The YouTube Culture Engine: Eight ways to humanise your brand video

Blog | 16 Nov, 2016

Charlotte Morton presented at Jellyfish’s annual digital marketing conference, Digital Journeys.

She opened by introducing her session as the ‘commercial break’ of the event. Filled with culture , politics, swearing, football and pub gossip fodder!  Watch the full presentation above.

Below are some of her top inspirational picks for how brands can be more human through video.

Introduction: YouTube is Culture

I have not seen a single agency creds deck (I look after advertising agency creative agency relationships at Google for my clients) that does not claim that they want to make an impact in culture on behalf of their clients.

For effective communications, you have to understand the cultural landscape, the cultural context in which you're playing.

There’s a very basic equation in my mind which is enabling this.

This are one billion unique YouTube users a month and no commissioning editor.

Now, there will be some people in the industry who will say, "Yeah, well, that's the problem, isn't it?" That's the problem because you're having to compromise on quality.

I take a different perspective. It allows for some of the most incredible creativity.

YouTube doesn't just reflect what's going on in the world.

If you take one thing alone, football for example - here are three forms of popular YouTube football content:

  • Streaming of the Champions League, the Europa League.
  • Native YouTube creator’s football videos have been watched 6.2 billion times over the past year.
  • Broadcasters like the BBC using the YouTube channels to play with 360 for a new view.

There’s so many ways you can use the platform, but essentially YouTube is the place where people go to experience moments in culture. It’s where culture is also re-appropriated, remixed and newly revealed. 

1. Through the eyes of children 

YouTube is a culture engine for the next generation as this Google Arts & Culture channel video demonstrates. Children can bring any topic straight back down to earth.

Kids Quiz Art Experts on Art Masterpieces with Google Arts & Culture

2. Real life ‘see inside’ moments

There's other elements of culture that are exposed through YouTube, you might recognise this chap.

A Day in the Life of David Cameron

Well, obviously we learned from this video that Dave's kind of a cool guy and he knows how to whip up salad! YouTube gives us access to things that we just didn't have before.

We bemoan constantly that we don't have access to these institutions which are meant to set the rules of the land and are not that transparent. Whereas, actually, video can allow you to see inside.

3. The "He did what?" moments

A man jumps out of plan with no parachute.

YouTube is now the place where we go and we experience those micro moments in culture.

We now choose the culture we want to experience; even what camera angle we want to see, especially with sport.

4. Funny ha-ha moments

Of the top 11 most viewed videos about a particular Major League Baseball season.

Only three of them are about baseball players actually playing baseball.

A lot of them are nothing to do with baseball players or baseball at all. It's just lots of random stuff.

This video really, really caught the attention of people:

Miami Marlins Fan Cam

5. Citizen journalism

The Nerd Writer is a channel. It's got about 800,000 subscribers with video essays posted every Wednesday.

"Ideas brought to life." So it's slightly TED in its themes. And this is the kind of stuff that he publishes:

How Donald Trump Answers A Question

Jimmy Kimmel asked Trump whether or not it's wrong to discriminate against people based on their religion, referring to Trump's proposal to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the United States.

Trumps answer in stats:

  • 220 words
  • 1-minute answer
  • 78%, are only one syllable
  • 17% are two syllables
  • 4 words have three syllables, 3 of which are the same word - ‘tremendous’
  • Problem is said 5 times
  • Equivalent of 4th grade (age 9-10 years old)

6. The remix

Cassette Boy is a U.K. DJ and YouTube creator who remixes news stories like this.

This is prime example of how YouTube can reach new audiences with content like politics.

He’s partnered with The Guardian who promote his videos.

The Guardian also connect with culture in other great ways such as their Google autocomplete responses to commonly Googled questions; will I die alone? What’s the meaning of life? Why does love hurt? As well as other more factual ones such as why have hedgehogs declined? They are riding on the crest of the wave of popular ways people experience culture.

7. Creative inspiration on tap

Beyoncé’s really good at finding inspiration from choreographers by scouring YouTube. Here’s the proof from Gabriel Valenciano’s ‘Super Selfie’ format.

Carpool karaoke also started on YouTube which we all now associate with the Late Late show and James Cordon. It’s now such a successful format that Apple music have just bought it, so it won’t be on YouTube anymore.

8. Get ethical

10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman

This format was taken and then used in lots and lots of different ways. Some very serious ways, "Ten Hours of Work in Delhi As a Woman," very topical given what we've heard about violence against women in India.

Then you get some silly stuff, "Ten Hours of Work in New York as a Lamborghini."

Final thoughts

My takeout for brands and agencies is really, really simple. You have to lean into this new cultural landscape and work out how to create more effective communications. Going back to that original creds deck point, we want to have an impact in culture. You can't be the dad at the disco. You need to understand these formats. You need to understand these people.

Learn to speak their language and then make stuff that is super relevant for them.


Four brand considerations from YouTube

  1. Do you want your videos to be remixed and riffed, could you deter or encourage this to your benefit? (How much will you let influencers in to be part of your message?)
  2. Switch up your creative styles, get inspiration from searching YouTube
  3. Reach different demographics with different brand experiences
  4. Jump on culture – what do people do that you could make a thing out of?

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