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Best Buy, Taco Bell prove YouTube stars’ cachet among millennials


Best Buy took to VidCon to feature YouTube stars in a branded spot

Brands such as Best Buy and Taco Bell are tapping YouTube celebrities to appear in their social media and mobile video advertisements, finding lucrative marketing potential with younger consumers and the back-to-school season.

Social media influencers are beginning to eclipse film and television stars in some advertisements, due to their sheer popularity and major fan bases among young mobile users. Marketers such as Best Buy are increasingly teaming up with well-known YouTube stars to deliver branded content in a way that appears organic to their audience.

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“The biggest challenge for marketers is to creatively tie in the brand to the creative piece,” said Guillaume Lelait, general manager at Fetch, San Francisco. “The audience is watching the video because they are fans of the social media influencer, and don't want to be pestered with obnoxious ads.

“On the other spectrum, the opportunities are vast for marketers,” he said. “A trusted voice speaking to their personal audience is the most effective and organic exposure a brand can get.

“Word-of-mouth may be one of the oldest marketing techniques, but it is one of the most effective when coming from a trusted source. Also, these social media influencers mostly attract the highly sought-after millennials, which usually marketers' most wanted demographic.”

Advertising au natural
Reports are showing that younger consumers nowadays are spending significant amounts of time consuming mobile video, particularly on YouTube.

Google recently revealed that YouTube is grabbing a large portion of back-to-school buzz, with students searching for influencers’ tips on first-day outfits and the most fashionable looks for fall. Marketers have a lucrative opportunity to join forces with these YouTube celebrities and provide branded products for use in how-to videos.

This approach works best for retailers and brands pandering to younger demographics as well as consumers with documented heavy mobile usage.

“I think why YouTube (and video) in general is effective for reaching younger audiences is authenticity,” said Vanessa Horwell, chief strategy officer at ThinkInk, Miami. “Rather than using moms and parents for back to school/college promotions, marketers (BestBuy as the example) are using ‘fellow’ college students talking about their needs/experiences. 

“I think this channel gives brands the power to be more experimental, while using celebrities who their audiences already identify with,” she said. “This type of marketing is clearly attractive to a younger audience, but it won’t appeal to every audience segment.

“Younger consumers are quite visual and emotional when it comes to making purchase decisions, so that won’t apply to every brand. Millennials are an obvious target for the YouTube marketing approach, and some brands need to appeal to younger buyers anyway.”

YouTube personality Logan Paul introduces viewers to the #BestCollege challenge

Best Buy leveraged this strategy by asking several high-profile YouTube stars, including Logan Paul and Zach King, to share their best college tips in a branded video it posted on a dedicated microsite, as well as on social media channels such as Twitter.

The celebrities are encouraging viewers to enter the #BestCollege challenge by uploading a video showcasing their own tips regarding best technology for college. Users can also submit an entry displaying how they are making their college experience better.

The winner will receive a tech makeover for their dorm room, courtesy of Best Buy.

This tactic is able to successfully tap an organic approach by distributing relevant content to students as well as the opportunity to win the latest gadgets from the brand. Users are also more likely to listen to a celebrity they admire than rely on a stationery advertisement.

“Short-term influencer campaigns are good, but not great,” said Misha Talavera, co-founder and chief marketing officer of NeoReach, Palo Alto, CA. “Smart brands are realizing the value of striking long-term partnerships with influencers.

“These partnerships are more authentic, produce higher quality content since the influencer becomes familiar with your brand values, and often is a better bang for your buck.”

A Schick executive at the 2015 Mobile Marketing Association Forum New York affirmed that tapping social media influencers on YouTube catapults the effectiveness and reach of mobile video advertising, provided that the influencers are allowed creativity to expand on the brand’s message (see story).

Clever marketing strategies
Mobile video opens doors for marketers to employ more creative digital strategies, especially if they have the participation of a bubbly YouTube personality with his or her own style of broadcasting to an audience.

If marketers team up with these stars, they may ask them to upload the collaborations on their own YouTube challenges. This will significantly increase outreach for the brand, especially if they are aiming to target a previously-untapped demographic.

The star’s fans will also likely have favorable responses to the video, as long as the branding is subtle and in line with the content that the influencer produces.

Taco Bell has used this tactic before on several occasions.

Taco Bell's free Biscuit Taco giveaway announcement on Periscope

“Taco Bell partnered up with YouTube star FreddieW for a successful FieryDLT commercial,” Fetch's Mr. Lelait said. “The video was posted on his YouTube channel and gained over one million views.

“The quality of the video emulated FreddieW's video style to maintain continuity, but featured a few visual enhancements from Taco Bell to make the video stand out.”

The brand also tapped two young news presenters to unveil an announcement on Periscope for free tacos on Cinco de Mayo with a humorous twist (see story).

“While younger consumers are the most active on social media, social media has grown way beyond the Gen-Y/Gen-Z demographic,” NeoReach’s Mr. Talavera said. “In 2014, 52 percent of online adults used two or more social media sites.

“Influencer marketing is a tactic that all brands can, and should, consider, regardless of their target demographic,” he said. “Influencer marketing represents the new frontier of marketing, where brands stop advertising to people and instead create conversations with people.

“If you look hard and smart enough, you can find influencers that speak to any demographic, from recycling and housecleaning to women over 45 years old.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York

Alex Samuely is staff writer on Mobile Marketer, New York. Reach her at alex@mobilemarketer.com.

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