The world of marketing is an ever evolving entity. With every passing decade, the consumers change their behavior and businesses have to adapt. The Internet age has already forever altered how consumers make their purchasing decision, but it’s apparent that we are in the midst of another major marketing revolution. It’s becoming evident that Youtuber Shane Dawson has unlocked a new key to success in his marketing approach, and companies from every industry should take note. In case you’re not one of his 23 million subscribers, let me give you a quick rundown of who he is so we can jump into what he’s been doing.
Shane was one of the original Youtubers that found success as the platform was born, joining the site at 19-years-old. His early videos were “old school” Youtube, consisting of sketches, food-based videos, parodies, and pop-culture reactions. He would collaborate with other rising Youtubers and became one of the icons of the platform.
Youtube has already been changing.
Because Youtube was becoming saturated with new content creators, the way the original Youtubers made and shared content had to adapt to keep up. It was no longer enough to grab a camera and make a random vlog (video blog,) because people like Casey Neistat were cranking out vlogs that were more like movies. Everybody was doing rants, everyone was doing reactions. And while creators who had been on the platform for years already had the security of a good following, they were getting lost in the wave of new creators. On top of that, the new creators were reaching the younger demographics. Despite the controversies, Youtubers like Jake and Logan Paul quickly gained millions of followers in half the time it had taken the originals like Shane.
Some original creators stuck with what they had been doing, while some scaled up their production or schedule. Shane just changed. He recognized that the Youtube algorithm (the ever-important formula that determines what videos are recommended to viewers,) highly valued long-form content. In other words, videos over 20 minutes long were higher ranked than 10 minute videos. The new demographics who were consuming content, the younger generation that wasn’t as active at the start of Youtube, also had a different taste of what kind of content they wanted to see. “Days in the life” videos weren’t as appealing. What they really wanted was drama, particularly between Youtubers, who comprise a very unique community.
Shane’s first documentary is a huge hit.
Shane first revolutionized the platform by tossing out the sketches and parodies and publishing his first documentary series. That’s right, a millennial Youtuber made a documentary. But nothing like you would see on PBS or the History Channel. His first series was three videos, totaling an hour and a half, going behind the scenes of a failed Youtuber event called Tanacon. The details of that aren’t necessary to go over, (though if you are really craving some drama, you can check out the series,) but it was a success story for Shane. The videos received tens of millions of views just in the week after its release. People started speculating about his next series, indicating that the masses highly approved of this new form of content.
In the next two years, Shane would produce 6 more series, one of which covered more general conspiracy theories. His most successful series was a look into the world of fellow Youtuber, Jeffree Star. Jeffree is another one of the original Youtubers, but his focus is solely on the makeup world. In the past four years of Youtube, “beauty gurus” have been thriving. And Jeffree is at the top of his game. He has over 16 million subscribers and has his own line of makeup and merch, Jeffree Star Cosmetics. He’s also shrouded in some mystery, because there had never been a true behind-the-scenes look at his life. Shane was the first to crack open the doors and give a peak at who Jeffree really is.
And with the first video of the series, it became evident that Jeffree is filthy rich. Those who had been following him knew that he was rich in some regard, (driving a custom Lamborghini was indicative of that,) but Shane was allowed access to parts of Jeffree’s world that have never been seen. His mansion was ridiculously lavish and the amount of Gucci he owned put anyone’s bank account to shame. Watch the first 15 minutes of the series and you’ll be baffled that someone can be that rich. But Shane wasn’t satisfied with just seeing Jeffree’s wealth, he wanted to see how someone became that wealthy in a few short years.
The following videos of the series would dive into Jeffree’s cosmetic business. And viewers learned that on top of being an excellent makeup artist and engaging Youtuber, Jeffree truly had a business mind. Shane was able to get Jeffree to talk rather candidly about his investments and it became apparent that Jeffree is the definition of a self-made millionaire. Seeing his warehouses and booming business was far more inspiring than one would’ve expected upon first watching a series about a beauty Youtuber.
A partnership that will revolutionize how to sell products.
So upon the launch of the Jeffree Star series, Shane had already rejuvenated his success as a Youtuber. But after the series was such a hit, with Shane’s and Jeffree’s chemistry being one of the most intriguing aspects of it, Shane again would change not just the Youtube game, but marketing itself.
After staying off of Youtube for a few months because of a “new, big project,” Shane would shake the world with the release of his latest series. It once again featured Jeffree, but revealed that he would be helping Shane launch his first makeup palette. Viewers were thrilled and the videos once again received millions of views mere hours after it’s upload. The series would follow Shane for a year as he went through the process of creating his own makeup palette and merchandise, based on all things his viewers would know and care about. The palette was called Conspiracy, based on Shane’s previous docu-series, the shade names all related to Shane, and his iconic pig logo would be turned into all types of merch.
Over a few weeks, the series would lead up to the launch of the palette on November 1, 2019. The palette sold out, with so many people trying to buy it that the site would crash. Shane set records and it’s clear that all his hard work has paid off a hundred fold. But how did this original Youtuber, who was by no means involved in the beauty world, outsell previous launches of Jeffree himself? It’s because Shane has revamped how to market a product.
Why was Shane so successful?
Shane made millions. And part of the reason he did so is because he allowed his viewers to see that he was going to make millions off of them. Multiple parts of the videos show real-life business talks between Shane, Jeffree, and Jeffree’s team. They don’t hide numbers, they don’t redact information. We, the viewers, clearly understand that Shane, who is already richer than the average viewer, is going to approach Jeffree’s level of wealth. But that’s not stopping any of the consumers from lining up at Morphe beauty stores and waiting next to their computers to get a shot at buying Shane’s products.
Why is this approach effective? Let’s consider how consumers interact with the businesses from which they purchase products. 2–3 generations ago, people would always return to the same company because that’s who they always bought from. Then, as the age of easy information came around, people could more easily shop for the product that best suited their needs or desires, and didn’t have as much brand loyalty as before. But now, consumer are starting to care about who they’re buying from and are valuing transparency more than ever before. It’s connected to emotional branding. Even with the increase of “cancel culture” and aggressive boycotting, this new age of consumerism wants to be as informed as possible, including information that a few years ago a company would have never considered sharing. Shane used that to his advantage. He exposed the beauty world and made millions for doing so.
Shane’s series shows that consumers are intrigued by the workings of successful businesses. Yes, it helps that he adds drama and humor to the journey, but most viewers are equally invested in the series because they genuinely want to know how a makeup product is made and released. How does a guy like Jeffree Star become a billionaire? What is it like to negotiate with top beauty stores like Morphe? What happens to a person or product when a scandal occurs? Shane’s series shows all of this and more. And consumers are eating it up.
Shane is also an ideal person to launch a makeup palette, because he’s not a beauty person. He’s nailing the relatability of it. Throughout the series, we see Shane start to learn makeup, practice it, and become confident with it. That’s relatable. Most people don’t have the boldness and comfortability with makeup that Jeffree has. Most of Shane’s millions of viewers are probably more similar to him, guys and girls alike. But seeing him navigate that world entices them to consider it for themselves.
How the consumer reacts to Shane.
I’ve been keeping an eye on Shane’s videos since his initial docu-series was released. It was first out of curiosity of who he was and why so many people were talking about him. But after his first Jeffree-based series, I was intrigued by Jeffree’s business mind. It was clear that Jeffree was crushing the makeup game and Shane was changing Youtube. When this recent series came out and followed Shane’s makeup journey, I was already hooked. Sure, I’m more interested in marketing than the average person, but it’s clear all the viewers were equally invested in joining Shane and Jeffree on this revolutionary partnership.
And after watching the six videos of the series, I found myself very tempted to buy Shane’s palette. I’m not into makeup, I don’t watch any other beauty Youtubers, and I’m not one to drop money on someone’s merch. But I became invested, and felt like I was a part of the launch simply because I had watched every step of the way. I saw the drama, I felt their stress. This is new marketing. Shane isn’t telling me to buy his makeup because it’s the best makeup, (although multiple points of the series makes it clear that Jeffree’s manufacturing is top-notch and he deeply cares about quality.) Shane is convincing me to buy his makeup because I kind of feel like it’s already my makeup. This marketing approach is similar to brand loyalty, when people would go back to a business time and time again because it was “their brand.” But it’s next level brand loyalty. Because the curtain has been opened on how this product was made, I feel like a part of the process. There are no secrets. I know how much the makeup costs to produce, I know how much Shane and Jeffree are taking home for each product. And that transparency makes me receptive to buying it.
New marketing for a new age of consumerism.
I believe the new wave of marketing is going to be based on this honesty, the openness that Shane has introduced to consumers. Most companies have realized they have to put out content to engage with their audience, which is why a brand such as Kleenex has a verified Instagram account. That’s right, a tissue company is putting out pictures on Instagram. But companies have learned that there has to be constant engagement to maintain a connection with their consumers.
Shane realized that is not enough. Consumers don’t just want to see a company pop up on their feed once in a while, they want to know what’s going on behind the companies they regularly buy from. It’s no longer enough to have access to multiple purchasing options, we want access to the inner-workings of business.
You’ll start to see more content like Shane’s being put out. I’ve already seen some industry-specific, behind-the-scenes Youtube series that have had success. Shane is revolutionizing how consumers interact with their brands, and people are starting to catch on. His sold-out palette is just going to be fuel on the fire.