Want a little extra income to supplement your YouTube partner earnings? You should think about putting your ugly mug on a mug! Who wouldn’t want to drink from a cup that only a mother could love? It’s called “merchandising,” fool.
Wong Fu co-founder Philip Wang told me:
“Merch has obviously given us a huge financial breather. It hasn’t really changed our content that much because they almost exist separately. We don’t make videos to cater to a certain product. Usually, it’s the other way around. We make a video, and from that people are like, ‘Omg, you hafta sell those.’ Again, just meeting the demand. Our fans and supporters are great.”
Last month, YouTube made their Merch Store feature available to all YouTube partners AKA every single person on earth. This means that the tacky, ugly T-shirts, posters, hats, and other merchandise that were previously only available for sale through YouTube from most top partners is now also available to be sold by you. Congratulations!
But hold up a minute. Before you go and plaster your snazzy logos and witty sayings all over various cheap chachkies, you should know why you’re doing it, and then how to do it right. This is where I’ve got you covered. Firstly, remember that you’re a brand now. Merely being a talent just doesn’t cut it in today’s world; you’ve got to know how to market yourself in order to gain the resources (monetary or publicity-wise) that will extend your brand, and perhaps your living. Basically, you’ve got to whore yourself out.
You can be a high-class courtesan or the toothless hooker on the downtown sidewalk. Whatever it is that you choose to be the signifier of your brand, whether it’s a logo, a phrase, a picture, or a theme, make sure it looks good and represents your brand well. Your signifier is being put out there to create broader awareness of your content, so make sure your audience won’t be embarrassed wearing it, drinking from it, or hanging it up. Lord knows it’s embarrassing enough that they’re fans of yours – no need to rub it in with a shitty logo. For an example of a YouTuber that does branding well, check out Wong Fu’s store. Their merchandise are cute and appealing in and of themselves, minus any blatant logos or imagery that make their buyers walking billboards.
Philip Wang explains:
“We started, honestly, because the fans wanted it. We never had this idea of, ‘OK, how can we make a quick buck?’ We just noticed that a lot of comments were asking where we got this one particular tshirt, and we decided, ‘Hey, why don’t we try making it for them to buy?’ This was way back in 2007.
As WF grew, so did the demand for new products, so we’ve just been trying to keep up with the demand. I think a major part of why that demand continues to rise is because we don’t really have any of our merch be blatant ‘WF on a T-shirt.’ You could not know who WF is and still want an Awkward Animal or NG shirt. It’s about the message and style, and less about Phil, Wes, Ted. There’s more longevity, spread, and most importantly, meaning, this way.”
Know Your Audience
You should know your john better than anyone. Who’s your main customer? If your audience consists of drooling tween girls, selling them branded action figures ain’t gonna work. However, do think about selling them branded booty shorts and male porn-o-graphic calendars. Above all, make sure that what you’re selling is something useful to your audience; they’re more likely to buy something that’s useful to them, and the more they use your branded merchandise, the more exposure your brand gets. Plus, every time they use or wear your merchandise, they’ll be reminded that they love you so much they spent 10 bucks on a glorified rubber band.
Since your chachkies are an extension of your brand, make sure they’re not crap. Otherwise, it’ll just be crappy merchandise reflecting a crappy brand. Don’t make your fans regret purchasing something from your store. You want all their $$$ and not all their scorn.
Ideally, you want a community of fans – they’re more obsessive and cultish that way. Try to have them feel connected to you and your content through your merchandise. Look, David Choi and Clara C offer personally signed posters and lyric booklets for under 10 bucks. Wouldn’t you appreciate that as a fan? Back to Wong Fu’s wares: their branding doesn’t include giant “WONG FU” lettering on all their merchandise. It would take a fan to know another fan wearing one of their T-shirts, at which point they can giddily commiserate over their shared love for Wong Fu which = instant engagement and community building.