The Inevitable Decline of Vlogger Marketing

In a research piece unveiled by Forbes in late 2015, it was revealed that the top 10 vloggers on YouTube earn anything between $2.5-$12 million in pre tax income each year. Topping that list is of course – my name sake – Felix Kjellberg aka. PewDiePie.

“Most of their earnings come from advertisements — both sponsored, integrated content and the pesky, inescapable previews”

– Source: Forbes ’15

This rise from…essentially nothing, has seen vloggers being paid substantial sums by brands and in some cases (referring to Joe Sugg and Caspar Lee) have even seen TV shows created around them. All of this fame is driven solely by the hordes of followers who check-in to watch ever ounce of content they produce. It is these vast audiences which have seen marketers around the world try to find their ‘right to play’ in the space and expose their products/brands to these waiting and wanting eyes.

The problem however, is that I foresee the vloggers have become victims of their own success and their audiences are increasingly savvy to marketing inclusions, however subtle or tertiary.

Rewind just a few years, (yes, before vloggers took hold) and the marketing world was rooted in traditional celebrity partnerships, often with little consideration to their appropriateness to a brand, but as a means to reach millions ‘by association’. These partnerships and endorsements would be a way for brands to push into new audiences, shift perceptions and refresh their offering. But sure enough, it became evident that these did not stand the test of time, just like so much marketing and advertising we still see today, it lacked authenticity and as such, it failed to build any belief amongst consumers. But above all else, it was simply too expensive to consider…

With this knowledge, I think we can all see where the world of ‘celebrity’ vloggers is heading. Sure, their audiences will likely consume their content for as long as they produce it. They will continue to draw large sums from advertising both in video and on platform, from direct brand engagement and content network advertising. But – their proportional reliance on these revenue streams is surely going the way of the brand celebrity. Their audiences will remain disengaged with products and brands being slapped into their content and revenues will be increasingly driven by evolving contextual ad formats which deliver ‘real’ value to the viewer. When a vlogger talks, their audiences only care about them, not who facilitated them, who’s given them something or who’s supporting an initiative…so marketers must learn to operate in the space around that content or be so intrinsic to it that it couldn’t otherwise exist!

Of course, there are caveats to all this.:

  1. Not all vloggers are superstars, there are many passion focussed, accessible and authentic voices looking for great partnerships.
  2. If a vlogger partnership is more than merely a fleeting collaboration, then products and brands will gain cut through over time, becoming synonymous to audiences – but this takes time…and the more time you take the more it costs…
  3. Passions still remain key. Throwing tacks at a wall and seeing how many stick isn’t a saleable strategy, and that’s essentially the mass-audience approach of many brands simply hijacking audiences for a fee. Find a shared cause or passion and work together on something – authenticity is transparent, especially to an audience who know their blogger better than any brand ever will, they’ll see straight through it.
  4. Brand partners. There are times when a meeting of minds is truly for a greater good. Their collaboration produces something which would otherwise be unachievable, un thought of and unprecedented – but to do this, you must relinquish control, invite all parties into the room and spend time creating something really special.

As marketers and advertisers, we are operating in an ever crowded and confused space online; to audiences who are increasingly discerning and savvy to our cunning ways (were we ever really that cunning?!).

But, this is a great thing!

No longer can we be lazy, expectant and repetitive. We must evolve, adapt and create a two way communication channel, where any broadcast message or content enables someone to contribute or participate – we need to add real value through whatever channel we use, through authentic means to build belief. Only then, can we begin to expect anything from our consumers – they’re not as fickle as you might think – put them first, or come last!