Brand Spotlight

It’s easy to measure how the “Star Wars” franchise has performed in theaters – just add up the box office receipts, as Hollywood has been doing since the days of Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith (“The Birth of a Nation”), and you’ll see that its taken in nearly $6.4 billion worldwide.

But how is “Star Wars” faring on YouTube, where millennials and Gen Z spend hours entertaining themselves and researching potential purchases, as well as posting self-made videos?

To find out, Disney enlisted ZEFR to do a study. It revealed that between August 2015 and August 2016, fans posted over 838,000 pieces of “Star Wars”-related content on YouTube adding up more than 2,296 per day and nearly 96 per hour. “Star Wars” content created by fans also scored impressive numbers, racking up more than 16.3 billion views in the same year-long period, which is the equivalent of everyone in the world watching at least two user-generated clips.

Those YouTube numbers are important to Disney because it’s using the platform – and its users – as a key component in its “Star Wars” merchandising strategy.

On Sept. 4, 2015, well ahead of the December opening of its franchise reboot “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Disney unveiled its new lineup of “Star Wars” merchandise – including including top toys from licensees such as Hasbro and LEGO – with “Force Friday,” an 18-hour, global unboxing event live streamed on YouTube, spanning 15 cities and 12 countries, that featured top digital stars from Disney’s Maker Studios division.

“You had a major retail promotion going on concerning part of the toy line, two and a half months before the film launched. That’s outside the realm,” said Marty Brochstein, SVP of industry relations & information for LIMA (the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association). “For most tentpole movies, the consumer products get to the shelf generally about six weeks ahead of the movie launch date.”

Disney’s outside-the-box YouTube global unboxing proved to be a big success. According to market research firm NPD Group, in the immediate wake of Force Friday, Star Wars merchandise had weekly sales that were six times its recent average, and it went on to become the #1 toy property of 2015, with $700 million in sales.

This year, Disney staged another merchandise rollout on YouTube, this time in anticipation of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” opening today. It kicked off in August with the debut of a series of fan-made animated shorts on the Star Wars YouTube channel. They were produced through a competition staged by creative network Tongal, which had creators pitch, write and direct original stop-motion shorts starring key toys from the new line from Hasbro, LEGO, FUNKO, JAKKS Pacific, Mattel and Disney Store.

It was followed by a global #GoRogue fan content contest launched on Sept. 30, which called on creators across gaming, lifestyle, comedy and family verticals to make videos featuring characters from the new movie. More than a dozen Maker Studios creators also participated in the project, including Action Movie Kid, Chris Pirillo and My Froggy Stuff.

Disney’s massive, highly orchestrated product rollout for the new “Star Wars” films is light years away from the stunted campaign staged for the first film in the franchise.

When “Star Wars” opened in May 1977, it was not picked to be a giant hit. Science fiction was not considered a bankable genre and, worse yet, the film had no stars, unless one counted sixty-something Alec Guinness, best known for his Oscar-winning turn in “The Bridge on the River Kwai” twenty years earlier.

So perhaps studio 20th Century Fox and toymaker Kenner can be forgiven for being woefully unprepared for the holiday demand for “Star Wars” toys. Instead of finding Han Solo action figures and model Millennium Falcons under the tree on Christmas morning, kids tore off the wrapping to discover Early Bird Certificate Packages, a cardboard slat featuring photos of “Star Wars” toys, “Star Wars” stickers, a “Star Wars” club membership card and a postage-paid mail-in order card good for four action figures (Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and R2D2), to be delivered an unspecified number of months later.

But in spite of its fumbled launch, “Star Wars” merchandise proved to be a game-changing juggernaut.

“That movie really is looked upon as the launch of the modern movie licensing business, to where, by the early early ’90s, the prospective amount of consumer products business you could do became part of the financial equation as to whether or not a movie would be greenlit,” said Brochstein.

In the nearly 40 years since the original “Star Wars” was released, licensed merchandise from the franchise has grossed more than $12 billion. A healthy portion of that money has gone to original “Star Wars” writer/director George Lucas. Fox owned the first film, lock, stock and sprockets, but the studio let Lucas retain the sequel rights – an indication of how low expectations were for the film — and he used it as leverage. When it came time to negotiate with Fox for what became 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back,” Lucas asked for and was given the merchandising rights to the franchise in exchange for letting Fox distribute the next two sequels, while he retained ownership of the negatives.

The money from the “Star Wars” merchandise enabled Lucas to ambitiously expand his production company Lucasfilm, which spawned successful VFX (Industrial Light & Magic) and sound divisions (Skywalker Sound), helped pioneer nonlinear editing systems (EditDroid and SoundDroid), and incubated Pixar (founded in 1979 as the Graphics Group in Lucasfilm’s Computer Division). It also made it possible for Lucas finance the first three “Star Wars” prequels released by Fox.

Eventually, “Star Wars” would provide Lucas with a cushy retirement. In 2012, Disney bought  Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion and announced an ambitious slate of “Star Wars” sequels, as well as plans to add Star Wars Lands to its theme parks.

And what of Fox, which traded the “Star Wars” merchandising away to Lucas? It still owns the rights to the first film (a.k.a. “Episode IV – A New Hope”).

Cultural Trends

In part one of our three-part series, “Parenting on YouTube,” ZEFR Insights explored pregnancy trends on the platform. In part two, we focused on the early days of parenting to find the best of the endless video trends from baby showers to rocker reviews to cutting edge tech. With part three, we age along with the child, arriving squarely in the midst of those sometimes complicated toddler years.

But in keeping with the happy sentiment of the series, YouTube is here to help yet again, and ZEFR Insights has unearthed some of the most useful toddler trends on the platform.


Food: Keeping Picky Toddlers Happy and Healthy

That beautiful bouncing baby used to eat, well, anything. Now, that baby has grown up a bit and has the wherewithal to grimace and turn away from the approaching spoon with disgust! Thankfully, YouTube has plenty of advice to offer, with vloggers covering everything from healthy eating to cooking quick meals that reflect the family’s culinary values. For example, YouTuber Catherine McCord runs the channel Weelicious, where she makes weekly videos devoted to “fast, easy and fresh homemade” recipes.

WhatsUpMoms is a collaborative channel run by Elle Walker and fellow moms, Meg and Brooke. Among the many videos the channel features, some of the most popular are Meg’s food-focused episodes. These videos are not only instructional for nutritional ideas, but can also double as interactive instruction manuals, allowing viewers to pause the step-by-step instructions as they actually prepare the recipe at home along with Meg.

Are you a health-conscious parent? Meg has you covered:

Problems with a picky eater? Meg has some ideas for that too:

Smartly, baby food brand Gerber has taken notice of this trend and created a series of videos on their official channel featuring useful baby and toddler feeding tips.

How Do I Know When to Start Baby Finger Foods?:

How Do I Encourage My Toddler to Eat Healthy?:

Clothing: From Baby Gap to Disney Hauls

Much like the Beauty gurus who’ve gained widespread fame on YouTube, some parents like to show off the clothes they buy for their children in similarly styled toddler clothing hauls. In fact, not all of these videos come from just parenting channels. Many YouTubers who specialize in other areas (mainly Beauty) will make haul videos when their own baby or toddler has arrived:

A brand such as Baby Gap would be wise to consider exploring the platform and unearth content they could align with successfully, especially this YouTuber and her store-specific hauls:

Even family destinations (Disneyland, anyone?) might want to take a look at what some vloggers are doing in preparation for the big day out:

Travel: Staying Safe with Stroller and Car Seat Reviews

A major priority for new parents is making sure they are well informed about the best and safest gear for traveling with the family’s newest member. Yet again, YouTube can quell some of these anxieties in new parents with its informative content.

There are videos dedicated to reviews of strollers, helping the indecisive couple with too many choices:

Of course, picking a proper car seat comes with a host of anxieties, especially when trying to determine a balance between value and safety:

Some brands have even jumped on YouTube to assist new parents with instructional videos, such as this one from Graco on how to install a car seat:

There are also videos from helpful YouTuber moms on how to properly use baby carriers like this one from Baby Bjorn:

What Brands Should Know

In summary, when consumers are faced a new problem, the solution is likely to be found somewhere inside the vast universe of YouTube, a place made infinitely more navigable for brands thanks to contextual targeting technology from ZEFR.


For now, ZEFR Insights concludes its series investigating “Parenting on YouTube.” We invite you to revisit (or discover) Part One and Part Two, or check out our Beyond Reviews eBook featuring 12 types of videos influencing shoppers.

Click here to download the ZEFR Insights Report!


Brand Spotlight

“The Happiest Place On Earth” certainly lives up to its title when it comes to making content for YouTube. Disney Parks offers heartwarming videos, artistic videos, themed videos, and everything else under the sun that is sure to bring a smile to your face.


Paid Media Example: Grumpy Cat Finds Her Disney Side

Disney Parks has been upping their participatory game by asking people to “Show their Disney side.” In the process, some videos have emerged that could only be a product of the internet. Many famous YouTubers have filmed themselves in the park, doing various vlogging activities with a Disney twist. And, nothing is more emblematic of our current online culture than Grumpy Cat. Eat your heart out Internet.


Earned Media Example: Splash Mountain, Front-Seat POV

Now, videos of this sort probably pre-date YouTube, but it’s their presence on the platform, and hence their instant accessibility, that make them extra special. The ability to live vicariously through first person POV videos from anywhere in the world, all with the simple click of a play button, is the type of social connection that exists all over YouTube. And, in the case of this front-seat POV ride from a roller coaster fan,  this unique perspective increases the desire to actually experience Splash Mountain in person, either for the first time or to relive your childhood dreams.

With over 4 million views to date on this fan video from The Coaster Views (a channel with over 100,000 subscribers devoted to views from rides), everyone wins from a video like this.


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Holidays are all about celebrating traditions, and when it comes to Halloween, that means celebrating candy, costumes, and scaring the crap out of people. So, here are a just a handful of videos featuring brands, from this year and from beyond the grave, to add to your trick or treat bag for today.

First off, three favorites from 2013 posted to brand channels:

Try to find which one of these brilliantly uses fan submitted content.


(FYI, the original video on Crest’s official channel has been removed. So, you can thank the fans for being able to watch this re-upload.)

Chupa Chups


Next, three awesome fan creations:

Can you spot the brand partnership?

Disney Parks



Finally, a couple from beyond the grave:

And, one of these has been kept alive thanks to a reupload on a fan channel.



Oh, and just because it’s awesome:

DED Talk


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