Media Industry and Consumers   Social Media  

Brand Content Marketing Strategies on YouTube

With more than 70% of U.S. brands and half of worldwide brands using content marketing strategies to reach consumers, the potential impact of video content for marketers is significant. And YouTube has become a major platform for video content marketing.

As YouTube content marketing is becoming more mainstream, there is a need to examine how market leaders adopt this platform for consumer engagement and branding campaigns. Dr. Sylvia Chan-Olmsted, University of Florid College of Journalism and Communications director of Media Consumer Research, and doctoral student Rang Wang wanted to understand how some brands have used YouTube in their content marketing campaign, including engagement formats and content appeals.

The researchers selected fifty brands that had their own branded YouTube channels and are ranked among the highest on Forbes’ “The World’s Most Valuable Brands” list. Content of those brands was coded and analyzed to identify major patterns of branded content on these branded YouTube channels.

Specifically, brand strategies were examined from the perspectives of interactivity, attention, emotion, and cognitive message design. Interactivity examined the interactive nature of YouTube content to consumers. Attention was measured through use of celebrity endorsement. Emotion looked at what caused people to form attachments with brands or products leading to action as consumers. Finally, cognition addressed the message strategy of the videos.

Findings showed that half of the brands actively linked YouTube videos to other platforms and invited consumers to connect with them or explore more about them, and that such connectivity increased the brand’s reach to consumers. About a quarter of the brands used traditional or YouTube celebrity to some extent, also increasing brand reach and recognition.

More than three quarters of the brands used positive emotional engagement and emotional content.

Almost all of the brands used non-cognitive message strategy, such as user image or brand image, at least once in their videos, while two-thirds used cognitive strategy, such as hyperbole or generic information, at least once.

The following trends were also identified:

  • Top brands focus on interacting through content rather than platform functions. Granted, YouTube was not designed for interactive communication, so it makes sense that users use it more for content consumption than for engagement.
  • Top brands are trying to control user-generated content by disabling comments. This is likely because uncontrolled negative comments can harm brand equity. However, disabling comments may hamper consumers’ engagement level with the brand because their means of engagement is inhibited.
  • Emotional content is widely employed, especially positive emotions. While negative emotions were occasionally featured, they all led to a positive ending.
  • Non-cognitive emphasis dominates YouTube brand channels over cognitive appeals. In general, informational content alone is less likely to actively engage consumers on social media. Content with entertainment value tends to be more effective.
  • Brands with a higher level of YouTube capability interact with consumers more, feature celebrities more, embed emotional content more, and adopt transformational messages more. Additionally, brands with more financial resources reply to comments more frequently, implying that financial support is essential in interaction and, ultimately, in success of the content marketing strategy.

Ultimately, findings support that consumer engagement with content marketing on YouTube is highly contextual and platform dependent. Engaging consumers on YouTube can be completely different from that of engagement on other social media platforms and is worth further study.

Future research should include study of variables such as type of content, layout of channel, and link to other social media platforms, and investigate brands of different sizes and valuations to consumers. Finally, this study focused solely on YouTube channels owned by brands. Future studies may wish to examine YouTube channels owned by influencers.

The original research paper, “Content Marketing Strategy of Branded YouTube Channels,” appeared in the Journal of Media Business Studies, June 25, 2020.

 Authors: Rang Wang, Sylvia Chan-Olmsted

This summary was written by Marie Morganelli, Ph.D.

Posted: July 23, 2021
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