Are Brands Wasting Money on YouTube Custom Channels? [Infographic]

Many brands are doing well on YouTube due to a focused content strategy whereby they’re releasing content that viewers want to watch, share, and engage with.  Some brands have gone the extra mile and have worked with YouTube to upgrade their default YouTube One-Channel designed “Brand Channel” to what YouTube terms a “Custom Branded YouTube Channel.”

If a brand so desires, they can work with YouTube (advertising contracts required) to add a custom-designed, interactive application (called a “Gadget“) their main channel which presents a different default landing page interface for users who visit their channel.  As an example, you can take a look at NBA’s 2K channel, and you’ll notice that you’re taken to a custom tab, labelled “NBA 2K.”

At first glance this may seem very sexy and a pretty cool way for brands to customize their owned YouTube channel presence for a few reasons.  First, with a customized brand channel, brands can better control the brand appearance and message that YouTube users first see.  Secondly, for users that first visit a custom brand channel, the brand can help to influence where the users goes next.  In some cases, clearly brands want to drive potential customers back to their own property.  Lastly, it is theoretically possible that through implementing an interesting interactive gadget, users might engage more directly with the brand.

HOWEVER…  There’s a couple things that we know, that are important considerations for any brand on YouTube.  First, we know that YouTube has stated that they did extensive testing prior to launching the One-Channel design and their results were conclusive that this new default channel design was very effective in helping to drive increased subscriptions and engagement (hint: if it’s not broken, why fix it).  Secondly, since YouTube changed their algorithm to focus on Watch-Time (be sure to read our in-depth article on this), it’s more critical than ever for brands to do all they can to drive YouTubers to watch video ON YouTube.

So, here’s the valid question:  Are those brands who have spent money and resources to deploy custom brand YouTube channels benefiting from their investment?

YouTube Gadgets Are They Worth The Investment for Brands?

A new whitepaper and infographic suggests that the cost of developing and maintaining a custom brand channel may not be worth it for many brands – especially ones who want to excel within YouTube’s native platform (IE increased subscribers, views, etc…). In fact, it appears that from the observations in the whitepaper, that some brands may actually be limiting their potential for success.

Analytics platform Tubular, along with our friend and YouTube expert Brendan Gahan, released a whitepaper today that highlights their observations and details performance of 46 top branded YouTube channels with and without the added “gadget” customization.  Their conclusion is that branded channels who have installed extra gadget pages on their YouTube channel fail to match the engagement of those channels that have stuck with the default “One Channel” design.  Here are some of the findings:

  • Default Brand Channels (One-Channel Default w/o gadgets) generated 56% more comments
  • Default Brand Channels have 61% more subscribers
  • Default Brand Channels attract 12% more social shares for their video content

So, according to their observations, viewers are less likely to subscribe, comment or share a video on a YouTube channel where the brand has installed a customized gadget feature.

Here’s the Infographic:

Youtube Engagement updated

BUT, Are Gadgets The ONLY Reason for the Poor Performance?

From the observations, it seems to be quite clear that changing the default One-Channel layout to include a customized “gadget” may actually hinder the potential performance for that brand’s channel.  This seems to make logical sense given that when a branded channel introduces an element that’s relatively unknown to the YouTube environment (custom gadget), users may shy away from interacting with the channel in the first place.  And, when a brand adds the “gadget” to their channel’s landing page, it no longer defaults to the YouTube subscription trailer feature.  So, it makes sense that these custom channels may not be as good at soliciting subscriptions.

However, (just my opinion) one needs to keep in mind cause and effect here.  It’s also quite possible that those brands who decide to customize their brand channels, are also brands who are less “ready” to embrace YouTube in full.  Perhaps they are stuck in the past and still feel they need to “control” their brand and therefore the user experience on YouTube.  For example, many of the gadget channels that I’ve seen are primarily designed to expose YouTuber users the the brand’s assets off-YouTube.  It is my opinion that brands who have this modus operandi, are likely the same brands that have yet to fully embrace YouTube and perhaps, are failing or ignoring other best practices for YouTube’s platform that could account for lower performance in social sharing, subscriptions, etc…  After all, if a brand is more concerned with their appearance than they are concerned with a successful content programming strategy, they’re likely going to suffer.

None-the-less, this is still a very insightful whitepaper and we encourage you to download and read it – available via Gahan’s website.

What do you think?  Are you a brand with a Custom Brand Channel?  Let us know your thoughts and experiences below.