Based on the Oxford dictionary, the word ‘Stardom’ stands for
‘The state or status of being a very famous or talented entertainer or sports player.’
This term was frequently used when talking about Hollywood (film) and TV celebrities.
The Power of YouTube(rs)
However, everything is changing/has changed as now audiences are mainly online, and by saying online I mean mainly on YouTube. There are thousands of YouTubers who produce videos whilst there are around 1 billion of people watching those videos.
YouTubers like PewDiePie, KSI, Smosh and others already make a living out of their videos. They have multiple video channels, websites, exploding social media feeds and their own merchandise that make them appear as brands as well as celebrities. The New Stardom
Therefore I can easily claim that YouTube Stardom already exists.
YouTubers are so popular that they have their own audiences and (super)fans who follow their every move. Everything done, reviewed and lets say touched by YouTubers becomes highly consumed by their audiences.
Popular channel owners do various collaborations with existing brands to promote their products. Sometimes this “sponsorship” is clearly stated and sometimes it is more subtle.
From Product Promotion To Being A Part of the Product
The sense of YouTubers being like the “Noah’s ark” of audiences has been quickly picked up by Hollywood.
However, this use of YouTube celebrities in terms of film marketing has been going on quite calmly and quietly until now.
On 7th November 2014 animation film master Disney has released its new Big Hero 6 film in the US. The launch was successful generating $56.2m during the first week.
3 months later the film was released in the UK. Despite its success in the US, the UK version of the film was a bit different as it featured voices of British YouTubers and Vloggers – Dan Howell and Phil Lester more known as Dan and Phil.
This attracted a lot of media and public attention to the film, which, of course, had a positive impact on the film’s box office.
Moving on, just yesterday (20 February, 2015) Paramount UK has shared a behind the scenes type trailer of its upcoming ‘The Spongebob Squarepants Movie: Sponge Out Of Water‘ that will feature voices of other famous YouTubers like Joe Sugg and Caspar Lee.
The Future of Film Marketing
It would be naive to call it just a coincidence. Even though these two films were produced by different companies their marketing strategy in the UK seems to be very similar. As they were released one after another (Spongebob to be released on 27 March) and they share the same elements of marketing I can claim that soon we will have more films featuring YouTubers to some extent. One day we might even see a blockbuster with a YouTuber as a lead actress/actor dominating The Academy Awards (The Oscars).
Smosh – a YouTube duet Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla is a good example of that. The producers make highly intertextual video content and have five channels to distribute it and attract more people to their brand. Each of the channels features different types of videos, however, all of them are linked through the theme of breaking boundaries that exceeds moral parameters and socially acceptable ways of presenting stories. So in this case, Smosh creates a strong brand presence through the creation of their distinctive genre.
As a result, I will be analysing two different areas of Smosh content, which include parodies and animation, to examine how Smosh use YouTube as a promotional tool for their brand as producers.
Taking the Mick: Satirical Parodies
Many YouTubers exploit other texts that are already pleasurable to some readers. In the case of Smosh, they take a trending topic/content and create their own video out of it to be on the peak of that trend and get maximum attention. However, Smosh do not retell the original story, they make fun of it. They take elements of that story and create their own parody-type videos that become part of their genre and brand (In postmodernism terms they use pastiche).
E.g. Smosh took the trending story of a controversial female singer Miley Cyrus who changed from being “an innocent Disney type girl” called Hannah Montana to a vulgar and provocative performer.
A TV advert type ‘STOP MILEY’ video is Smosh result where producers take the mick of the singer by asking to donate money for Miley’s treatment from her recent change.
Real Miley Cyrus VS Smosh’s Miley Cyrus
To support the reference to the original story Smosh uses props like wigs, costumes as well as the iconic sledgehammer and wrecking ball. The duet completely exaggerates things as fake Miley is seen licking more than just the sledgehammer.
Smosh also produce various animation series. Their narratives break the boundaries as they feature postmodern humour that manipulates the juxtaposition, satire, cynicism, nihilism and kynicism (laughing and parodic/satiric ridicule).
The story becomes even more morally challenging as the main characters five babies are found in the dumpster and they play a game of guessing who has eaten what, by smelling each other’s diapers.
Harley Morenstein in Smosh
Jenna Marbles in Smosh
The uncensored offensive language flows easily both from babies mouths and other characters featuring YouTubers – Harley Morenstein and Jenna Marbles. Therefore these videos can be classed as collaborative content pieces.
Smosh’s Brand: Continuity and Postmodern Humour
The different types of Smosh videos shows how the producers constantly exploit other texts, collaborate with other YouTubers and reference explicitness to break the boundaries of conventional storytelling. This is achieved through the use of intertextuality, exaggeration, double-entendres and offensive language. However, the repetitive use of this and postmodern humour elements across Smosh videos create distinctive and entertaining appeal to their audiences.
As such, YouTube gave (almost) ultimate freedom to producers like Smosh to become auteurs (the creators of their own style and genre) and brand themselves online, no matter the type of their content.
Social media has a significant impact on the contemporary world of consumers. Numerous forms including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube offer an instant global connection with various people around the world. However, with that, it has also created a remarkable open medium for marketing.
I am a fan of YouTube that has recently turned 10 years old. To celebrate this and the launch of my blog I decided to share some highlights of my extensive three-part research that I did some time ago. I identified and analysed ‘how the development of YouTube has helped people, producers and products to brand themselves around the world’.
My research outlines how YouTube facilitates people, producers and products in their promotion to audiences online in a way that encourages brand consumption and promotes loyalty. As part of this research, I defined new terminology that I will reveal within extra blog entry. As a teaser I can say that I used Zoella, Smosh and GoPro videos as case study examples.
So without any further ado here is the first part of the three blog entries.
How Do People Brand Themselves On YouTube?
As a case study I choose to analyse Zoella; a famous 24 year old YouTuber. She produces a range of videos that fit within three distinct categories that present Zoella as a youthful individual, a family member and a friend, as well as a lifestyle/beauty guru/blogger.
Multiple videos assist Zoella in the development of her unique brand identity to appeal to a range of audiences.
Positive Personality: The Significance of Persona
Zoella like other YouTubers breaks the conventional statuses of viewer and presenter. In giving access to her private life by sharing her memories, thoughts and daily routine through her videos, she creates an appealing online identity that facilitates in engaging her audience. She also gives grants of pleasure to the audiences through positioning herself in front of the camera.
In her ‘My First Time | Zoella’ video Zoella discusses the very first instances of her childhood. In doing so she brands herself as a very open, likeable and confident person, which grants her online presence integrity. She sits in front of the camera and describes her first word, kiss, crush, and car. Zoella is not afraid to share even the embarrassing moments of her life. E.g. how she as a ten-year old girl took her classmate to the bathroom in order to get her first kiss on the lips. By sharing such personal life events, Zoella encourages audience to relate to her as well as, to some extent, she becomes the audience’s friend.
This notion of connection and the viewer being her friend, rather than just an observer, is strengthen through the shot composition. Zoella is always seen looking directly into the camera lens. This creates the feeling that she is making eye contact with the viewers, whilst their computer screens act as windows into Zoella’s brand. Zoella becomes the centre of attention and this creates the sense that she is talking directly to the viewer. Through her personal nature, she sells herself as a lovely person to have a chat with. Even though Zoella speaks alone to the camera, she creates a sense of on-going dialogue.
In addition to this deliberate construction of her online persona, Zoella reinforces her naturalness through the inclusion of bloopers at the end of the video to highlight her sense of humour and to attract more attention. In making fun of herself to create her brand, she does not deny the fact that she makes mistakes. E.g. she confesses that she did not know what she wanted from her life, so she tried many topics for her blog, creating videos that ended up nowhere. As a result, this reflects her imperfect personality and assists in encouraging loyalty in her as a down to earth YouTuber.
Thus, the process of sharing her private life with her public creates an image of Zoella as an honest and reliable person.
Zoella with her Family and Friends
To maintain brand consistency Zoella promotes herself through the creation of positive experiences. The video called ‘Family Festivities and Opening Presents’ allows audiences to experience what it feels like to be a part of Zoella’s family. The video features her Brother, Mum, Granddad and Grandmother who locate her brand within the context of a loving family, of which she is a part.
In the video, it is evident how excited Zoella is as she shares how beautifully she has wrapped and tagged presents for her loved ones. The stylistic packages highlight the effort taken to pack it, which suggests Zoella’s thoughtfulness and generosity regarding her family. This is reinforced through her body and verbal language. Zoella is smiling and giggling, whilst discussing with her brother how ‘Christmas is a time for meeting family and friends, to have great time and get merry’.
Later on in the video Zoella is talking to her Grandad, while embracing him. This creates a respectful identity towards elderly people as she listens patiently to her Grandad, who is struggling to explain what he has been up to. This reinforces how Zoella stays in touch with her family, when at work, even whilst interviewing famous people like Fearne Cotton at that very moment.
Other Zoella’s videos also reinforce how she cares as much about her friends as she does about her family. She creates a strong identity of friendship through her body language and actions like smiling, jumping, running, pulling faces, giving high fives and making eye contact.
In this way she expresses her personal values of family and friends first, and as work second in her life. By doing so, Zoella strongly positions her brand in alignment with audiences who share the same values.
Expertise and Listening to Audiences
Zoella not only brands herself through the construction of her online personality. To satisfy her audience needs as a brand in the ‘Back To School & Life Q&A’ video she answers her audience questions about getting back to school and how to prepare for it. Here audience to some extent becomes the content dictator. On the other hand, Zoella remains dominant above her audiences as she actively selects the questions she feels most comfortable about.
From that she creates an engaging story by referring to her own experience. In this case, Zoella becomes a lifestyle expert as she shares her mistakes and outcome with others. Through her engaging use of story telling, she creates an identity which responds in simple terms to complex questions. Zoella explains how and why she used to do certain things and what she does now. As such she interacts with her audience by promoting a ‘customer-to-customer relationship’.
Summary: The Significance of Collaboration
Through each of the cases mentioned above, Zoella actively shares private with public, promotes values of friendship and family. She also positions herself as a centre of attention, creates a setting of a dialogue as well as promotes positiveness, care and expertise. The repetition of these techniques across different videos make her appear as one unit – the brand. This makes people unconsciously consume her videos as commodities and so build loyalty to them and Zoella’s brand.
As such, YouTube allowed people like Zoella to become content dictators, who through the manipulation of content are able to sell their brand and other products. When looking at the Zoella YouTube channel it is worth noting how she creates collaborative videos with other YouTubers, all of whom use the same means of self-promotion. In this case YouTube has became a platform where individuals through the range of techniques and the creation of an online collaborative community executes their unique styles and personalised brand identities.