Working with Brands on Youtube

Hey friends! I’ve been a little overwhelmed this week with work and YouTube and life in general so my glorious plans for a blog didn’t work out the way I wanted them to. But I still wanted to post a little something so I thought I’d talk about my experience integrating a brand into a YouTube video recently because it’s something that’s new for my channel, but if you talk to anyone in the online video world, they’ll tell you, “You NEED to work with brands if you actually want to make any money!”  I’ve resisted this for a long time for two reasons:

  1. I feel like part of my channel’s brand is authenticity, and how authentic can I feel or be when I’m shilling products at people. Especially when most products that come my way don’t really fit the message of my brand to begin with. I’m not making videos to be a human billboard!
  2. Making interesting content (aka content that’s not just “HEY! BUY THIS THING SO I CAN MAKE MONEY!”) while integrating a brand is hard work.  It takes time and creative energy, and most of the time recently, I’ve felt like I’ve been barely scraping by with my channel.  How am I supposed to make interesting and authentic content without putting even MORE stress on myself?

The answer to that last question, is I’m not really sure yet, because while I enjoy my latest endeavor into brand-integrated content (my Universal Yums Snacks from Thailand video which you can watch below), it was not an easy or non-stressful experience.  Don’t get me wrong, Universal Yums was great! They contacted me about becoming a partner, had a very simple and straightforward application to fill out, and they sent me a box to try and showcase on my channel within a week.  The problem almost always comes with me.

The reason I decided to work with a brand when I don’t normally do so, is because I felt like being adventurous and trying snacks from another country fit with my brand. I’ve done similar videos at the Food & Wine Festival in Busch Gardens Williamsburg.  And I decided to model it after Buzzfeed’s “American’s Try (Some Kind of Weird Knew Food) for the First Time” videos. I find them amusing, and I felt like it gave me a good example of how to structure the video and engage with viewers in this somewhat new format.  And filming-wise, everything came together pretty well. I roped Parker into starring in it with me because it’s always more fun to have several different opinions when showcasing “new” or “weird” things, and it gave me someone to banter with.  The biggest issue though, came from how long this type of video is.  I cut 40 minutes of video down to a little over 11 and that left pretty much only the important parts of us trying the snacks and our opinions on them.  Essentially, this video that I wanted to be simple and as a “bonus” on my channel because I know it’s never going to get the kind of views my regular vlogs and advice videos get took maybe 3 times the effort and time that a regular video does. So by the end of the whole experience I was resenting the idea of branded videos and myself for agreeing to do something like this.  It made me want to go back to my little oblivious hole where I ignore all the brand contacts that come through my inbox and just make videos for me!

But then, I also want to have a successful channel. Working with brands not only helps you  monetarily, but if you work with the right ones, you can increase your viewership as well.  Essentially, you want to hit that sweet spot of a mutualistic relationship between you and the brand.  Everybody’s happy and everybody’s growing!  But it takes doing a lot of seemingly meaningless brand videos to build your portfolio and convince bigger and/or better-matching brands to work with you.

So I haven’t given up on making brand videos yet.  I still think there’s a benefit that I can acquire if I do enough and do the right ones.  If nothing else, it will be a great opportunity to build my skill set.  But I do think this experience helped me learn what I do and don’t like about branded videos. To be completely honest, it was so awkward and difficult for me to “sell” the product at the end of the video.  Even though I like the product and think it’s a worthwhile buy for the money, it felt weird for me to be telling my precious subscribers to buy something.  It’s probably the same reason I haven’t created a Patreon yet. I just feel “dirty” asking for thing other than a like or a comment. Even asking people to share my videos is difficult for me.  What’s wrong with me guys? I need to be more aggressive and apparently care less!

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