This January, when Nissan launched their first Super Bowl campaign in more than two decades, they could’ve called on a celebrity with a recognizable voice to endorse their band. After all, Mercedes uses Jon Hamm, and Paul Rudd just replaced Jeff Bridges as the voice of Hyundai. But instead of paying another celebrity with really good hair to talk about APR financing, Nissan went with a much more forward-thinking choice: YouTube stars.
Nissan isn’t the only company to take notice of what YouTube has to offer. Digital beauty gurus Michelle Phan and Bethany Mota generated major buzz for their respective partnerships with L’Oréal and Aéropostale, and other companies are catching onto how valuable YouTube stars can be as content creators and brand ambassadors.
At the Interactive Advertising Bureau Annual Leadership Meeting, Erin McPherson, chief content officer of Maker Studios, the largest distributor of short-form video content in the world, said, “This generation doesn’t dislike brands. What they don’t like is advertising.”
If millennials can learn about brands through content they’re already consuming (YouTube videos) from sources they trust (YouTube stars), they’d probably be more likely to pay attention. Plus, these YouTube stars have obvious appeal—they bring incredibly loyal audiences and will most likely accept cheaper endorsement fees than every celebrity not named Pauly Shore.
For brands looking to team up with these online influencers, let’s take a look at some of the best creators YouTube has to offer.
Devin Graham, a.k.a. Devin Supertramp, is like a one-man Red Bull media powerhouse. For four years now, he’s been creating high-energy extreme sports videos for his YouTube audience, which has grown to almost 3 million subscribers. This exposure has landed him sponsorships from some major brands, such as Mountain Dew, Reebok, and Speed Stick Gear. For those interested in the gaming space, he also films these awesome live-action Assassin’s Creed adventures with parkour master Ronnie Shalvis.
2. Mamrie Hart
You can make a convincing argument that Mamrie Hart is the funniest person on YouTube. In her show “You Deserve a Drink,” Hart creates wacky cocktails with punny names in honor of big pop culture events, special guests, and basically anyone who really needs a drink. Expanding her own personal brand beyond YDAD, Hart has a separate vlog channel (featuring her must-see dog, Beanz), and a book coming out in May.
Hart also accounts for one-third of what fans have dubbed the “Holy Trinity,” a trifecta of awesomeness and hilarity including fellow YouTube stars Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart. The three mixed their talents together to star in the 2014 comedy film Camp Takota, co-written by Hart.
A self-taught musician, Kurt Hugo Schneider is the man to go to for music on YouTube. His channel, which has over 5 million subscribers, consists of high-quality covers, mashups, and original tunes featuring a slew of other music artists from the platform. In 2013, Schneider partnered with Coca-Cola to create music videos and commercials that showed him covering songs by playing Coke bottles. The video above also features Kevin Olusola, best known as the beatboxer for Pentatonix, a Grammy-award-winning a cappella group that launched on The Sing-Off and blew up on YouTube.
Tati of Glam Life Guru is a Hollywood makeup artist and stylist who serves up beauty hauls, tips, and tutorials to over a half million subscribers five days a week. Tati stands out on YouTube because she reaches a more mature audience than the plethora of teen beauty gurus, and she also does product reviews of drugstore and department store brands. As with every other YouTuber worth her salt, Tati’s popularity has exploded on social media. She also delivers content to her 15,000 Pinterest followers and 50,000 Twitter followers.
Filmmakers and friends since middle school, Sam Gorski and Niko Pueringer founded Corridor Digital in 2010 as a VFX production house. But it wasn’t long before they decided to make short films and post them on YouTube. And that certainly paid off because the pair has built an audience of over 3 million subscribers and is recognized for creating some of the most high-quality productions on the platform. Corridor Digital’s most popular video is a live-action Minecraft battle. But my all-time favorite is the one involving kittens, above.
By moms for moms, WhatsUpMoms serves up kitchen tips, easy recipes, DIY projects, and comedy sketches three times per week. Elle, who started on YouTube as WhatsUpElle, teamed up with fellow moms Meg and Brooke to offer motherly advice online after she became pregnant with her second child. Through the platform, Elle has been responsible for partnerships with several brands, including Tide, Capital One, and Keurig Coffee.
Joshua David Evans used to work for a network that was trying to sign YouTubers, and now, after four years of posting videos, he’s running his own vlog channel with over a half million subscribers. Last week, he also launched his own YouTube talk show called “What’s Up Internet?” where he ran funny sketches and interviewed YouTube stars in front of a live audience. As his loyal viewers know well, it’s hard to talk about Evans without mentioning another talented YouTuber: his fiancée Colleen Ballinger, who’s the creator of one of YouTube’s favorite weirdos, MirandaSings (with over 3 million subscribers).
Evans has integrated brands like NatureBox, ProFlowers, and Taco Bell (they let him inside of their test kitchens!) into his videos. And he recently uploaded the video above, in which he’s completely transparent about why he (and other YouTubers) take on brand sponsorships. However, he was adamant about the fact that he only promotes brands and products he’s passionate about, something YouTuber Tyler Oakley also emphasized in a recent interview.
Lewis Hilsenteger managed to build a YouTube channel entirely focused on reviewing, suggesting, and, of course, unboxing products. While he typically sticks to consumer electronics, Hilsenteger has unboxed everything from cars and weird potato chips to giant gummy bears and Happy Meals. He’s probably best known for initiating the iPhone 6 Plus bend test, which proved that Apple’s newest smartphone is not as durable as we’d hoped.
Lilly Singh is one of the most consistently entertaining artists on YouTube, producing everything from comedy sketches about her Indian culture to motivational talks for millennial viewers. Some of her most popular videos are those in which she plays her parents reacting to scandalous things like Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” video and crazy YouTube comments.
Similar to the guys at Corridor Digital, Scott David Winn has made a name for himself by producing high-quality, imaginative videos. With 27 million views, his most viral project to date is his real-life Fruit Ninja recreation set to dubstep music. Winn was also one of the first YouTube creators to shoot and upload content in 4K resolution for his popular video of Stormtroopers twerking. Because if you could watch anything in 4K, it would obviously be that.
As YouTubers continue to emerge as trusted voices for different communities—be it beauty, music, or parenting—Google’s platform is becoming a goldmine full of potential brand influencers. To reap the benefits, companies just have to be willing to sacrifice some brand sensitivity and let YouTubers do what they do best: Serve up creative content for millions of loyal viewers.