Through the Grapevine

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?

Introducing:latest_logo

Grape- what?

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.

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Example of a social creator profile brands have to choose from

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.

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Lifestyle Youtuber Lauren Elizabeth endorsing Body Fantasies brand body spray on Youtube channel

 

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Lauren Elizabeth attracting followers to Body Fantasies IG account by conducting a “take-over” on the brand’s account

 

Grape- why?

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.

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Example of social media creators involved in a single brand campaign

Grapevine 

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.”

6 comments

  1. Interesting post! I’ve definitely known about YouTubers being paid to talk about certain brands or products, but I hadn’t heard of Grapevine before. I know that sometimes YouTubers mention in their videos that they were sponsored by a brand but are still providing their honest opinions, and I do wonder if that impacts how viewers think about the product and whether or now the reviewer is actually biased. With only 112 brands and thousands of YouTubers out there, it definitely sounds like Grapevine would be in the company’s favor when it comes to how picky they can be.

  2. alinacasari · ·

    Great post!! I had not heard of Grapevine before reading this, but it is a really interesting concept. I’ve definitely noticed some ad placement while viewing different youtube channels or on social media- especially on Instagram (Huge fan of your favorite Youtube account). 112 brands seems like a small amount, so I’m curious to see what changes Grapevine might experience with growth. As you mentioned, social creators are not allowed to be as choosy but I think they might gain more “choosiness” in the future. As more brands jump on this tool for brand placement, I think that in the future the more popular YouTubers and Instagram accounts will be able to be more selective.

    Really cool idea for a startup and I look forward to seeing more about what they do in the future!

  3. Great post! I had a student pitch a very similar idea to me a year or so ago, and I had no idea this platform was out there. Seems like a reasonably sensible approach. Really this is the clearinghouse for brands to engage with smaller influencers (likely at a much cheaper prices than big ones). They’d have to worry about people gaming the system though (i.e. buying followers just to be able to place products).

  4. I recently covered brand sponsorships of YouTubers, but I didn’t realize a platform existed as a middleman between these companies and video creators. I think Grapevine is an extremely profitable service since so many millennials are seeking careers as full-time video creators, and Grapevine makes it convenient for both creators and brands to connect with each other. Typically, to contract a brand ambassador with a celebrity, there’s a lot of back and forth that becomes complex with the addition of intermediary agents; Grapevine’s business model easily offers a range of potential ambassadors to brands while ensuring that companies aren’t taking a gamble with their ambassadors by measuring profitability of partnerships between companies and their respective online spokesmodel(s).

  5. michaelahoff · ·

    I share your wonders about the long term outlook of this industry. For smaller companies, though, it is probably easier to go through a Grapevine than to hunt down the right fit for them. For bigger companies, their marketing team should probably already be on that.

  6. sandytanny · ·

    Great post! Like some of the other commenters, I also haven’t heard of Grapevine before. Though many of us are aware of the brand sponsorships often associated with bigger YouTubers, I think platforms like Grapevine provides a great opportunity for smaller influencers. This is also beneficial for Grapevine because as these influencers grow and build their following over time, there will be increased exposure for brands and their products. As vlogging and social media become more lucrative career paths, I think it will be important for Grapevine to partner with more brands so that these endorsements don’t become redundant and repetitive.

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