There are plenty of vacuous young wannabes on the likes of "Celebrity Big Brother" and "I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here" who have done very little to earn the title of "celebrity." However, when "Celebrity Bake Off" begins in a week, all in aid of Comic Relief, many people of the demographic that traditionally follows the normal show will see Zoella for the first time. By way of introduction, and to put it very simply, following her and other YouTube sensations is one of the best bits of advice anyone in media, marketing and advertising can take. That was certainly the advice I was given at an Adobe conference recently by Sony's Head of Digital, and I have to say, it's very worthwhile.
Surprising fact number one -- for those who don't know her, is Zoella has more than 7m subscribers on YouTube with her videos, judging by her channel's home page, regularly topping more than a million views. Considering there are plenty of television shows out there which struggle to get that kind of attention, despite have a bunch of clever people who've worked in television all their career and huge budgets for actors, studios and technicians, that is a pretty amazing feat. Now I have to say, tuning in to Zoella really isn't for me because -- let's face it -- I'm not her audience and unless you're a millennial female worried about hair, make-up and relationships, she's probably not for you either.
The point is, though, her audience is your audience. Here's a young lady who just chats about her lift to a webcam -- maybe it's a camcorder? -- about how to get your look right and without spending a penny on marketing, she has the attention of 7m people all, presumably, focussed in the young female category. Imagine the average marketing director being given a laptop with a webcam and a budget of zero to go out and grab the attention of 7m teens and twenty somethings.
I've heard the advice before that you should ditch the media you like and focus on what your audience likes. At the same time, even if it's the media you like, it's good to take a step back and look at the online stars who have come from nowhere to build huge followings. The funny thing is, with Zoella, she appears to break all the rules by having 10-minute chats where the camera doesn't move and yet still she obviously connects with her audience. My reaction is a little similar to my daughter's opinion of tuning in to the news -- it's boring, heard it all before and just goes on and on. However, for my thirteen-year-old daughter, Zoella is a media celebrity who knows how it is. Like a big sister who remembers going through being a teenager and is just there to smile and hand out tips on hair, makeup and boys.
So if you want to know how to connect with an audience, look at someone who started from scratch and managed to do it more effectively than you or your competitors. Sure, it would look entirely fake if a bunch of middle-aged marketers tried to replicate it -- but at least you know can pick up some tips on which messages connect the best. Plus, if all else fails, at least you know whom to sponsor or partner with.
Judging by the comments on the Guardian article that broke the news that Zoella will be on the charity show, there are still plenty of people out there who simply don't get that you don't have to come up through a traditional television career path to earn your place as very hot property in the media world.
Instead of sneers about fake smiles and questions over who wrote her bestselling book, people would be far better advised to stop the criticism and instead sit back, watch, listen and learn.