What lessons can marketers learn from the highest-paid YouTube Stars of 2016?


It used to be the case that celebrities gained fame through performances on the silver screen or the small screen. With the meteoric rise of YouTube since its inception in 2005, the platform represents a new forum that’s making stars out of people who have the right combination of charisma and talent. And these celebrities are demanding big bucks, making millions through use of sponsored videos and marketing efforts as they simultaneously make a name for themselves. They’re also taking their brand with them, earning spots on mainstream TV shows and online series through Netflix or Amazon Video. Marketers can learn a lot from the highest-paid YouTube Stars of 2016, and here are a few examples.

PewDiePie’s Felix Arvid Ulf Kielberg: At the Number 1 spot on YouTube’s list of highest paid stars for 2016, PewDiePie continues to dominate as he has for the last few years. Kielberg is a Swedish video game reviewer that captures video of his screen as he’s playing – with a box in the corner showing his facial expressions as he reacts to game conditions. PewDiePie’s success is due in no small part to his relationships with fans: He answers their questions, responds to specific comments, and interacts with them to form a fiercely loyal community.

Kielberg created controversy in late 2016 when he stated that he’d delete his wildly popular channel on December 9 – after he’d hit 50 million subscribers. He produced a short video listing his reasons, one of which included why he’s “done” with video games. At the time, many of his followers wondered if Kielberg was pulling a nasty prank. However, even after that date, the YouTube PewDiePie remains active with new videos being released on a regular basis.

Nerdy Nummies’ Rosanna Pansino: The Number 5 spot, with $6 million in income on YouTube, belongs to geeky chef, Rosanna Pansino. “Nerdy” is the key word to this YouTube channel and Pansino embraces it with videos showing her making a Motherboard Cake and Super Mario Brothers-themed dessert. The channel is successful due in part to putting an innovative spin on ho-hum recipes, but through useful content that shows the step-by-step behind her fascinating creations.

 Rhett McLaughlin and Charles Lincoln Neal III (Rhett and Link): Coming in at Number 9 on the list with $5 million in income, this comedic duo is best known for creating hysterical ads for existing companies. Examples include their Ojai Valley Taxidermy video, that’s earned almost 17 million views since 2005. Rhett and Link are also making bank off big-name brand sponsorships for their videos, which include a morning talk show that features celebrity guests.

The highest-paid YouTube Stars of 2016 have demonstrated that there’s money to be made through video platforms, so marketers can learn a lot by their example. They’re most successful when they when they make a personal connection with their target audience – which video accomplishes better than any other format. What are your favorites on this list? Are you using YouTube to engage audiences? Let us know in the comments.

We Love Live™. For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing bduffy@onesmoothstone.com.


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