I recently took my daughter to a live performance of her favorite YouTube personality, Miranda Sings. The show was a hoot. And Miranda Sings offers several useful lessons for those of us working in digital media and marketing.
Queen Niche: Miranda Sings (played by Colleen Ballinger) is a unique character, to whom I can only do justice in describing by pointing to her videos. She is absolutely not for everyone; in fact, she incorporates “hater” mail into many of her videos. However, she has a passionate core following, cutting across a handful of different demos, who have generated more than 43 million views for Miranda’s YouTube videos. The 200 people at the show we attended were beyond adoring, and representative of the more than 350,000 subscribers to her channel. Miranda is the fully realized example of successful narrowcasting. Through trial and error with her content, and then savvy follow-on marketing to her fans (“Mirfandas”), she has created a strong and financially productive franchise. These types of rapidly multiplying niche franchises are consuming an increasingly larger share of consumer attention and engagement. And, with few exceptions, traditional marketers still have yet to figure out how to align with and leverage this new class of media.
Digitally Physical: Miranda is a largely digital phenomenon, borne out of the democratizing power of YouTube and social media. However, the live show was a good example of how digital brands can take advantage of “offline” opportunities to extend the relationship. Her live shows further endear and empower her most rabid Mirfandas – who, in turn, spend even more time watching Miranda videos, buying Miranda products and evangelizing on her behalf throughout social media. And the online/offline loop gets circled in two additional ways. At literally every table at the club, one or more Mirfandas held up a phone, tablet or camera to video part or all of the show. Miranda clearly supports and encourages this bootlegging, knowing that these user videos will make their way into the social stream and grow her brand. As another closing of the online/offline circle, Miranda interspersed videos from her YouTube channel into the live show (riffing on them along the way). By contrast, few traditional brands have cracked the code on interweaving and synchronizing their digital and offline marketing content in authentic ways.
Make ‘Em Laugh: Miranda has captured a goofy, spoofy, self-referential and current style of humor. She doesn’t talk down to her audience (which is impressive seeing as she’s playing to a crowd that spans pre-teens, teens and adults). She surprises with her sometimes outrageous, often irreverent and always good-natured antics. Let’s be honest – most brands take themselves way too seriously. Those willing to take some playful risks are reaping earned media attention and a different type of relationship with their target audiences. Even with those obvious benefits, most brands are unwilling to experiment with humor (self-deprecating or otherwise), for fear of confusing or damaging their pristine brand images. These same brands will need to overcome their fears if they want to engage the younger generation that connects so intuitively to Miranda-style humor.
It may be that Miranda’s lessons are ultimately far more relevant for aspiring video entrepreneurs, than for marketers. However, when I see the incredibly strong relationship Miranda Sings has forged with her audience, and the savvy ways in which she’s leveraging that as a brand and marketer, I can’t help but think I’m getting a glimpse of how equally independent-minded and forward-thinking marketers will build their passionate followings in the future.