3 lessons from the best YouTube campaigns of 2020 to inform your video strategy

To say that the last year has been disruptive to life and business would be an understatement. Though a time of immense disruption, in many ways, this has also been a period of acceleration. The two are highly correlated, both taking us out of our comfort zones and necessitating that we innovate a way forward. 

But, as is often the case, looking back can help us find a way forward. We can find lessons, strategies, and innovations applicable to today. The winners of last year’s annual YouTube Works Awards are a case in point, offering approaches that span social purpose, relevancy, and simplicity. 

Brands can help drive broader conversation and causes

From a marketing perspective, figuring out how (or even if) to create messaging in the midst of a pandemic, political unrest, and the anti-racism movement sweeping the world could leave many brands frozen with doubt. But it turns out that “it doesn’t have to be a risk to be on the right side of history,” according to one of last year’s judges, Steve Carbone, chief digital and investment officer at MediaCom. 

Three of the seven 2020 winners pushed the conversation on important social issues.

The Puerto Rico chapter of Giving Tuesday, for example, partnered with artists like Bad Bunny to change popular song titles into public service announcements to encourage donations to nonprofits for Giving Tuesday. The Giving Songs movement reached over 400 million YouTubers in just one day, making it the most visible digital campaign in the history of Giving Tuesday and helping to raise nearly $400 million.

While the Giving Songs campaign sought to raise money, a back-to-school effort from gun control nonprofit Sandy Hook Promise hoped to inspire action. The “Back-to-School Essentials” public service announcement brought the issue of gun violence to the forefront and garnered nearly 50,000 signatures to the Sandy Hook Promise, a commitment to protect children from gun violence.

Gillette took home the Force for Good Award by redefining its classic tagline, “The Best a Man Can Get” and explicitly calling out stereotypes, emphasizing the collective responsibility men have to do the right thing. This bold stance generated the most likes of any ad in YouTube history, contributed to a double-digit growth in online sales according to the company, and  helped continue the conversation about masculinity in modern society.

Simplicity can be powerful

Sometimes simplicity and fun win out. Spirit brand Bacardí won both the Grand Prix and Creative Innovation categories for the Beat Machine campaign. By encouraging people to create their own music mix using the keyboard as an editing tool, Bacardí became the most talked-about spirit brand of the summer, with 22.1% social share of voice.

Apple found success with a mixture of inspiration and storytelling to explain something complex. Its award-winning campaign featured a series of experiments giving people an inside look at how the company captures images for those amazing “Shot on iPhone” spots. By connecting with people curious about photography and showing the camera’s capabilities, they got more than 6 million organic views.

Insights fuel the most relevant, authentic work

People want messaging that is relevant to them, and they want brands to be as authentic as possible. A couple of brands relied on consumer insights to inform and shape their award-winning approach.

For the launch of the new Note 10, Samsung created ads with a distinct message related to what that person was about to watch based on videos trending among their most popular consumer segments. This personalized approach earned Samsung the Media Innovation award and, according to the company, led to a 557% lift in consideration as compared to generic creative, proving a personalized approach resonates with consumers.

Winning the Ingenious Insights award, Hulu’s awareness campaign for its live sports package centered around one key insight: Influencer culture is notoriously seen as fake. So, Hulu let its athlete influencers own the fact that they’re getting paid to say “Hulu has live sports,” resulting in double year-over-year growth in subscribers who enrolled to watch the NBA.

Informed by new sources of insight, 58% of YouTube Works finalists and 6 of 7 winners used YouTube to explore creative ways of messaging or reaching their audiences. That should be encouraging in the current climate, where nearly all brands are pivoting or evolving their strategies. 

Learn more and submit your work to the 2021 US YouTube Works Awards by February 12th, 2021. 

A version of this article was previously published on Think with Google.

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