For decades now, the relationship between celebrities and brands has been growing stronger and stronger, as many companies understand that actors, musicians, and even athletes are the ones that have enormous fan bases that typically listen to their every word and trust their judgment. For a long time, celebs would star in ads or listlessly shill products, and that was essentially the end of the partnership, but in the past few years, forward-thinking companies have realized that so much more can be done if they are only willing to try something new and trust in those they are asking to help sell products and raise awareness, and that has most recently translated into working with social media stars and those who built their name on the internet.
Samsung is one company that has decided to try something new in terms of just how much stock the consumer tech giant is willing to invest in still somewhat untested waters. It’s no longer strange to work with someone who has a following online, but to base almost an entire campaign supporting new products on a name and face that the general public likely doesn’t know is risky, and that’s what makes it worth discussing.
The South Korean titan has been working with YouTube star Casey Neistat for over a year by this point, and it’s going so well that the company and the YouTuber himself continue to deepen their relationship and try new things, with only loosely-defined goals established from the outset.
What is perhaps most noteworthy about this pairing is Samsung’s dedication to Neistat. The tech firm has the money to hire essentially whoever it wants, and it would have been possible to bring on any A-list actor or one of the most famous singers in the world, but instead, those in charge looked to YouTube for inspiration.
This plan makes a lot of sense if the goal is to capture the attention of younger audiences, which it clearly is. That crowd can’t be wowed quite as easily with branding or marketing messaging or old ideas about how to sell items. Instead, millennials and Gen Z consumers (and future consumers) need to form a relationship with a brand, and they often only do so if the company in question has given them something they enjoy. It’s not just about offering a solid, well-reviewed product at a good price anymore. Instead, the firms that win are the ones that are beloved, and that’s becoming a trickier game than ever before.
Neistat recently joined Samsung in France during the popular Cannes Lion marketing conference and exhibition that takes place every June for a panel that investigated what the next generation wants and what truly interests them. The event focused primarily on filmmaking, with Academy Award-winning director Spike Jonze sitting in as well, which made for an inspiring talk about how the term filmmaking itself has changed. While one used to have to go to film school and study and toil for years to become a “director,” now millions of kids are understanding that like Neistat before them, they can pave their own way and make the art they have always wanted to, as long as they have the determination, the platform, and the tools necessary.
Samsung has now changed what the term “aspirational” means for millions of young people, latching onto a trend that has been growing for some time. While our parents and grandparents dreamed about bigger homes and expensive things created by luxury brands, those just coming into money are much more interested in becoming known for their creativity. Everybody wants to be a creator (a phrase that the company has decided to stick with), and Samsung is working with people like Casey to show the world what can be done with a brilliant idea, and of course the latest phones, cameras, and other assorted gadgets.
Casey has been using Samsung products, such as 360-degree cameras and even specially-designed drones, to do some pretty incredible things, all of which has ended up on his YouTube page, and millions have tuned in to see what the two have concocted. The experiment began with Neistat walking the red carpet with a Samsung 360-degree camera, which allowed anybody to see what it is really like to appear on perhaps the most important carpet in the world. That was followed by an actual ad buy, which shows that Samsung is still interested in maintaining some level control (letting the social star do whatever he wants must have made some executives nervous), but only part of the time.
He also created a clip showing him flying high above Finland on a specially-created Samsung drone, and with other creators on board as well, the library of Samsung-sponsored videos and projects is growing all the time, and it’s incredible to see what some of these people can come up with.
The goal here isn’t for Casey to spew some tagline and for Samsung to hope kids start buying, but rather to impress upon young minds the message that creativity is king, and that there is one firm that is investing in that and which wants to ensure everybody can get in on the fun. In reality, there are plenty of companies selling the technology necessary to create fun videos that could go viral online, but Samsung is the only major player that appears to be willing to ditch tried-and-true advertising methods which have been largely ignored a new generation in favor of ads and content which is notoriously difficult to attach to an ROI.
During a conversation with those involved in this successful pairing in Cannes, Samsung CMO Marc Mathieu had plenty to say about why Casey was the perfect partner for the brand (and the YouTube mogul couldn’t have been more effusive when singing the praises of the company as well), but when I asked why Samsung opted to invest so much time, money, and effort into Neistat and his crazy ideas, Mathieu summed it up perfectly in one sentence:
“To be a great marketer in this technological world, you need to create your own disruption.”