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3 brands that are innovating on YouTube

3 brands that are innovating on YouTube Drew Hubbard

It's easy to find examples of pretty lousy YouTube channels these days. After all, most brands are finally realizing that they need YouTube channels. But that doesn't mean they're actually investing the time and resources needed to make the channel a true destination. More often than not, these channels become a dumping ground for TV commercials, which is fabulous, if your brand's TV commercials are so entertaining and well-produced that people actually want to chase them down on the internet so they can share them with their friends.

But let's be honest: Not all brands have the budgets and resources to produce Coca-Cola-caliber TV spots that can then take on a new life on the web. Most brands are struggling to scrape together what little video budget they can. And in that case, these companies need to focus on doing more with what they have. That's where YouTube comes in.

3 brands that are innovating on YouTube

Fortunately, many of the interactive video features offered on YouTube don't discriminate. Whether a brand's video is a summer-blockbuster-quality production or a poorly lit but passionate user-generated testimonial, YouTube offers opportunities to infuse that video with interactive elements that will enable your viewers to dive deeper into your brand. In addition, the channel page layouts offer ample opportunities to encourage viewers to subscribe to a brand's channel and, thus, forge a long-term relationship with the viewer.

In this article, we'll take a look at some interesting ways in which brands are putting YouTube's brand-channel opportunities to work for them. And yes, these brands do, in fact, have budgets behind them. But many of the tactics they're using on YouTube don't require big spends. In fact, the smallest brand can steal ideas from these players to better extend the reach of their own modest resources.


If you haven't heard of Nerdist, then you're probably not -- well -- a nerd. But if you ever needed proof of the fact that nerds will ultimately inherit the Earth, look no further. The brainchild of Chris Hardwick, Nerdist has grown from a lowly, weekly podcast to an audio and video superpower. And the brand's YouTube channel reflects its founder's keen ability to make the most of every digital opportunity presented -- and to cross-promote the bejesus out of every piece of content that his brand (and those of his friends) creates.

The Nerdist channel boasts more than 10 million views and 145,000 subscribers. So how does a nerd get to be this popular?

What your brand can learn from Nerdist

First off, take a look at the top of the Nerdist channel page. Does it make you want to do something?

Subscribe. Subscribe! The Nerdist channel doesn't play coy on this point. It wants you to subscribe. It conveys this message most effectively in its top channel banner, and it reinforces the message with another call to action embedded in its feature video.

But while we're on the subject, let's talk more about that channel banner -- because it's pretty rare to see a brand turn that 970-pixels-wide space into a better promotional vehicle. Not only does the banner encourage YouTube subscription, but it also links up visitors to the brand's Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ accounts. Furthermore, it acts as a visually compelling portal to some of the channel's most popular shows.

Beyond the channel banner, the page does an excellent job of cross-promoting Nerdist's other social media presences, with a laundry list of these channels showcased in the right-hand column, right below a smartly organized weekly show lineup. Finally, below that, the channel makes good use of YouTube's ability to create playlists, as well as a bonus feature of Nerdist's "favorite channels," which link visitors up with separate but equally geeky content.


I know -- wouldn't we all like to have Nike-level video resources? Yes, of course we would. When you're a brand like Nike, it's easy to donate a million-billion in budget to creating inspirational videos surrounding the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. And people will come see those videos because, well, you're Nike.

But hold up for just a minute, and consider some of the moves this mega-brand is making on its YouTube channel that any brand can emulate. 

What your brand can learn from Nike

First off, if your brand is producing a variety of video content with different audiences in mind, you'd do well to segment it in an accessible way. So take a lesson from Nike in that respect, and make use of YouTube's "Featured Playlists" in a logical way.

Nike segments its playlist by sports and special promotions. But the options are limitless, depending on your brand. Segment by product, season, character, holiday, emotion, astrological sign -- whatever makes sense for your brand. Just help people find the content that they want in an intuitive way.

But the playlist feature, while useful, is probably one of the least innovative things Nike is doing on YouTube. To get some real inspiration in terms of how to leverage your various video assets, consider how Nike built "tunnels" in its summer football ads. These "tunnels" were clickable links within the videos that took viewers to additional content. It's an innovative way to keep people not only watching, but also engaging -- over and over again (a sort of video treasure hunt).

Hot Wheels

Hot Wheels has a story to tell, and it's doing it through YouTube. And it's doing it quite well. The brand is effectively moving its toys into the real world via a spectacular team of stunt drivers, whose antics and adventures constitute the core of the Hot Wheels YouTube experience.

Look -- I know your brand doesn't have the budget to create high-quality stunt mini-films the way Hot Wheels does. Who does, really? But, you can glean a lesson or two here.

What your brand can learn from Hot Wheels

First off, if you visit the Hot Wheels brand channel, the featured video is likely to be a part of the brand's ongoing episodic YouTube adventure. At the time of this writing, the brand channel was featuring episode seven:

OK, so maybe Hot Wheels' 27,000-plus subscribers have seen episodes one through six, but what about newbies coming to the site? How can they get caught up? Well, to make it simple, Hot Wheels smartly includes "Prev" and "Next" links on its YouTube videos so that viewers can fast-forward and rewind through the brand's content in a linear fashion. Any brand creating episodic content of this sort should consider providing such a courtesy.

Beyond simple, logical navigation elements such as this, Hot Wheels offers the ultimate in interactive YouTube content. Consider its "Custom Motors Cup Challenge" video.

The video branches off and enables viewers to choose their race vehicles and then further refine their experiences in subsequent videos. It's a simple but clever execution that encourages people to dive deeper and deeper into the brand.


OK, so your brand doesn't have big bucks to spend on glitzy video production and elaborate customizations. But with modest resources and some thoughtful planning, you can make your YouTube channel an enjoyable, engaging, and user-friendly destination. In doing so, make sure you make the most of the display elements on YouTube brand channels, as well as the various interactive opportunities within the videos themselves

Drew Hubbard is a social media strategist and owner of LA Foodie.

On Twitter? Follow Hubbard at @LAFoodie. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Stylish conceptual digital light bulb idea design" image via Shutterstock.

Drew is mainly a dad, but he's also a social media and content marketing guy. Originally from Kansas City and a graduate of The University of Missouri, Drew will gladly discuss the vast, natural beauty of the Show Me State. Drew and his wife,...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Lesley Terry

2012, October 09

The link you posted for the Hot Wheels Custom Motors Cup Challenge is not the the official video, and as such the annotations (deep links to the other videos) don't work properly. This is the correct video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPGhqQ9vZPM