Analyzing other brand’s campaign mistakes can be helpful in preventing your campaign from failing. One company that failed in their YouTube campaign is McDonald’s. After the company realized it was not connecting with teens and young adults, it launched Channel Us, a YouTube channel targeting 16-24 year olds. The channel showcased various YouTube influencers like Oli White and Gabriella Lindley, as well as ‘How-to’ videos like “How to Dance” and “How to Be a Vlogger” faced by leaders in the various fields. However, the channel only lasted 12 months. With only nine videos in 2016 barely reaching 1,000 views, McDonald’s decided to cut the channel until they could improve.
McDonald’s opened up to the public admitting why they thought the channel was unable to succeed. They noted that it was very difficult for them to create content with purpose, which is essential to being successful in this field. They admitted that it was a struggle to produce videos that people were interested in seeing that also aligned with the brand simultaneously.
Many agencies analyzed McDonald’s failed YouTube channel to see what they could learn. As noted in previous blog posts, influencer marketing can be a key contributor in helping companies gain followers and views. However, McDonald’s approached influencer marketing in an inhibiting way. Instead of cross promoting influencers on each other’s channels, YouTube secured a lot of influencers by being featured on their channel only. This significantly limited the number of new viewers they could receive as influencers’ followings were not directly included. Part of the solution to this is letting go of control. This could mean allowing influencers to talk about McDonald’s on their own terms and own channels, which can be scary to big companies like McDonald’s.
The failed channel reflects less upon McDonald’s, and more upon the hired agency’s inability to understand content. They are no longer competing with other ads, but against masters of content creation like Vice, the BBC, and Red Bull. This is difficult because competing against content practitioners who have been producing consistent, editorial content to audiences for decades. The trouble from here is producing compelling content that differentiates from these other successful brands. Creating successful advertising campaigns is very different from creating compelling entertainment for social media platforms like YouTube. Content needs to feel unique, have a clear purpose, and be unified with other forms of social media. This is something that Channel Us lacked. Due to their failure on honing in on a true sense of purpose combined with unique content, the channel received low ratings and apathetic viewers.
If McDonald’s were to recreate Channel Us, it would need to engage with its audience and culture in a more effective way. Incorporating more purposeful content or engaging with trending videos through memes could help increase the exposure and loyalty to the channel. This way, McDonald’s videos could potentially go viral and pick up a larger following.
McDonald’s failure should be reassuring to other companies. It shows that even the big brands are still trying to understand YouTube in this uncharted era of marketing that leaves success in the hands of the audience.
Written by Angelika Johns
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