You want to be rich, don’t you? And not just a little bit rich — you want to be filthy stinking wealthy. Private jets, private islands, snooty butlers who cater to your every whim? And you want to do it on YouTube? Well, we’ve got a term to help you get there: branding. Of course branding isn’t a singular concept — it’s broad and can be tricky to define and figure out. There are as many as 21 different concepts that fall into the term “branding” — from “generic brands” to personal celebrity branding by individuals. And while the general term “branding” gets thrown around a lot, we’re going to limit our discussion to the types that apply to you on YouTube. Stick with us and we’ll unlock an incredibly lucrative world to you. And along the way, we might just add in some knowledge as well.
The overall definition of branding is as follows: The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products. That’s a good start, but like we said, with 21 different subsections within branding, that doesn’t explain the types of branding that should matter most in the YouTube space: personal branding and corporate branding.
Personal branding revolves around you — it’s who you are, your voice, your public persona. You, as a YouTuber are (or are on the path of becoming) a brand. But as you’ve become a brand, you’ve doubtlessly figured out that you are competing against thousands of other personal brands for attention. Not just from the public, but also corporate brands — those things that will make you rich. Corporate brands are like your personal brand, only it is for companies instead of people. Nike would be an example of a corporate brand. Nike wants the best athletes to attach their corporate brand to their personal brand because it makes them money from the resulting exposure. And since they want that exposure by your personal brand, they will pay a lot to you to get it exclusively.
The trick to recognizing the importance of something like corporate and personal branding in a niche economy setting like YouTube, is to first examine a finite bigger world example. We’re asking the question of “Why are these types of branding important to YouTube and YouTubers,” but let us first figure out why personal and corporate branding are important in general.
Take NASCAR for instance — possibly the most in-your-face example of corporate branding out there in the world today. Drivers are literally covered head to toe in brands on race days. Their race cars are covered bumper to bumper with branding, and the more popular drivers, like Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is considered a personal brand, have their images show up on products all over the world. But does it work? In short: hell yes.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. earns $26 million a year, according to Celebrity Net Worth. Of that $26 million, roughly $4 million comes in the form of paydays from racing wins. That means the other $22 million of it is derived from corporate branding and endorsements. Yup, he still gets paid $4 million a year to competitively drive a car in a circle, but it’s peanuts compared to what his major sponsors like Mountain Dew pony up. It’s probably not a coincidence that “Earn Hard” is in his name.
Dale is just one tooth in the monster that is NASCAR, which makes $3 billion in sponsorship money annually. By the way, that’s twice what the NFL makes, according to Forbes. So you’d better believe YouTube is hard at work itself, setting up a major strategy to attract corporate brands and create income on that level. And if they’re doing that, you should probably look into becoming the Dale Earnhardt Jr. of YouTube. See, there are a lot of creators out there; YouTube doesn’t have time to be picky and help develop your personal brand for it to show you off to potential corporate brand partners. You have to make it easy for YouTube to claim you in the top five percent of YouTubers when they meet with advertising companies at the annual industry convention where internet ad rates are decided for the year. Dale Earnhardt has done his part to be an attractive target for corporate brands, you have to do the same.
Why do Dale and NASCAR command so much money from endorsements? Brand loyalty. The fans that like Dale Earnhardt Jr. support the products (corporate brands) attached to his name with astonishing dedication. “At least 40% of NASCAR fans can correctly identify brands such as Coors Light, Chevrolet and Nationwide Insurance as NASCAR sponsors. Further, 76% of NASCAR fans are likely to consider a brand that’s an official NASCAR sponsor, and 75% would recommend a NASCAR-sponsoring brand,” according to Turnkey Sports & Entertainment via the American Marketing Association. YouTube doubtlessly wants that same level of dedication for its creators and for itself — meaning: they want you to be a star so companies want to attach their corporate brand to your personal brand. And then YouTube makes money off of that symbiotic relationship by giving you a forum for your personal brand.
Of course, YouTube has gotten hip to creators earning money without them. YouTube has only just begun to regulate individual channel branding — that is, when the corporate brands don’t go through YouTube to work with the personal brands. So if you haven’t already been earning money via unsanctioned corporate branding, don’t count on this loophole much longer. As mentioned in NMR’s piece regarding the crackdown, YouTube is making sure that no unsanctioned corporate branding runs counter to their bigger picture … and, of course, the video platform also wants its cut.
While the idea of YouTube helping itself to your personal corporate brand sponsors is certainly controversial, it’s not unprecedented. Every sponsor who is involved with a NASCAR driver’s personal brand also pays money to NASCAR proper. YouTube isn’t some barbarian striking out on its own — the Google-owned company is merely looking at the track records of the behemoths that have come before them. And you should do the same. Sure, it is a little tougher to get a corporate brand deal when the sponsor also has to pay Madame YouTube, but if you do your part and become a voicebox to and from your generation, the corporate branding companies will come calling.
On a smaller, more personal level it’s tougher to determine what YouTube sanctioned corporate branding, unsanctioned corporate branding and personal branding does for actual YouTubers. Our best example so far is the King of the Gamers himself, PewDiePie. Worth an estimated $4 million in yearly income, Pewds has over 35 million subscribers (when the $4 million statistic came out, it was around 26 million followers, so this number is gonna go way up). There isn’t a good established hard number for what PewDiePie earns from views alone though, because the monetization rates vary due to popularization, time of year and subscribers actually clicking on the YouTube sanctioned ads themselves. So we can’t exactly say what portion of his income comes from YouTube sanctioned corporate branding, what portion comes from his personal unsanctioned branding deals (maybe video games give him money to be featured, for instance), and what portion comes from his personal merchandising (i.e. his personal brand). But recognize that all of the money PewDiePie earns is earmarked from an overall branding structure. Basically, the three types of branding team up to make PewDiePie rich.
Money is just one facet of the importance stemming from the different facets of branding. All types of branding grow companies, create jobs and boost the economy. Corporate branding also allows for free television and free internet to exist. But specifically when you ask the question, “Why does branding matter to YouTube?” the answer is: money. Cold hard cash makes the world go round. We could probably have answered this question in the first paragraph, but then you wouldn’t have all the knowledge to build your own YouTube empire and your personal brand.