What your food company can learn from 20-something YouTubers

HPC-podcast-artFor video geeks like me, VidCon has become a required event to experience firsthand the trends behind online video.  The conference features scads of 20-something YouTube celebrities who manage to capture millions of views each week — a feat that is the envy of any food company.

      What your food company can learn from 20-something YouTubers

Sure, there’s an abundance of handsome boys who attract adoring teen girls via their respective YouTube channels (think early Justin Timberlake on steroids).

But even the most seemingly superficial YouTube channels are serious business (making serious money) when it comes to knowing how to build a brand in the video world.

What’s surprising are the old-school tactics that the richest YouTube channels deploy to build a sustainable and loyal audience.  Twitter, Facebook and other social media beyond YouTube are key.  But equally important are non-techie marketing strategies that most food companies can easily deploy.  The trick is re-envisioning these tactics so they are relevant to the connected world we live in.

  • Word of mouth is biggest driver. “Going viral” builds an audience, but connecting through interactive, in-person events creates audience stability.  In other words, envision food shows without beautiful (but static) food pictures and bored sales reps standing around.  Rather, the goal is to promote interactivity among show attendees.  A rare example that I still recall is Sara Lee’s contest years ago where NRA attendees raced to see who could plate the most pre-sliced pie portions versus others who had to cut and plate uncut pies.  These types of fun, participative human experiences are passed along by good old-fashioned word-of-mouth which ultimately attracts more fans.
  • Everything is a story. What aligns brands with fans is a great story — not features and benefits.  Video allows a food company to present a real-life example about an operator or patron interacting with a product.  Or, more importantly, how a product changed somebody’s world — like being able to eat pizza again because the crust is gluten-free.  The dough is not the star… the result it has on an individual person is what’s meaningful.
  • Focus on tribes.  To a presenter, the VidCon personalities said to stop producing content with the idea of making it generally appealing.  Nobody will care.  So, this week, create a story about which cheese pizza operators should use when they want a crunchy, brown top.  Next week, focus on helping family-diner operators create silky smooth mac n’ cheese.  The fact is pizza guys and diner girls have different interests.  You’ll never intrigue both every time.  But you will have their undivided attention when you offer topics that strike at their hearts.