While to older generations YouTube is still seen as an online video platform, in variance to a regular TV channel or service, for younger users who've never known a time when YouTube didn't exist, the app has become an essential source of entertainment, on equal footing with TV, movies or any other related option.
That's lead to a whole new way of looking at the platform, and given it a whole new level of influence. Indeed, last year Lego conducted a survey of 3,000 children aged between 8 and 12 from the US, UK and China, and they found that kids are now 3x more likely to aspire towards a career as a YouTuber rather than an astronaut, the traditional kids choice of the past.
Ask your young son or daughter who their favorite celebrity is and they're bound to hit you with at least one YouTube star that you've never heard of. YouTubers are now hugely influential in their own right, and what they say and do matters to young audiences, even if you're not aware of them. And that can make them key brand ambassadors for those that can secure such endorsement.
Some are now even branching into their own merchandise - this week, The Wall Street Journal has reported that a growing number of manufacturers are now looking to work with YouTubers to create new toy lines and products to capitalize on the interests of younger audiences.
As reported by WSJ:
"Jazwares LLC, which makes toys and other consumer products based on licensed properties such as “Fortnite” and “Peppa Pig,” will release merchandise based on three YouTube properties in 2020: Blippi, a preschool education-and-entertainment character with more than 21 million subscribers on the video platform; toy-unboxing and reviews channel CKN Toys, which has 14.7 million subscribers; and Cocomelon, a channel known for nursery rhymes, which has 74 million subscribers."
It makes sense - I mean, eight year-old toy reviewer Ryan Kaji, of the popular channel 'Ryan's World', was the top earner on YouTube in 2019. The popularity of these identities, and their content, is undeniable - but it also points to a significant shift in the consumer and marketing landscape, underlining the relevance of rising online identities, which will not only be relevant now, with younger users, but in future, as those same audiences grow up.
YouTube is already working to align with this. Back in 2018, YouTube launched a "merchandise shelf" option for product tie-ins on selected partner channels.
That's still in development, but it points to the next generation of connection between YouTubers and consumer products, and from a brand and marketing perspective, it's important to note this shift, and to consider if or how you might be able to utilize the same to expand your marketing efforts.
Eventually, logically, YouTube is going to become a shopping channel in its own right. Using parent company Google's established, and evolving, eCommerce tools, YouTube will look to roll out more options which connect users to the same products being used in videos - we're already seeing examples of this in things like YouTube's AR try-on videos for make-up tutorials.
And given the influence of these creators over young audiences, that could present a major opportunity. Again, to younger audiences, YouTubers are just as significant, if not more so, than celebrities from other mediums. In future, their presence and popularity only looks set to increase.
So while it's no major surprise in itself that toy makers are now looking to partner with YouTube stars, it's important to note what that means in broader terms, and how much more relevant YouTube stars are becoming to the next generation of consumers.
In the past, influencers have had to cross over to traditional media forms to become more significant voices. In the future, that likely won't be the case.
This might well become a key point of note in your future marketing plans.