The old rules don’t apply anymore. 24 hour news, social media and the rise of consumer and user created content has meant that PR people have to manage brands in real-time.
If you ask younger people if they read a newspaper chances are they’ll say no. They get their news online, via social media. The only television they watch is on-demand, they’re certainly not watching mainstream TV that we’re traditionally used to.
They have their own laptops, mobiles and tablets. They watch Netflix or iPlayer. They love YouTube.
Asda is a media owner. Asda’s in-store radio channel Asda FM receives more listeners than Radio 1 and Radio 2 combined. The Asda magazine is the most read women’s glossy magazine in the country. And of course there’s Asda.com, which receives 3m impressions a month.
Social media channels also enable Asda to talk to their customers directly. This form of communication has informed Asda’s current PR approach. There is no longer any need to widely broadcast a message via newspapers or television, social allows Asda to talk directly to the actual people that shop in its stores.
When Asda started using social, it was very tempting to set vanity goals such as, “let’s get more Twitter followers than Sainsbury” or “let’s get more Facebook likes than Tesco”, however it figured that these social platforms are going to be around for a long time, therefore it’s far better to micro-cast to people who actually care about you.
This means you’ll build an audience of genuine human people who will actually engage with you, rather than a bunch of bots, sex lines and fake accounts that can artificially inflate your numbers.
Asda are healthily paranoid about connecting with the right people on social. The ones that will stick around, enjoy your content, share it and become loyal.
Asda’s five-year strategy was as follows:
- Listen first.
- Work out what people are saying.
- If they’re upset with you, solve the problem and don’t ignore it.
- Work out how to engage with people.
Then, and only then, based on all of the above, can you work out…
- How to persuade consumers to take a different perspective on your brand?
If you listen to social media, and listen to the people talking about your brand and products you can gain meaningful insight.
As of five years ago, and by Asda’s own admission, its YouTube channel was not a very engaging place to be. In fact much of Asda’s own content here remains hidden. It took a few years to figure out how to do things right.
Why pick YouTube as a focus? Because 15% of Asda’s customers regularly use the channel, Asda needed to have a presence there.
To begin figuring out how YouTube best works, Asda took inspiration from the StyleHaul network. This is an interconnected community of more than 5,000 original creators who use YouTube as a platform to create fashion and beauty videos.
The YouTubers on the StyleHaul network receive millions of views, far more than accrued by any big brand. (YouTube is a surprisingly difficult platform to crack if you’re a brand). This is essentially turbo-charged PR.
Videos that are totally authentic and if a viewer is engaged with the YouTuber and wants to achieve the same look or haul that’s being presented, they will go to a retailer and buy the same products. The key for you as a brand is to be that retailer.
The new ‘celebrity’
Cheryl (formerly Tweedy) has 253,693 subscribers on YouTube. The make-up channel Pixiwoo has 1.7m subscribers.
Madonna has 400,000 subscribers, stylist Tanya Burr has 2.6m subscribers.
Radio 1 has 1.2m subscribers, the Brighton based style and haul video creator Zoella has 6.5m subscribers.
If Pixiwoo, Zoella or Tanya Burr walked into the room right now, I probably wouldn’t know who they were, but to younger people, these are some of the biggest names in the world right now. This is their TV, their lives are like soap operas to younger generations.
This generation of YouTube celebrities is hugely influential, far more than traditional celebrities, and it’s to Asda’s credit that it figured out working with people such as this would be the right tactic in creating genuine engagement with a brand new audience.
Mum’s Eye View
Asda knew that people wouldn’t actually want to subscribe to an ‘Asda channel’ on YouTube, why would a consumer care about following a supermarket. Instead it developed a channel that’s ‘brought to you by Asda’.
The content is driven by the content producers Asda has partnered with. The branding is unimportant to the viewer, in fact it doesn’t even matter.
On the channel page itself you can see how small the Asda logo is…
In fact if you watch the videos, there are no mentions of Asda at all, just a small logo that appears at the very end along with the video title.
In the description below the video, there is a link to Zoella’s own channel, a link to the recipe and then further down there are links to any other items featured in the video.
It’s not a hard sell. There are many comments that say “where did the bunny lamp come from?” and the channel replies with “there’s a link in the description” instead of “you can buy it from Asda!”
Keeping the brand firmly in the background is the key way to appear authentic. A YouTube audience can smell crass commercialism a mile off and it’s out of respect for audiences and content partners such as Zoella, who have built up huge and loyal audiences that Asda hang well back and allow the creators complete creative control.
In fact in the only edit that the Asda team have ever made to one of these videos, is when a presenter help up some Asda tin foil and said “I always buy my tin foil from Asda”.
Asda has guided the content by developing the theme, but in partnering with YouTubers it has done the brave and very correct thing by letting go of creative control.
Asda set itself a target of 750,000 views in the first year. It achieved that after eight weeks. The channel also has nearly 87,000 subscribers. The links to Asda have a 1% click-through-rate. More than 1,100 have clicked through on the ‘bunny lamp’ link and made a purchase.
Mum’s Eye View also appears as the number one result if you search for ‘baking’ on YouTube.
When the channel becomes big enough, hopefully this will mean that YouTubers who perhaps aren’t as famous as Zoella will see Mum’s Eye View as an appealing network to join in order to give themselves a wider audience.
The major thing to remember is that by working with YouTubers, you shouldn’t treat it like buying into celebrity. These people are very-down-to-Earth and have an audience that has grown up with them and interact with them on a daily basis. They are very choosy about what brands they decide to work with, and if you don’t allow them the opportunity to do their own thing, they won’t work with you.
For more on YouTube strategy, check out these posts from our blog: