Youtube Vlogging
Fergus Stoddart
This is a post by Fergus Stoddart

At this month’s inaugural VIDinc YouTube Festival, Sydney hosted Australia’s very first live event for online video, capitalizing on the growth of the ‘vlogger’.

With an audience of almost 11m* in Australia alone, YouTube is a breeding ground for the “home-star”.

These include talents like Lauren Curtis, who has made herself famous with her YouTube beauty tips channel laurenbeauty, and amassed a following of over 800k subscribers. Lauren is not unique. There are countless other examples of people setting up shop and using a home camera to reach millions online, with a seemingly limitless range of topics to offer advice on, from cooking and arts & crafts to setting up a business and relationship advice. The quality varies enormously, but this variety only adds to the appeal. Like social media, this rising trend creates a platform and an opportunity for brands that are bold enough to add themselves to the mix, but at what cost or return? Consider these two opposing examples:

1. The Simply Cooking Channel – Fettuccine with Mushroom Bolognese

This post is obviously sponsored and has no subtlety at all.

Does the viewer see through this and question the content’s merit? What goal is the advertiser trying to achieve? What about the viewers? Are they simply searching for a specific recipe? Are they avid followers of this channel or vlogger? Either way, will they care that content is such a strong product plus? Or does it really matter, as the content is free and no one is forcing the viewer to use the product?

2. Lauren Beauty - My FLAWLESS Foundation Routine

Here there is clearly no endorsement. The poster is simply providing what appears to be useful, impartial advice. The brand has no control over what’s being said and a product is endorsed (or not) on its merits as determined by the vlogger. These opinions can help make or break a product or brand but if  Lauren presents a favoured opinion, an appealing opportunity exists for the brand to start a conversation with her audience.

Herein lies the predicament, which is not new to the marketing realm: what is the correct balance between sponsored endorsement and impartial opinion?

The answer lies with the readers. Does the content meet a need or solve a problem? Does it help explain the brand and make its values clear? If it does then a strong brand message will be fine, because you’re providing something that’s inherently worthwhile. If it doesn’t then branding doesn’t matter, because your content won’t find an audience.