Like takeaway food, online video can be consumed pretty much anywhere.
Engaging video, with its heritage in television programming and advertising, is eminently sharable through social media, and can be staggeringly successful, or altogether lacking in umami.
So, which brands are using video, and YouTube in particular, to great success? How have these brands approached the creative in shareable content, and who has yet to nail it?
First of all, it's important to make plain that food is a seriously emotive subject. Nothing, quite, gets the juices flowing like the prospect of mastication.
Looking at a recent report by OpenSlate Studios, it's perhaps surprising to see food and beverage brands only make up 9% of the top 500 brand YouTube channels. This is despite the top three food & beverage brands (Pepsi, Red Bull, and Coca-Cola) being among the largest of all brands on YouTube, with combined monthly views of more than 50 million.
However, looking further, the chart below shows that food and drink brands in the top 500 have an average subscriber number second only to the technology sector.
This shows that even if some of the food and beverage brands aren't as big as those in other sectors, they certainly inspire engagement. All this represents the perfect stock on which to build a recipe for online video success.
Socialbakers is a good place to look at the biggest food brands on YouTube. This data, and specifically the hegemony of fast food outlets, is likely fairly easily explained. Fast food outlets make a lot of money and have the easiest platforms from which to engage online; many branches representing an undiluted physical presence, a fairly consistent and smallish product offering, strong branding and a big old heritage in all forms of paid advertising.
Branding kitchen ingredients is a little more difficult, creatively, but nevertheless, we can point to many successes!
Let's take a look at success stories from YouTube. Tuck in that serviette, and wash this down with a nice dessert wine.
Sweet stuff, like humour.
Applegate ellicited genuine chuckles from within me, with this video about the quality of the meat it sells (part of the 'What's in your Hotdog?' campaign). Applegate uses video well on its website, as well as hosting on YouTube. On YouTube the company has had more than 2.3 million views, and arguably could have had more.
Applegate also does a good line in wholesomeness, with videos showing the provenance of said hotdogs. Again, there's probably more social sharing or promotion that could be done to get a greater audience for this and similar videos, but one can't fault the creative involved.
The recent 'Giant Surprise' campaign is brilliantly made. Oblique videos, showcasing suprising talents, with classy commentary from a genuinely non-irritating host. Social media is signposted well on the Green Giant website (which isn't particularly engaging, in terms of current web design trends), and offsite is obviously seen as the place to engage, through social media.
Although only currently clocking around 250,000 views, the Green Giant YouTube channel has somewhat been turned around by the Giant Surprise campaign, which is a great example of shareable creative.
Whole Food Market does a great line in wholesomeness, understandably.
The 'Love Local - One Wine' video ranks top in YouTube and Google Video searches for 'local wine' and similar terms. Whole Food does scale very well, with around 800 videos on its channel. The videos are fairly prominently featured on its website, too.
The YouTube channel has around 6.5 million views and hosts an interesting mix of content, including the 'Tiny Victories' series, showing families how to slyly up the healthy eating of their kids, to a series on looking after the environment through your consumption.
Kraft, with its cooking school YouTube channel, does something that is ingenious in its simplicity. By concentrating on social food, such as barbecues, the videos are eminently shareable, and correlate well with search terms.
With over 22.5 million views of the channel, videos such as this 'Burger Basics' are still pulling in the punters. Kraft nicely links to other social networks as well as its recipe site from the YouTube channel.
Once more, social is given great importance on the Kraft Recipes website, being almost as prominent as its logo.
Unilever's Meadowland is an interesting case study. Unilever has a harder job than, for example, fast food joints, because it owns lots of companies, and lots of the products don't necessarily lend themselves to broader content marketing. The website can also be fairly dry in places, including my favourite copywriting - 'it tastes and performs just like dairy cream'.
Of course, Kraft took the approach of including lots of products through a recipe channel. And Unilever does do this with some of its brands, including Knorr, to follow.
Unilever takes a different approach with Meadowland. Using a one trick pony (but a beautiful pony), the videos discuss how difficult it is to split a carton of Meadowland. Unilever Food Solutions' channel has only had 160,000 views, but the 'hard to split' vids have been viewed tens of thousands of times each, and represent a step change from some past attempts at video marketing.
Again, the television heritage, higher appreciation of creative, and shareability all count towards its success.
Knorr, with Marco Pierre White, took the route of bringing in a chef with proven top-end skills and the ability to define good cuisine. When this is added to what can be described as everyday (almost run of the mill) products, there's an interesting point at which perhaps the consumer starts to rethink a product range and even brand.
This is what Knorr was banking on with White. The Knorr recipe channel on YouTube has had nearly seven million views in three years (most in the last year) and is now very well-stocked with White recipes and adverts.
Content from television has also been included, where White had appeared on cooking programmes, though interestingly not to explicitly promote Knorr.
Here's a carbonara recipe that's had 65,000 views.
These are perhaps a little unfair, at least for my first suggestion. Still, to put other players into context, we should look at some big brands that aren't doing that well with online video.
Ben and Jerry's have different channels for different nations. The US channel is the biggest, but only has 473,000 views since 2008. The videos are fairly interesting, but with Ben and Jerry's heritage with TV ads and an active social presence on platforms such as Facebook, YouTube could be a channel to push further.
Krispy Kreme seems to have a disparate set of YouTube channels (Krispy Kreme UK, etc) none of which have particularly interesting content. If you search for Krispy Kreme, you mostly get this enterprising rapper.
Given his enormous number of views, it's likely people want to find Krispy Kreme on YouTube, and certainly its UK presence (less established than US) could benefit from some good content to share.