Brands on YouTube: DC Shoes and Pushing the Limits of Owned Media

For many brands taking an initial dive into the world of YouTube marketing, their attention is focused squarely on building out their official YouTube channel and making it as awesome as possible. This official video content is what we call a brand’s “owned media” presence.

While owned media by itself won’t give you the full picture of a brand’s presence on YouTube, the amount of control that comes from managing an official channel makes it an obvious starting point for brands new to the platform. In that spirit, today’s post is about taking those first steps onto YouTube and what we can learn from one of the current masters of owned media, DC Shoes. Though, we will also begin to ask why having a successful channel is only the beginning for understanding the platform, and why focusing solely on owned media can result in missed opportunities.

Consistent posting, and the evolution of video marketing

DC Shoes joined YouTube on April 3, 2007. To give a sense of how far video marketing has evolved since then, check out what DC Shoes posted on that very first day:

This 0:24 second teaser isn’t exactly the most engaging piece of video out there, as evidenced by its less than 6K view count to date. However, as one comment from this video points out…

brands on youtube dc shoes 4

How far indeed. In October of 2013, Mashable posted a list of the 10 biggest brands on YouTube, based solely on the subscriber counts of brands’ official YouTube channels. The name that stood out the most from that list was DC Shoes, as the rest is rounded out by less surprising names like RedBull, Apple, and Nike, four gaming brands that are really more about media than anything else, everyone’s favorite video camera, GoPro, and Pepsi, whoever they are…

DC Shoes, on the other hand, is a relatively niche consumer product brand that is clearly doing something right to amass nearly 800,000 subscribers and over 321 Million views on their channel as of this writing. So, how’d they do it?

For starters, uploading new videos on a consistent basis is frequently cited as one of the most important factors for channel success on YouTube. As explained in YouTube’s very own creator playbook, regular posting, setting up a schedule, and being timely all contribute to keeping an audience fully engaged. Here is a graph showing DC Shoes’ video uploads by year:

brands on youtube dc shoes 5

After a couple slow years, in 2009 DC Shoes decided to go all in, peaking in 2011 with 121 videos uploaded to their channel. Interestingly, they dialed it back a bit in 2013, which could indicate a couple different things. First, it’s possible they took some more advice from YouTube’s creator playbook, which says, “Your channel should be active; promote new videos and other programming activity without overwhelming your subscribers with too much information.” Another possibility is that DC has begun to understand that owned media isn’t the entire story when it comes to YouTube, requiring a shift in focus and resources, which we’ll consider later on.

In any case, frequent posting has the added benefit of increasing your chances of scoring a major hit with the YouTube audience, which has less to do with simply “going viral” with some one hit wonder and more to do with creating consistent, quality content that is perfectly suited for the platform. And so, as early as July of 2008, DC Shoes found a potential recipe for success with this 3 Million plus view video, which gave us just a glimpse of what was to come:

What in the world is “Gymkhana”?

Sorting a channel’s videos by “most popular” is a simple way to get a feel for a channel and what has worked well over the years. When looking for DC Shoes’ most popular piece of owned media, you’ll find one of the most epic uses ever of the streets of San Francisco, by way of a type of motorsport called “gymkhana“:

With over 60 Million views since it was posted back in 2012, this video is part of a whole series featuring Ken Block, a professional rally car driver, burning rubber like a bat out of hell. If the blazing speeds made it difficult for you to see the “shoes” that are being marketed here, I grabbed a couple screen shots for you:

brands on youtube dc shoes 2

brands on youtube dc shoes 1

If you’ll recall, Ken Block is the same Ken Block from the July 2008 video above, which reveals how a persistent strategy of investing in this style of videos paid off for DC Shoes four years later with the San Francisco based masterpiece.


By the way, that insane driver Ken Block also happens to be one of the co-founders and Chief Brand Officer of DC Shoes, raising the bar considerably for any co-founders out there looking to appear in their own videos. Moreover, Block’s gymkhana videos exemplify the essence of what makes DC Shoes’ channel so compelling – namely, watching incredible athletes pushing the limits at the highest level of their sport, all while staying true to the brand’s street sensibilities. This becomes more obvious when looking at the channel’s more recent uploads.

Letting influencers, and fans, shine

If highly produced motosport videos seem to stray away somewhat from the core of DC Shoes’ skateboarding audience, a glance at the past year of content should serve to remind people why their shoes became a huge hit in the first place. These videos are clearly meant to showcase the cast of skateboarders, snowboarders, and other athletes who can show their fans how it’s done out in the real world.

Letting these major influencers from the “off-YouTube” action sport universe become the stars of the show is clearly a main focus of the channel. The description of the channel reads, “As one of the cornerstones of its marketing strategy, DC has built a world-class team of professional skateboarding, snowboarding, and motocross athletes that exemplify and enhance DC’s brand, develop its signature products, and support its promotional efforts.”

Take a look at this video featuring the highly talented Nyjah Huston:

Posted in December of 2013, this video is one of the most popular for DC Shoes as of late, and it’s “raw & uncut” feel is precisely the kind of content that any young kid with a camera could strive to recreate on his own, making it perfect for YouTube.

But why?

The answer stems from this idea of DC Shoes fans creating their own videos. Imagine thousands of kids, all wearing DC Shoes, filming their own GoPro enabled videos and uploading them for the world to see. Which finally brings us to the limits of “owned media” and into the vast realm of “earned media” on YouTube. Consider the following “unboxing” video from a fan out of London:

This video just might be the most important one in this post, because it serves to remind DC Shoes that their owned media, while certainly impressive in its own right, is simply on a different playing field when it comes to the kind of authentic, fan generated content influencing people’s purchasing decisions, all done on a massive scale that one official channel could never contain. Furthermore, in order to discover and understand this playing field, brands like DC Shoes need to start paying attention to what is happening outside the walls of their official channels and engage with their fans in new and creative ways. The opportunity is there, it’s just waiting to be discovered.


Get future posts delivered to your inbox