When it comes to the biggest media properties in the world, the likes of Buzzfeed or Vice might be obvious candidates. 

A brand you might not expect to appear in the list is UniLad.

However, with more than 19m fans on Facebook and over 3bn video views in September alone – it now ranks an impressive number two in the world.

UniLad also tops the chart for most popular video creators.

So, what exactly makes Unilad’s use of video so successful?

Here’s a closer look at how and why it is among the most-watched.

Targeting a mobile generation

Like Buzzfeed, UniLad targets Generation Y – an audience between the ages of 18 and 35. 

While it's easy to see how Buzzfeed appeals to such a diverse demographic – because although brands might suggest otherwise, millennials are not all the same – UniLad’s target market seems to be far more niche.

It publishes short and humorous videos that are light-hearted in nature, and as the name would suggest, typically quite laddish.

Despite many videos clearly falling into this category, the brand’s co-founder, Liam Harrington, has previously insisted that UniLad’s Facebook Likes are roughly split 35:65 between women and men - and that women are more likely to share UniLad's content.

I find the latter a little hard to believe. But regardless, it is clear that the brand is becoming increasingly intent on shedding its formerly chauvinist image.

And it is true that most negative connotations stem from the brand’s former incarnation of Unilad.com – not the current version that was launched in 2014.

Personally, I always find the content to be hit or miss.

Certain videos are definitely funny and appealing to watch, yet others veer towards being sexist or overly silly. 

While its history remains a little murky, the one aspect that continues to drive UniLad’s appeal is its laser-focused consistency of the medium - short, snappy, shareable and easy-to-consume video content. 

With 46% of video content now being consumed on mobile – combined with the fact that millennials now spend more time than ever on their smartphones – the digital landscape is perfectly designed for UniLad.

Experimenting on social

For a brand that made its name on Facebook, it’s unsurprising that UniLad is also pretty hot on other social media channels.

Despite falling behind competitors like The Lad Bible on platforms other than Facebook, it has recently ramped up its efforts on Snapchat, and even more so with the launch of Instagram Stories – both are features that allow the brand to further capitalise on the consumer’s desire for short video.

Here, from the caption to the thumbnail, everything is built around capturing the user’s interest. 

And let’s be honest, with the increasingly short attention spans of millennials, it doesn’t have to be held for that long at all. 

With the prime video length said to be around 45 seconds, it's easy to see why UniLad’s content is so easily devoured by users absent-mindedly scrolling through social media.

A reaction to traditional media outlets

Another reason behind UniLad’s success seems to be the appetite for news and content that does not patronise young audiences – as well as an appealing break from the rather grim nature of every day news.

The fact that traditional broadcasters are now copying UniLad’s style of content is a sure-fire sign that the brand is setting a precedent.  

Newspapers like the Metro and the Sun place a huge focus on social media and promoting shareable content.

What’s more, these papers are even turning to UniLad as a source.

So, if the brand is so in-demand, is it capitalising on interest from advertisers?

The answer is both yes and no.

While it does make money in this way, it looks intent on getting the balance right, remaining focused on working with others to create original and authentic content that still resonates with its audience.

A recent example of this is the video is created for the movie ‘Dirty Grandpa’, which involved an elderly busker singing the lyrics of a popular rap song. 

With 2.9m views on Facebook, it’s gone on to become one of the most-watched on the brand's channel.

This is surely a sign of things to come. Unilad now has around 80 employees, so further growth is likely to stem from this type of branded content created in-house. 

Of course, it will be interesting to see how loyal fans react, especially as part of UniLad’s appeal is that it does not feel like a massive brand in its own right, or one that would be willing to sell out.

It regularly uses videos that have been submitted by fans or found online, and even has a dedicated page on its website promoting this.

Introduction of serious content

So, with such a large audience - and the prestigious ranking of the number one most viewed video platform in the world – where will UniLad go from here?

Building on the intent to widen its user-base, as well as further distance itself from its murky past, the answer looks to be more serious and valuable content.

It has already demonstrated this with videos about homelessness and mental health, as well as supporting charities like the Salvation Army.

Like Buzzfeed, UniLad is now aiming to become a respected publisher in its own right. 

Luckily for the brand, its audience has so far been receptive to the change, with its more hard-hitting videos achieving strong views and engagement.

With its founders desperate to show that UniLad cares about more than just 'banter', it's on the right path.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 26 October, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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