Have you ever been watching a Youtube video and noticed some not-so-subtle product placement within the content of the vid? Have you ever been catching up on your favorite Youtuber’s channel and noticed that they repeatedly bring up a name-brand product in a surprisingly rehearsed manner? If you find yourself nodding your head in reaction to these questions, read on. If you find yourself instead thinking “I don’t even have a favorite Youtuber”, then ask yourself whether or not you are truly a millennial. And in the meantime, you can share mine.
It’s no news that Youtube creates revenue by incorporating adds into the video sharing platform. And while most of us impatiently wait for the “Skip Ad” button to appear, with over 4 billion video views on Youtube everyday, the exposure businesses attain through this medium is not to be underestimated. However, this is not the sort of video marketing this blog post is moving to unpack. It will focus rather on a newer, arguably more organic, approach to video advertisement. The active product endorsement by popular channel owners and youtube stars is becoming a lucrative trend in the world of advertisement. Not only is this trend a new way for companies to access a wider range of potential consumers, but the mutually beneficial relationship between Youtuber and business has actually created a need for a formalized middle man. How is this done, you may ask?
Grapevine functions as an influencer marketing platform that connects brands and businesses with trusted social media creators. Essentially, this is how it works: brands pitch to Grapevine in hopes of being included in one of their influencer marketing campaigns. Brands then have the opportunity to engage in a professional form of speed dating with social creators (aka Youtubers) in order to develop a formal agreement regarding expectations for the creators such as video upload dates, prices, etc. Once the social creator begins marketing the brand to their subscribers and fans, Grapevine generates detailed analytics for the brand concerning things like marginal sales and campaign success. It also then predicts future growth opportunities for the brand in order to encourage further campaigns through Grapevine.
Grapevine doesn’t, however, accept just anyone with a Youtube channel into their network. The requirement to be eligible to be a part of Grapevine is a minimum of 1,000 Youtube subscribers and a consistent schedule for video uploads. There is a slight caveat to this relatively (at least in my opinion) short list of prerequisites on the media creator end of things. This caveat is that being a part of the Grapevine network does not necessarily guarantee brand endorsement offers. As shown above, companies get to decide who they want representing their brand on social media. And while mutual affection is key to the success of any good relationship, with vastly more social creators than brands (Grapevine’s network consists of 112 brands total), companies tend to have the upper hand when it comes to being choosey.
The emergence of Grapevine is an important case study in regards to the conversation on social media prowess and it’s digitally disruptive capabilities. Five years ago, Grapevine didn’t even exist, and now it is responsible for large scale marketing for brands such as Walgreens, LG, and Qdoba to name a few. From beauty, fashion and women’s lifestyle to apps & games, Grapevine utilizes user generated content to advertise products spanning a wide variety of industries. The hope is that the relationships built by Grapevine’s unique business model both sustains and compounds. In fact, a selling point to brands on Grapevine’s end of things is exclusive utilization of analytical tools to track continued campaign success as a result of these social media relationships.
In tracking statistics such as conversion rates, cost per click and cost per conversion to name a few, Grapevine offers a service that creates brand ambassadors out of social media influencers in order to increase business revenues. I see this Startup as incredibly progressive as far as capitalizing on digital media trends is concerned, and the fact that Grapevine recruits undergrads at BC for internship opportunities is unsurprising. As an Intern with Grapevine this past summer, Sarah Good (BC CSOM ’18) was trusted with maintenance of the company’s public blog posts, direct brand relations, maintaining Grapevine social media accounts, and utilizing Google Analytics to track brand statistics. This internship opportunity, and similar positions within other media marketing platforms, is a really cool example of job creation as a result of digital disruption, and one that definitely works in savvy Millennials’ favor.
I’m curious as to the sustained success of Startups such as Grapevine. While I don’t doubt that social media influence and Youtube fascination is here to stay, I wonder whether or not this particular business model will always be necessary, or whether individual endorsements between brand and creator will prevail. Either way, social media influencer campaigns with popular brands are bringing a whole new, digital-centric connotation to the age old phrase “I heard it through the grapevine.”