Laura Gordon
Feb 24, 2014

From Crazy Russian Hacker, with love

Have you heard of YouTube stars Jim Chapman and Niga Higa?

Laura Gordon
Laura Gordon

So there I am the afternoon of Valentine’s Day, looking for some inspiration for dinner; whilst waiting for the flowers that, I know, will never be delivered.

Without having to look any further, the ever enthusiastic Jamie Oliver and his fantastic Food Tube channel pop up in my Facebook news feed with all the answers I need (albeit skewed to budding chefs to woo their damsels in the kitchen, but I digress).

The result: “The Perfect Valentine’s Day Meal”, with Jamie Oliver and Jim Chapman.

Wait. Who?

Jim Chapman is one of a number of home-grown YouTube sensations, with a subscriber base of 1.27 million and more than 47 million video views. Every week Jim waxes lyrical about, well, just about anything. It struck me as odd that Jamie would partner with Jim, until I realised FoodTube only has 665,000 subscribers. [It's now 668,000, so perhaps the cross-marketing worked. -Ed]

Jim is not alone on YouTube. Crazy Russian Hacker (1.31 million subscribers), Bethany Mota (5.22 million), Steve Kardynal (4.71 million, and as a side note, a massive 105 million views for his Wrecking Ball video alone), Niga Higa (11.73 million) and the list goes on and on and on.

You only have to see "You’ve been Eating Chicken Wings Wrong Every time" to see that these guys totally get it, as they guest-star in each other’s videos, driving their fan bases through the roof and making them even more valuable commodities for advertisers.

With snappy and zany sound bytes, tutorials, interviews, fashion blogs, reviews, how to’s…short form content is certainly capturing the attention of today’s ‘engaged consumer’.

And engaged they are. Last year, at Branded’s YouTube Fan Fest, Niga Higa nearly shut down Singapore’s Changi airport when a rumoured 3,000 fans decided to greet him as his plane landed from Toronto following an innocent tweet. Niga Higa calls himself “That Asian on Youtube”. His fans: #higaholics. Such is the power of these uncensored stars.

Added to that a commercial upside: Not only are these internet deities seeing incremental revenue from Google ads but also brands are seeking content integration through endorsement deals. Further revenue opportunities arise through merchandise, e-commerce, brand extensions and appearance fees for traditional TV, speaking events, bus-tours and the like.

As expected, it is not only through YouTube that they are engaging with their fans, but through Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook. Which begs another question: How do brands effectively engage with these international stars when internet geographies are undistinguished, yet they inherently create a global halo effect through social sharing.

For that advice you’ll have to ask me. But I wager that these underground superstars won’t stay underground for much longer. And pity the marketer that ignores them and the potential opportunities that they create to engage with fans.

As for me, it’s back to pontificating and cooking. I am not sure I will take Jamie’s suggestion of cooking for my loved one in the ‘al dente’. Yet if I did, perhaps I could be the new internet sensation? 

Laura Gordon is business development director for Omnicom Media Group Asia Pacific.


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