I decided to attend VidCon in Anaheim this July. It was one of the few events that I went to as an attendee, not as a speaker. VidCon is short for Video Conference. I first read about VidCon several years ago and thought it was such a genius idea to create an event that brings YouTube Celebrities to their fans, a niche that was not being fulfilled. Someone was quick enough to seize that opportunity and created an event for it.
It turned out that someones are Hank and John Green. You may have heard of John Green who is also the author of the book I love, the Fault in Our Stars, a NYT bestselling book and a popular movie. In 2018, they sold this event to ViaCom. I am sure that Hank and John are doing very well financially.
Here is the key reason I attended the event: I’m always curious about how consumer brands market to younger generations. VidCon is a great option for me to understand younger demographics, to see various brands’ approaches to reach out to the next generation of millennials and to check out video content creators, YouTubers.
Nike, Facebook, Instagram, Nickelodeon, NBC Universal, Mountain Dew Game Fuel and more all had big exhibit spaces at the Expo Hall. It was challenging to win young audiences’ mind shares on-site. Every brand was working very hard to make sure their booths stood out.
Canon and HobbyKids Adventures made an impression on me
As a B2B marketer working closely with sales, I’m all about sales and closing deals. Being able to sell products at a conference is music to my ears. Two brands made an effort to sell their products while creating an interactive, fun and engaging experience for their attendees.
Canon’s exhibit space was small (30×40) compared to other major brands. They used the theme “Glamping” to design their booth. They brought in an Airstream, a type of RV, and set up a campground-like atmosphere. They set up interactive areas inside and outside the Airstream that allowed attendees to pose and take pictures using Canon cameras.
In addition, they set up a table called the camp store to showcase a wide array of digital cameras. They staffed subject matter experts at the table to talk to anyone who was interested in learning more about cameras’ features. In addition to existing product lines, they also showcased their proof-of-concept products such as Ivy Cliq, an instant mobile camera printer, and Ivy REC, a Clippable, Go Anywhere Camera.
Their approach is no different than any other brands, but the key difference was the ability to buy! If you wanted to buy their cameras, you COULD! Except for Ivy REC which was not yet available, you could pretty much buy the products they showcased on-the-spot.
Hobby Kids Adventures:
Another brand did something similar and made an impression on me was Hobby Kids Adventures. You may not have heard of HobbyKidsTV. HobbyKidsTV, a family-run children’s channel with over 3 million subscribers on YouTube. It’s a low-budget Disney channel, but the content is created by one family. The parents and 3 kids have been on YouTube since 2013. Their youngest child has been on YouTube since he was born. He didn’t know what life was like outside YouTube. Totally reminds me of The Truman Show.
I first read about HobbyKids TV in Wired magazine, HobbyKidsTV, YouTube, and the New World of Child Stars. These children are certainly different kinds of child stars than the mainstream media child stars that I am familiar with.
They didn’t have a big exhibit space, but they certainly knew their audiences well.
In their little space, they created 3 obstacles for their young audiences to play through. The 1st obstacle was a Robot Bop Bag: You could punch Robot Boppin Bag and it would bounce back. The 2nd one was called ‘Slime Toss’, in which balls were tossed into a bucket. The 3rd obstacle was a Disc Shooter in which you use a wrist launcher, it’s like a handgun that ties to your wrist, to shoot discs into targets.
Once you played the 3 games, you could get a free T-shirt with your choice of Hobbykids Adventure designs. These games were designed to engage with their young audiences and were strategically tied to their merchandise. They showcased their toys and if you are a fan of HobbyKidsTV, you could also buy these toys on-site.
Both Canon and Hobby Kids Adventures booths were fun, interactive and engaging, just like many other booths. What I really liked about them was that they also sold products on-site. They made an effort to build brand awareness, engage with their audience and allow purchases if the audience was ready to buy. It covered the whole stack of the purchase funnel from awareness to purchase. I love it.
Are you ready to get a haircut at VidCon?
There was another brand worth mentioning. AXE, a deodorant brand, took the same approach with a different twist. They brought in a big RV right there on the exhibit floor. It made a big presence! Inside the RV was a barbershop which gave boys and men haircuts. Yes, you hear me right, haircuts.
Rather than pushing their hair care products to the attendees, they offered people haircut on-site and used the opportunity to showcase products such as shampoos, gels, and color styling pastes. I thought that was a subtle way to educate young adults on how to look stylish with AXE products. Outside the RV, they set up a game zone which allowed boys to play video games and chill. At the same time, they were proactively giving away free samples. If you didn’t get a haircut, well, you could try free samples at home.
What about the other booths?
NBC universal’s booth was very traditional. You could take a photo with a People’s Choice Award trophy, but so what? I don’t think they fully understood the attendees. Facebook promoted its TV channel called Facebook Watch. Well, the booth was grand and beautiful, but I was not clear about the specific call-to-action. Nickelodeon’s booth was fun, with multiple kids’ activities and play zones, and made a push for their big new movie, Dora the Explorer.
Adobe had a booth as well. The theme was about #createyourstory, but the booth experience didn’t align with the theme. You lined up to get into a room. Before getting into the room, you chose one of the 5 characters which best resembled you on a tablet. When you walked into the room, there was just a big TV screen with the character that you chose to imitate your movements. How did that tie with the theme #createyourstory? I didn’t get it. However, they did make an effort to show content creators their product called Adobe Rush which is a video editing tool.
I also got a chance to talk to aspiring YouTubers and attendees. They are very different than my target audiences of B2B marketers. YouTube is not only the place they share their content, but also the place they seek entertainment and receive information and knowledge. Yes, I mean knowledge. Many told me that they only watch Netflix and YouTube, they don’t watch major networks or cables. If you are trying to reach young audiences, YouTube is certainly a channel you can’t miss.
Is VidCon worth attending?
It depends. I went because I wanted to check out a different conference and demographic. If you are an aspiring young content creator or have children who love YouTube, this might be a good conference to go to.
Have you attended any fun and unique conferences? If you do, please let me know. I’d love to check them out.
Again, let’s continue to learn from each other. Take care and have a great day!
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