Digital Killed the Video Star

Digital is changing the definition of celebrities and as marketers, we should try to keep up with the latest fads and icons.

Back in 2014 the YouTube sensation “Grumpy Cat” was reported to have earned close to USD100 million dollars[1] through endorsements and merchandizing in less than 2 years. Now, although her owner Tabatha Bundesen refuted the figure, she did agreed that the popularity was able to help her quit her waitressing job and quickly capitalize on Grumpy Cat’s mammoth success. If the figures are true than on a yearly basis, Grumpy Cat may potentially be earning more than some of the biggest Hollywood and Bollywood stars even in 2015 as seen below.

In other news, the new age of influencers may not necessarily be your typical Hollywood ‘A’ grade celebrities, at least not for the generation Z[2] consumer.

In a study conducted by Variety magazine based on the “Q score” that measures influence, the top 10 YouTube stars with the most subscribers were compared to the top 10 celebrities from Hollywood amongst teens in America and the results were quite surprising. Only two Hollywood celebrities, namely Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift made it into the top ten but below the top five spots (Bruno @ 7 and Swift @8)[3]. The top three ranked were actually video gamers namely KSI, PewDiePie and VanossGaming. 

Implication for advertising and spending
These celebrities are able to influence the next generation of consumers today and they’re probably doing it in that part of the media world which still eludes many of us – i.e. digital!
In a recent report by New York Times, the digital ad spending done globally will surpass that of mainstream TV by the end of 2017[4].

So with the rise of digital stars and digital ad spends, the landscape of advertising might just have to change. We need to start considering how the consumer engages with advertising on digital.
For instance, if the consumer is planning to search for content related to these celebrities, as a marketer you need to ensure that your brand is somehow there, either through banners, product placement in their videos, pre-roll ads, Search engine marketing, etc. But whatever you choose, make sure it’s engaging and can captivate the viewer faster than you would expect on TV, because the challenge becomes tougher on the digital medium where the opportunity to skip is higher and attention spans are shorter[5].

Studies being done on how digital advertising impacts brand building measures vs. TV advertising is a source of hot debate across the world currently and rightly so, because each dollar spent on any form of media needs to have a decent return. A study conducted by Michaela Draganska, Wesley R Hartmann and Gena Stanglein from Standord University indicated that ads run on both mediums (digital or TV) perform at par with one another[6], so it’s now the choice of the marketer to decide where their audience is and how they could engage with them.

Next generation of communication
In today’s digitally savvy world, where attention spans are going down (19% of people stop watching an online video within the first 10secs of the content[7]) and where the average consumer is exposed to more advertising stimuli than ever before, we must ensure our brand message has some form of retention.

On digital the buzz words spoken by all are “Make it Viral”, but as most of us know, this is easier said than done. Also it’s not always the only option.
However, in case you want something viral, then to understand what content has the potential of going viral, we must first understand what viral is and the simple answer to that is given by Adam Mordecai in the below chart.

Simply put: Higher the shares and clicks – higher the likelihood of content going viral.
Now although this article is not necessarily written to explain the magic formula for a viral message, which doesn’t necessarily exist yet, I would suggest following this rule – “Find the sweet spot for the best viral moment”

Adam Mordecai said in his presentation, “If you can find that happy medium between entertainment and an emotional connection, you can make some magic happen”.
Perhaps in another article, I’ll dive into the viral video world a bit more and try to explain what I believe works and what probably doesn’t, but for now I would leave you with this: Digital is no longer a nice to have but rather a must have and in some business models the only thing to have.

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