Video game comedic vlogger (the 21st century: what a world!) PewDiePie (Felix Kjellberg) has over 46 million followers on YouTube (more than anyone else), and his videos have racked up almost 13 billion views. That’s probably a much bigger reach than the FIFA World Cup (although the stats for that event I’ve seen count viewers rather than views).
Earlier this month, the FTC reached a settlement with Warner Bros. over claims that it made payments to Kjellbergand other YouTube channels to promote one of its video games without adequately disclosing the payments (Kjellberg has said that he disclosed the sponsorship on YouTube, although not in the video).
But that shouldn’t worry a man whose company earned a profit of over $8 million in 2015; I’m only surprised it wasn’t more.
After all, why use the most sophisticated marketing methods and technologies in a world where everyone takes lifestyle advice exclusively from a potty-mouthed Swedish gamer? Okay, and also from the Kardashians, Justin Bieber, Smosh and a few others.
In any case, I don’t know where you’d find a bigger audience in 2016, outside of the top Twitter and Instagram feeds. And, of course, the YouTube stat captures users actually clicking on a video.
Given the marketing Kjellberg could actually be doing, his earnings seem relatively trivial. But why doesn’t Kjellberg openly market not just video games but, well…anything?
Sketch comedy duo Smosh has been quite explicit about building a brand. A series of YouTube channels, a website with merchandise, an album on iTunes, and sponsored videos—the unashamed entrepreneurship hasn’t deterred over 20 million fans from subscribing to Smosh’s primary YouTube channel alone. This hasn’t hurt their appeal.
While he runs ads on his channels, part of Kjellberg’s appeal might be that he shows so little interest in being a commercial spokesperson. If he does market something for someone, it tends to be weird and offbeat.
Influencers, of course, have long stated that “authenticity” like this—only endorsing things that they are passionate about—is why they’re so beloved by fans. But is striving for authenticity necessary?
Entertainment brands that continue to push the envelope in terms of sponsorship don’t seem to suffer audience depreciation. So Kjellberg—dba PewDiePie—now’s your time to double down and cash out.