up-and- coming creators who will be as grateful for your publicity potential as you are for theirs. That way you’ll be operating as equals, you’ll have more control over the messaging and you’ll get more for your money. You will also look cooler – forgive me, I’m old – with your target audience (assuming they are young).

“Better known content creators can make millions and have agents, managers, support crew and merchandisers so be prepared to a) spend a fortune and b) have limited and specific access to them.

“So build relationships with them and develop common ground and they will happily promote your products because they want to, and for free. They are also, on the whole, very bright and polite.” Craig: “Do your homework, make sure the person or team you are planning on working with shares your brand values and understands your goals. It’s also really important to see viewers interacting with them. There is little value in working with someone on Twitch or YouTube if they are not interacting with their audience.”

Mark: “Working with streamers and YouTubers takes as much time networking and building relationships as understanding their day to day operations. As I’m part of the same community, I’m able to network for business by going to events I’d attend myself to grow my channel.”

Are there any pitfalls?
Charlotte: “They can be cripplingly expensive to work with. They are incredibly busy so you will have to work around them. A lot.

“They have massive and quite passionate fanbases, so you will need to consider security if you’re spending time with them in public. It’s a very fast growing sector, so you do have to invest a lot of time to keep up to date with who’s at the top and who the rising stars are.”

YouTube has over a billion users – almost a third of all people on the internet – and every day, people watch hundreds of millions of hours of YouTube videos and generate billions of views.

YouTube overall, and even YouTube on mobile alone, reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year olds than any cable network in the US.

In 2015, Twitch boasted 100 million unique viewers per month and 1.5 million unique broadcasters each month. 16 million minutes were watched on Twitch per month, with over 11 million total videos broadcast per month.

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