Trey Kennedy isn’t well-known to most Americans, but my kids are constantly using YouTube's TV app to see what he’s up to.
Last week, for instance, they wanted to see if Kennedy had a response to the Will Smith Oscars debacle. Of course, Kennedy did.
In my house, Kennedy is as big a star as Steve Carell on “The Office” or the cast of “Shark Tank,” to name two of the more-well-known shows we all watch.
Kennedy began making YouTube videos in the early 2010s. As of this writing, his YouTube channel has 1.19 million subscribers. In other words, Kennedy is nowhere near the top stars on YouTube, including PewDiePie (108 million subscribers) and Like Nastya (about 70 million subscribers).
But Kennedy has the kind of name recognition and goodwill that eclipses Hollywood stars, at least in my household, and, apparently, in a million or so others.
Kennedy also has something else: a squeaky-clean brand image. None of his videos even hint at anything lascivious and, as a result, whatever your leanings as a parent, you can feel safe letting your kids watch his videos. Being a Christian is part of his identity -- but unlike some others, Kennedy doesn’t use his videos to proselytize and there’s little in the videos to indicate his thinking. They're just goofy fun.
Kennedy’s rise comes as more than 75% of Americans age 15 and up are on YouTube, according to Hootsuite, and the website has over 2 billion active users. Google (the owner of YouTube) claims that people remember seeing ads on the app slightly more than they do on TV. YouTube introduced the TV app in 2017, and for me, a cord-cutter, it’s a go-to channel when it seems there’s nothing else good to watch (which is often).
As a longtime TV watcher, I find YouTube’s TV app a revelation. Whatever your interest -- mountain biking, politics, TED talks -- there’s a video out there -- and people like Kennedy who could be product pitchmen.
At the moment, Kennedy doesn’t appear to be pitching anything.
It seems like it’s just a matter of time, though, until advertisers warm to the concentrated appeal of mid-level YouTube stars like Kennedy.