Fan Videos Drive 86% of Branded Content Views on YouTube

At ZEFR, we’ve built a business out of understanding that fans are not pirates, they’re partners. Before we came along, fan uploads of copyrighted content would swiftly get a takedown. By managing virtually every major media company’s digital rights on YouTube, ZEFR has pioneered a revolution, helping studios to recognize that fans are a resource and a boon to business (quite the opposite of a threat). With over 95 percent of all premium content generating from fans, the takedown approach is not only unfeasible, it’s counterproductive, and bad for business. Fans are, after all, fans. They are enthusiastic and energetic and a force to be taken seriously not silenced.

After this revelation was understood by the studios partnered with ZEFR, and new strategies were adopted by our media clients, we began to wonder whether that same trend held for brands. Lo and behold, as we began working with more and more brands, we kept seeing the same trends. For every “official” upload from a brand, nearly ten more were fan-generated.

We published some early research about these trends and have since added a larger sample size, including an increased spectrum of brands, both large and small, while also taking into account the specific products themselves.

The results of ZEFR’s latest research takes a random sampling of 75 brands, representing everything from a major organic grocery store, to airlines, home decor retailers, casinos, and companies selling sneakers, musical instruments, beer, fast food, denim, and toys. Within this sampling we also included companies as small as an independently owned athletic wear company to the largest big box retailer in the country.

branded content from fans

Across this wide spectrum, ZEFR found that 86 percent of all branded content views on YouTube come from videos uploaded by fans. We also found that the bigger the brand’s presence on YouTube, the more that presence is contingent upon fan uploads.

The exact revelation that forced the major studios to restructure their relationship with fans re-uploading copyrighted content is one that now faces the largest (and smallest) brands in the world. Find your fans. Foster meaningful relationships with them. Engage with and integrate their enthusiasm into your overall strategy, or risk falling behind every competitor that already understands the unlimited power of fandom.

ZEFR has written a trio of eBooks, providing a more comprehensive analysis of this dynamic between fans and brands, available as a free download. In “Anatomy of a Fan” you will learn about the fans themselves—where they are, what they do, and what drives them to create video content. In “Beyond Reviews,” the ZEFR research team uncovers data and provides insights into the most effective video styles that influence shoppers. For our third eBook, ZEFR spoke with some of the biggest industry insiders about YouTubers’ experiences working with brands. The result, “Guide to Brand Integration on YouTube,” is an invaluable resource for brands seeking to work and make deals with influencers to reach the broadest audience possible.


Get future posts delivered to your inbox

  • Oliver Harper

    I’ve had a lot of bad luck dealing with ZEFR. Reviewing movies is something I do for a living and enjoy doing. All my appeals are denied by them through the YouTube dispute process most of the time within minutes of submitting an appeal. I’ve had to contact the movie studios direct which isn’t any easy thing to do by the way, to get ZEFR to remove their claims, because the studios make great efforts to review my content and realise my work is beneficial. It’s a huge shame ZEFR don’t allow content creators to monetize their work.

  • LarryBundyJr

    Sorry, but I have to completely disagree with your article. You say you regards fans as partners, and not pirates, but from all experience ZEFR have been anything but. it’s total hypocrisy.

    If anything, in the “fan community”, ZEFR are actually regarded as bullies.

    This whole article is essentially you saying, “we’re nice guys as we’ve not pulled your video”, but what you’re actually saying between the lines is “…but we’re taking all your potential ad revenue from your hard work from it”.

    You DO regards fan as the enemy as you see everything in black and white, that “fans” are only uploading clips of the movie, when in actual fact we fully comply with fair use laws and uses a miniscule amount of video footage in reviews and retrospectives. And from experience my own movie review series (videos I somethings take MONTHS to produce) and has video views of over 300,000 views a video, and reaches an audience of currently 75,000+ subscribers, has generated thousands of dollars in DVD and Blu Ray sales.

    I would honestly give my right arm to be able to approach SOMEONE and do some sort of cross-promotion as the potential revenue would be vastly beneficial to ALL parties. But no, All I get is either ignored or a condescending email saying “well it is copyrighted footage…” and all this leads to is NEGATIVE press, which is why ZEFR is regarded as so poisonous in the fan continuity. People have even given up making content because of their unrelenting harassment.

    It’s like you going to an advertising agency to promote a video, then saying “oh we’re not going to pay you for it as you’re using our footage”. It’s an insane business model and completely counter productive, yet no one can actually see that. You would rather take the few pennies a lot of us make on videos and have negative press than working as a synergy.

    We would honestly LOVE to work together, even on a shared revenue source as it would be great to work as friends, rather than enemies. But you have a all for us or nothing mentality and that hurts all involved.

    So sorry, you preach as you’re the nice guy doing this for the community, but all you’re doing is spreading resentment for both yourself, your clients and your clients customers.

  • Nevermore Raven

    You have no interest in working with us, more against us. Which is sad as the videos I have made have had a great deal of support from the production teams that made the films, music or the products I review. Working with the is not the issue, it’s you making assumptions and making their job and my job 10 times more difficult than it has to be. I sadly have a more popular channel elsewhere that does ZEFR, me or the people I talk to any favors because half the stuff I have onBlip cannot be uploaded to YouTube thanks to your interference.

    There is no piracy or stealing of content in what we do. We provide the one opinion that matters in this industry, that of the fans upon which your market relies. I get the impression that you are more afraid of adapting to the needs and wants of your base market and instead want to feed them what ever it is you want them to swallow, which is sad in this day of the information highway, as opinion is more on the rise and people like you tread on it like a boot to the human face.

    Learn to work with us rather than against us and you may find a more profitable base. You only protect what you are slowly loosing in this ridiculous battle against fair use and fail to see the potential profit we can actually offer you.