Thursday 24 December 2020 4:15 am

What the UK watched in 2020

Zoë Clapp is director of YouTube Marketing UK

Terrible, wonderful, and every shade in between: 2020 is not a year any of us will ever forget. 

But as marketers with eyes firmly on the future, we must take what we’ve learned into 2021 — a year that is certainly full of hope, but not of certainty.

The dramatic shifts in consumer behaviour are the consequences of real human needs being met in unconventional ways, through a blend of technology and creativity. By recognising these shifts, we can better understand our consumers. 

And in a time when everything is changing, it’s crucial for brands to understand what’s on the cultural ascendant.

YouTube’s billion-plus hours of daily watchtime offer an unparalleled window into the state of today’s culture and consumer. And this is why we have published the first-ever YouTube Culture & Year End Trends Report, which offers valuable insights for marketers as we look ahead to 2021 and beyond.

So, what did we learn from the report? Here are my top three takeaways.

We found new ways to be together, despite being apart

As the pandemic forced us into our homes, we saw viewers seek out opportunities to come together through content, suggesting that the future of video may increasingly be influenced by shared, community experiences.

When lockdowns came into effect, “co-watching” provided a safe way to continue to consume content and events in groups. One of my own favourite moments was back in In April, when Travis Scott held an incredible, interactive concert via Fortnite, “attended” by over 12m fans. 

In everyday life, videos with the hashtag #WithMe grew by 600 per cent. We saw showpiece events from London Fashion Week to Notting Hill Carnival shift online, and when sports returned to spectator-free stadiums, there was a rise in “watchalong” content on channels like AFTV. 

And when the locals of one Blackburn pub had to miss out on their regular quiz due to the pandemic, Jay Flynn MBE set up Jay’s Virtual Pub Quiz. This lockdown-born channel has close to 200k subscribers. 

Breakthrough stars shine a light on the voices we needed this year

As an open platform, there’s always an influx of new voices to enjoy on YouTube, and none more so than in this year. 

In 2020, one of our most memorable voices was that of the nation’s favourite PE teacher, Joe Wicks MBE — aka The Body Coach TV (2.6m subscribers) — compelling us to keep fit and wear fancy dress. Brits took to their living rooms for new fitness regimes, with “exercising at home” racking up 44m views between March and April alone. 

When it comes to the living room, our internal data from the spring shows that watching YouTube on the TV screen also grew in 2020, increasing 85 per cent year on year. More than 20m people in the UK now are watching YouTube from their television sets.

We also saw the power of the platform in women helping women. Patricia Bright launched her second YouTube channel entitled The Break which aims to help millennial women grab their finances by the horns. Earning more than 357k subscribers since launch, she is helping a new generation of women move up the ladder of their careers and conquer their personal development in what is a financially challenging time for many. 

Audiences confronted adversity

Of course, no matter who you are, it’s been a challenging year for us all, one way or another. And viewers turned to YouTube for help in some of their most difficult moments as they tried to make sense of an uncertain, changing world. 

As protests against racial injustice spread across the world, people gravitated to online video to scrutinise history, explore identity, and call for advocacy, allyship and action. As global interest in the Black Lives Matter movement mounted, its popularity also spiked on YouTube. In the first 10 days of June, views of videos related to Black Lives Matter surged more than fourfold compared to the entire last year.

It’s been a year of almost incomprehensible change. But as marketers, our job is to anticipate change and help our consumers navigate it. In 2020, audiences wanted to find new voices, share experiences, and confront adversity together. As we look to 2021, considering video as part of your plan is no longer optional. YouTube is a core part of British consumers’ lives, and the connection between creators and their audiences has never been stronger. 

But perhaps what excites me most is the wide range of diverse creators on YouTube who truly reflect today’s modern British consumer. Investing in them — and their content — can only bring brands closer to their customers.

Main image credit: Getty

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