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Why Marketers need to understand the deeper personal connections people have with the videos they watch on YouTube.

Posted by Stuart Walters on December 04, 2020

Following a Google survey with 2,793 YouTube viewers in the U.K. Google aimed to find out how videos people recently watched on YouTube made them feel.

Their answers, in combination with viewing data, highlight the deeply personal meaning behind the YouTube videos they love. And, for marketers, they provide valuable and actionable insights into the content people watch and why.

All videos, to a greater or lesser degree, make viewers feel an emotion of some kind…

Whether people felt happy or sad, it was realised that understanding viewers’ engagement with the platform would need to go beyond these more momentary and instinctive responses. The research took on a new level of personal meaning: the connection a person might have with a video because of their specific experiences, passions, wants or needs.

Driving a deeper connection with viewers through personal meaning

These greatly varying and deeply personal meanings behind viewing behaviour may at first seem detrimental for marketers looking to connect with audiences at scale – yet through in-depth coding of videos, clear themes emerge.

A video was personally meaningful — with a greater chance of driving a deeper connection — when it resonated with someone in any of the following ways:

  • What I know: Content that provides information, learning, or helps to expand your worldview.
  • Who I am: Content that brings back memories, reminds you of your beliefs and values or makes you feel connected to others.
  • Who I could be: Content that inspires you to grow and better yourself.

The most commonly occurring type of personal meaning is ‘what I know’. Half (52%) of the people we surveyed felt that their recently watched video provided them with information, helped them learn, or expanded their view of the world.

We’ve seen this desire for learning and information accelerate during the coronavirus pandemic, reflecting people’s changing needs and personal circumstances. Faced with prolonged periods in the home, many people have watched a cooking tutorial, taken an online lesson, or huffed and puffed their way through a Joe Wicks workout.

Lean into lower views

One revealing find from our study: low views do not mean low meaning — and quite often the opposite. Videos in the long tail with fewer views proved to be more likely to be personally meaningful than those with mass appeal and large view counts to match.

The diversity, range, and sometimes ‘nicheness’ of content on YouTube is part of its appeal and relevance.

Music on YouTube brings the joy

In a recent ONS report, over a third (37.4%) of U.K. adults said the pandemic has affected their well-being — and, in a challenging year for so many, it’s not surprising that many viewers are seeking joy through video.

In the study, YouTube content was considerably more likely (10x) to make users feel happy than sad. One of the categories most likely to leave people feeling happy was Music. They found it to be closely related to people’s sense of who they are — the category most likely to resonate with ‘who I am’. It also topped the ranks for relaxation and nostalgia.

How marketers can harness the power of these very personal connections

Three key insights to inform your marketing plan:

  • Content in the long tail on YouTube is among the most personally meaningful. 

These highly relevant moments meet viewers’ needs in specific ways — and on aggregate, these moments add up. For marketers, view counts aren’t always everything — consider building campaigns around more specialised content to deliver smaller but highly engaged audiences and consumers.

  • Music isn’t just for streaming in the background. 

It’s valuable content that informs people’s identity (‘who I am’), while delivering happiness, relaxation, and nostalgia. Brands who show up in these moments can benefit from strong, emotional, and deeply personal responses.

  • Foster personal connections through technology.

Marketers can use Google’s tools to get closer to customers at scale in these personally meaningful moments — and with more sophisticated targeting than simple demographics.


Content is taken from the Google blog: How marketers can harness the power of personal meaning on YouTube. 

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