By Jonathan Kowalski, Brand Partnerships Director at TheSoul Publishing
Creativity brings to mind mental pictures of abstract art, flashy ad campaigns, and “blue-sky thinking”, in trendy design studios. However as anyone who works in branding, marketing, and content will know, the best creatives are backed by strategic thinking and supported by knowing who you’re trying to reach, what they care about, and what channels they use. In short the best creative campaigns are meticulously planned and, most importantly, deliver on business objectives.
From ready access to a relevant audience, to the benefits of third-party endorsement by presenting products to consumers in trusted environments, brand partnerships lose the “well obviously you would say that” factor. Whether through hook ups with Instagram influencers or collaborations with popular YouTube channels, it’s almost impossible to go online without coming across a paid partnership.
Finding the right partner
The primary task for any brand should be identifying a platform, creator, or influencer which truly matches its values. Safety is a key factor here, especially for brands targeting younger viewers. Is all of the content posted by the channel age appropriate? Have there been any negative associations with the platform, individual or channel in the past which are best avoided? Doing your homework is key to avoiding undoing your good work with unwanted future repercussions.
Next, is the creator or channel a natural fit for your audience? Scale and popularity is irrelevant if you’re not going to reach the right people, or if your content feels awkwardly positioned. Being genuine is the most important factor. Be realistic about how your brand is placed in the market and look for the partnership which feels the most comfortable fit.
Finally, paid partnerships are very much a two-way street. In the same way consumers seek authenticity and look for brands to behave appropriately, you need to be sure you have the same trust and respect with your brand partner. Your chosen partner is aligning itself with your brand and its values by working with you. There needs to be mutual benefits and objectives, and these need to be clearly defined from the start. For both sides the partnership is about working together to achieve success, and not focusing only on the investment.
How to determine the right social platform and content approach
Next then, and inextricably linked to finding the right partner, is picking the right channels to promote your content. And again here knowing the audience is key.
Taking a Gen Z audience for example, we know that while YouTube remains the most popular social media platform for this age group (Vogue Business with Global Web Index), it primarily uses social media for entertainment. This makes platforms like TikTok particularly important to brands going after this audience.
At TheSoul Publishing we’ve been expanding our content on TikTok following early success and were a partner in the platform’s #LearnOnTikTok campaign. This campaign saw TikTok fund a range of education videos to help facilitate learning during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Over this period our channels 5 Minute Recipes and 5 Minute Crafts Recycle saw 152M views and 192M views respectively.
The key to success here was the relevance of our content, in terms of trending topics on the platform. Upcycling, for example, is gaining a huge amount of clicks on our channels. In parallel, sustainability and zero waste TikTok videos always sit prominently in the feeds. Finding creative ways of recycling and reusing, especially over a period where many of us have had more time at home to experiment, is a natural fit.
2020 has been a year like no other for many people, and everywhere you turn the news has been dismal, from Brexit fears, to COVID-19, to globally reaching acts of racism and terror. With people spending more time than ever at home, often away from friends and extended family, we’ve all needed new ways of keeping ourselves mentally healthy. It’s no surprise then that research earlier this year by Channel Factory found that 80% of consumers go to YouTube to improve their mood as they stay home and practice social distancing. In this environment more than ever, positive content sells.
Again, authenticity here is key. If your brand doesn’t have a natural fit with the channel or with this format, for all the popularity of the trend or medium, you will be best off looking elsewhere. But working with an experienced publisher who has a natural fit on the channel provides an “in” to reaching a new audience in creative new ways.
How Barbie stayed in touch with her fans during lockdown
With many summer camps closed during COVID-19 and limited activities available for children, Mattel was seeking ways to further engage its fans in the digital space. With the understanding that parents are now turning to practical, fun, and safe online content that inspires kids to think and play differently, Mattel was looking to inspire user-generated content and increase brand awareness, subscriptions across its social platforms, and short term sales of priority products.
With Barbie being the number one girls’ brand on YouTube, and generally a step ahead of the latest digital trends, Mattel turned to TheSoul Publishing to create a series of Barbie branded DIY “hack” and craft-based content; the content that at-home audiences have gravitated to this year. Mattel sought to leverage TheSoul Publishing’s DIY and craft channel, 5-Minute Crafts, seeing the channel as an ideal format to feature Barbie’s favourite weekend routines and innovative crafts.
The 5-Minute Crafts creative team worked with Mattel to create a concept for Barbie branded DIY “hack” and craft-based content – localized in 12 different languages and shared across Barbie and 5-Minute Crafts’ YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram channels. The goal was to galvanize play and DIY among kids and parents through Barbie craft-focused content and toys. The videos gave Barbie a purpose for involvement in the current conversation in a light-hearted and positive way.
Since launching July 12th, the videos have quickly become some of Mattel’s highest performing content on its channel. In total the three YouTube videos achieved 7.3 million views within the first month, while the first video “Barbie’s Dreamhouse Crafts” amassing more than half a million views in just its first couple days. During COVID-19 when people are consuming more digital content than ever, the campaign enabled Mattel to achieve its goal of placing Barbie among today’s most popular online content, helping Mattel generate purchase intent, brand lift, awareness, views, and short term sales.
Brand partnerships provide an opportunity for retailers and content creators alike to create campaigns that are hyper-relevant to shared audiences, while offering much of the independence of third-party endorsement. By picking up on popular trends and engaging content formats, it’s possible to deliver on mutual business objectives while also developing truly innovative and creative campaigns that not only attract viewers, but also keep the viewers coming back for more.