Inside a YouTube Growth Hack: How KontrolFreek Grew Sales by 50 Percent

YouTube marketing is all about those viral videos, right? Throw in a cat, a pratfall, and some promoted tweets, and you have a content marketing hit. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s the brand video that does a bellyflop.

But what are the alternatives on YouTube? KontrolFreek found one. Instead of a hit-or-miss viral video, a series of YouTube content partnerships got the video game equipment company a 50 percent sales growth.

KontrolFreek’s approach to YouTube was informed by their understanding of their target audience—gamers—and their repulsion to inauthenticity, says CEO Ashish Mistry. “The worst thing I could do as a non-gamer would be to create something manufactured,” he explains. “They’d see right through it and eat us alive.”

Mistry decided to partner with personalities on YouTube and and turn them into brand ambassadors for KontrolFreek. He recruited both celebrities like Trevor Martin, known as TmarTn, with 1.6 million subscribers, and gamers with only a few hundred video views.

Martin, a true star who has supported himself full-time with his YouTube efforts since 2012, estimates that revenue from KontrolFreek sponsorships amounts to around 5 percent of his total income, which Mistry pegs at more than $250,000 per year. “Sometimes they’ll send a new product to me early,” Martin explains. “When a new product does come out or I want to do a review, that’s an easy way to promote the affiliate link.”

But KontrolFreek also works with people like Sik Sensei and EposVox. They may not have huge followings, but they have that authentic passion that KontrolFreek wants to harness. “Our goal is to keep it fairly contained but not omit the right guys,” Mistry says.

Many gamers in the partner program run a KontrolFreek affiliate link on their home pages, offering a 10 percent discount. Some post reviews and unboxing videos of KontrolFreek products, such as personalized controller shields and ergonomic joystick enhancers. But there are no requirements at all; it’s up to each individual to decide how he wants to promote KontrolFreek.

Celebrity gamers must be sensitive to how they handle product placements or promotions, explains to Jimmy Markowski, a popular gamer known as chaosxsilencer. “I’m very careful with how I do any brand integration or sponsorship,” he says. On the other hand, gamers now understand the deal. “The audience has been educated to the point where they understand that we are making money while producing content for you for free,” he says. “Ninety-nine percent now completely understand and are happy to get the discount and the giveaways.”

It’s well-known that most videos don’t get traction: According to Pixability, a provider of YouTube marketing software, only 4.5 percent of videos posted by the top 100 global brands average more than 100,000 views, and most viral videos have minimal business impact. KontrolFreek’s organic approach, on the other hand, lets the target audience decide what’s cool and interesting.

Neither does KontrolFreek directly promote or advertise its contests, promotions or partners. “We said, ‘As long as your content remains relevant, we’ll be a part of it—but our goal is not to buy you,'” Mistry says. “Most of these guys are high school and college students. [Because of our sponsorships], they’re able to be sustainable and turn this into a business instead of a hobby that goes away when they have to do homework.”

For the gaming community, this light touch is the right touch—and it’s paying off heavily for KontrolFreek: Sales are up 50 percent year-over-year.

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