By Debbie Bray
The Shaytard’s – a family of YouTube vloggers – begins their video ‘WE GOT A SWIMMING POOL’ with a shot through a mesh window screen.
Shot on a handycam, the footage is shaky and a bit out of focus. Boys scream, run around, and throw water balloons at each other. There are wind noises, kids yelling, a proud father letting go of his tottering child as he learns to ride a bike. It’s madcap, it’s energetic, it’s utterly wholesome.
If you aren’t a connoisseur of family vloggers – or an 8 year old – you would be forgiven for mistaking this video for a home movie, uploaded to YouTube and viewed primarily by close family members. In fact, this video has garnered close to 25 million views since it was posted two years ago.
While the Shaytards have only recently started posting videos again after a year-long hiatus, they remain one of the best-known names in the family vlogging market. With almost 5 million subscribers, they are in the top-tier of family vloggers with RomanAtwoodVlogs (14m), Daily Bumps (3m subs), and the Sacconejolys (1.8m) whose daily videos about raising families have been massive hits with kids around the globe.
In a world where it is becoming easier and cheaper to create high-quality, well-edited videos, why have these relatively low-budget videos captured young peoples’ attentions? And what can brands learn from these successes?
Family Vlogging: Beige Content in a Colourful Online Landscape
As researchers who work regularly with children, it’s rare for us now to hold a focus group without one viewer talking about their favourite YouTube family.
On the surface, the attraction of these videos makes sense. Family vlogs distil the most addictive, colourful, and fun parts of the internet. The cover images are enticing and the titles (in all caps) tap into the most current trends online – promising pranks, challenges, and the latest recipes for glittery/fluffy/glow-in-the-dark slime.
But the craziness suggested by the titles quickly dissolves into something much more sedate. While “OUR PARENTS MAILED US TO ANOTHER STATE!! 6 HOURS IN A BOX!!” does begin with a fictionalised “journey” in a cardboard box – in reality, no shipping of children actually takes place. Instead, the majority of the 17 minute video is quite plain: the girls play with their dogs, they go on a hike, they eat some ice-cream. As Jonathan Sacconejoly points out in an interview for the Daily Mail:
“A lot of the time our lives are quite boring. It never ceases to amaze me that people want to watch us taking the kids to the park, but they do”.
They do indeed: YouTube has revealed that the popularity of these videos has increased by a whopping 90% in the last year.
Building Real, Intimate Connections With Viewers
Seeing an audience entranced by relatively slow content isn’t a new phenomenon. In 1996 a young Jennifer Ringley setup a webcam in her college dorm, which shared one grainy picture every 15 seconds. The internet (a much smaller entity at the time) went wild – at its peak, the JenniCam site was generating 7 million hits per day. While it might not make stimulating content by today’s standards, Jennicam did offer an intimate, real peek into the life of an average person’s life – and that’s something these family vloggers tap into as well.
From grime music to clothing haul videos: ‘authenticity’ or ‘realness’ is being sought out by modern kids. Family vlog videos set a high benchmark here. The “real” and “open” nature of the various families is regularly praised in YouTube comments. As one viewer points out:
“They are so real. That’s what makes them unique. They don’t try to hide anything about their lives”
This openness breeds intimacy. Viewers can talk with fluency and depth about the characteristics of each family member and the tribulations they are going through. And that keeps them coming back each day to watch more videos.
What Can Brands Learn From SmellyBellyTV Et Al?
Firstly, we can see how much importance young kids place on authentic content. Content doesn’t need to be shiny or innovative if it can tap into the realness that saturates each of these videos.
Family vlogging content equally sheds light on the importance of staying on trend. Young people’s interests change rapidly, and they are consuming content at an alarming rate. Family vloggers recognise this and leverage the most up-to-date trends to accumulate massive viewing numbers.
Fundamentally, brands cannot become complacent when it comes to creating content that young people love. They need to channel the Sacconejolys and the Shaytards to figure out how they can stay up to date with the latest youth trends and inject that much needed realness into their content… while maybe brushing up on their slime-making skills at the same time.
By Debbie Bray, Co-Founder Hook Research
Hook Research is a media research and content development agency. We are proud to provide consumer insights and brand strategy to some of the biggest organisations across media, youth, and entertainment all over the world. Want to have a chat about how we can help your business? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org