Content Marketing – How This Company Saved £291 Million by Creating Great Content

Picture of VAT 19 team and their video content
Picture of VAT 19 team and their video content

You probably haven’t heard of VAT 19. It’s an ecommerce site that focuses on ‘awesome gifts’ including puzzles, sweets, toys etc. But the interesting story behind VAT 19 isn’t what they sell. It’s how their amazing video content sells it.

Since Feb 2007 the company have had a YouTube channel and it’s since racked up over 3.5 million subscribers and over 2.91 billion views.

Using some simplistic mathematics, if each view was more than 30 seconds (likely as each video is between 1.30 – 8 mins) and this was equivalent to a £0.10 cost per full view via YT advertising, then their channel has saved them the equivalent of £291 million pounds over the last 10 years.

On top of this – they make money off the YT revenue that runs BEFORE their videos too and have a loyal fan base built in.

The web driving results of their YT channel are obvious. 23% of their traffic is from ‘Social Media’* (with 94% of it from YT). But more impressively 29% of their traffic is from ‘Search’, with 86% of it organic – riding the SEO benefits of using YT and saving a fortune in PPC. 29% of traffic is direct, probably a result of them saying ‘VAT’ with every video….

So how has this company produced such amazing results? The 5 steps below explains.

1) They make their own amazing video content

The media model of ‘broadcasters make interesting videos and brands stick their ads in between’ has been slowly changing over the last 10 years. Not least because of the fragmentation of media and the developing ad blindness of audiences.

Instead of relying on broadcasters to make the interesting content Vat 19 do it themselves and they make it FUN. In their own words they make ‘commercials you’ll actually want to watch’.

Yes, their products mean they can afford to have a tone that’s funny, outrageous and quirky, but they could easily have just done a host of 30 second ads. Instead, they’ve concentrated on creating formats, hiring actor/presenters and engaging their viewers. The fact that the products can be bought on the website is almost secondary in nature. Formats include ‘Challenges’, ‘pranks’, ‘Pop Videos’ and Q&A’s like ‘Burning Questions’.

2) They early adopted YouTube

VAT 19 invested in a YT channel over 10 years ago, just as YouTube was gaining traction. Pre-YT, brands had to rely on paying broadcasters to show their ads. Now anyone with a phone can make videos and upload to YT, leading to the rise of Vloggers and falling advertising revenue.

With over 300 hours of footage uploaded every MINUTE to YT, getting videos seen organically is now practically impossible. But as VAT 19 were smart enough to get on this platform early and build up their fan base, the YT algorithm now falls in their favour and they’ve been future proofing an audience.

Though it will be hard for brands to try and start up organic YT channel’s now – there are still a whole group of platforms from Instagram Stories to Amazon Alexa Skills that are ripe for early adopting right now.

3) They know how to reach their audience

Here in the UK, directly targeting children with ads is frowned up (and in some cases illegal). However by creating a ‘content’ destination as opposed to purely advertising they’ve managed to engage to a young audience (my 4 year old was introduced to this via my 10 year old cousin). Not only are they challenging traditional broadcasters, they’ve also created a loyal army of advocates, and all without paying a media channel to advertise.

4) Their content is evergreen

Although they have a regular schedule of content, VAT 19 are also smart enough to know that their content shouldn’t be disposable and outdated. Instead, they treat YouTube like a library – each video a crafted piece of work that can appeal to new users constantly and searchable at any point.

5) They involve their audience

Most importantly VAT 19 use their YouTube channel as a two-way system incorporating their viewers questions into their content. They talk products, but they will also be self deprecating and the presenters are happy to look foolish. This gives it a veneer of reality compared to a slick ‘positive-only’ advert.

Lessons to learn: it’s not just about selling, but engaging an audience first who you then have permission to sell to.

Brands need to embrace the opportunity that they don’t need to ‘wedge’ product info between interesting content by others – but go ahead and make interesting content themselves.

But most importantly – does it work? Well, after months of harassment I bought something my son had seen on their YouTube channel, it’s what’s prompted me to write this in the first place…
*source: Feb 17 results

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