5,747,586 – that’s how many subscribers Lily Singh a.k.a Superwoman has! I was at her last show in India a couple days ago, and my ear drums are still ringing with the constant screaming of some 800 kids – mainly girls, who showed me what stereotypical celebrity concert hysteria is!
I had a very interesting and illuminating time actually – there was a pre concert “meet and greet”, where I saw teenagers crying and hyperventilating at the thought of meeting their idol, and then there were folks who came upto my kids and said – hey, we are making a vlog – come join. The kids then sang some snippets of things that seemed to afford them great entertainment. (For those interested, that vlog is called chicken tikka brothers) On the ride back, I asked the kids in the car – what was the difference between a vlog and a youtube channel; and they ALL – including my 9 year old, told me – the blog is just about her life, following her, what she does everyday etc; while the youtube channel is the funny videos she makes that made her famous. In the YT channel, she stages it – puts lights, has a table, has a good camera etc. So I asked them why then wd she have both? Why not only one? And the young one told me – Ma, not all subscribers are fans . So, NOT everyone is interested in following her life! Early lessons to learn on social media, huh!
Then also followed this very interesting discussion on “who’s the youtuber you follow most?” Names like PewDiePie (who has some — hold your breath — THIRTY SEVEN MILLION subscribers!!! What does he do? put up videos of himself gaming, apparently!), Tyler Oakley, 6.9 mil, who started the channel primarily on LGBT issues, but has since broadened – and was even on the Ellen Show, Zoella, 8.2 mil, who makes videos on beauty tips, Miranda Sings, 4 mil, who is the SAME apparently, only an off-kilter avatar, as Colleen Ballinger running PsychoSoprano – 2.4 mil subscribers! Then there are travel guys like JacksGap, 4 mil, music guys like KurtHugo Schneider, 4 mil, and Collins Key, 400K, on magic.
Then the little one had her own favourites to contribute – Bethany Mota, 8.7 mil, who basically puts DIY tips type stuff, Rosanna Pansino, 3.9 mil, who makes cooking videos, Merrelltwins, 292K who write on I don’t know what, Jacy and Kacy, 231k, who run craft and cooking tips, and “challenges” – “challenges” are the BIG thing – bad food challenge, rainbow loom challenge, make up challenge etc. etc.
But, for me, the whole experience brought forth some very interesting lessons/ parallels:
a) Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown:
It’s a pity, but popularity comes with its own onus of responsibility! I googled Lilly Singh post the show, and she pops up FIRST as motivational speaker! And truly, part of the show was about happiness (her “happy place” is Unicorn island, which is the name of her tour), and how kids should believe in themselves; and how she picked herself up post severe depression, and how life is hard, but you most probably will get to see your dreams fulfilled if you work really really hard – but that being said, the hardest piece of work she ever did was to pick her up from depression and learn to be happy.
I was like – woooaaaah – THIS is the funny Lilly Singh? But, then my daughter told me – “ma, she gets millions of letters fromm people who were very depressed and they tell her that watching her videos made them get out of depression, and cancer patients who tell her listening to her make them feel so much better etc…“.
But I was like – omg, poor kid! Here she was, just trying to have a good time, and then she is saddled with this whole 6 mil people, and she cannot say trashy stuff, and she cannot let them down…blah blah blah.
Folks in any kind of leadership position in any role will empathise – the minute you have fans/ followers/ subordinates/ children – you jolly well watch each and every thing you do/ say/ eat etc…as a senior leader in the org that took over my startup once told me, I really want you and your co founders to join me leadership – it’s really lonely at the top!
On this note, I just read this article on Kangana Ranaut declining an ad endorsement deal for INR 2 crores coz she didnt want to propogate the idea of fair skin! Way to go, and that’s a true example of responsibility beding executed well
b) Brand Reputation – and its sphere of influence:
So, as opposed to the screaming hyperventilating, sometimes crying teenagers, I was viewing the show on its own merit – I watch a lot of shows, and don’t watch a lot of youtube. So, to me, each of her famous lines were NOT famous, and her clever references, just words! What that meant was that i wasn’t in it for the celebrity/ fan-dom thingie at all, but just to watch a stand up comic-ish person.
Now, don’ get me wrong, I like her videos – I think she is funny, has a knack for hitting the right spot, and is very good at mimicry. But, as a stand alone performance her SHOW was , I wd say, just average! Then what price the screaming hysterical kids? Even post show, every child I spoke to, luuurrrved her/ thought she was rilly rilly funny etc..
I figured it was because she has built up a super image and fan base – so she cd get by, by just “referring to” her popular stuff on her videos – whether it is her collaborator Humble the poet and their songs, e.g., IVIVI, her parent characters, Paramjeet Singh (who says don’t wear Mini skirts and don’t talk to boys, and eat “jogurt”; and Manjeet Singh (who gives tips for spicyness and “seskiness”) , her superwoman gestures….whatever. After all, when the audience is in a mood to be overwhelmed, they WILL be.
It’s like the parallel with brands – they spend megabucks on advertising to build a brand – so that, sometimes when the actual product is not so great, the brand carries it through (for a while Google Glass maybe could be placed in this category. Oh btw, did you know that Google Glass may be coming back?). Or, in services examples, say Accenture builds up this formidable rep, and post that wins many deals on rep alone (nyaaahhh, doesn’t happen – but deal making does becaome easier)
The catch here is ofcourse that real brand value has to be delivered sooner rather than later. In this case, I’m sure it will be. But, does make you think about brand building, reputation and extensions (talking about “joghurt”, remember cosmopolitan yogurt?)
You’ve got to hand it to these youtubers – they really know the mantra for global appeal – and now even I’ve figured it out! You have to be either funny, (Superwoman is very very funny on her videos), “cool” – now this is a relatively more difficult to describe word, or well, not to decsribe coz we all know what cool is to us; but to enact/ BE! But I am guessing cool becomes cool more by outcome than by the input/ action – so it’s how your peers and idols behave when faced with this aspiring cool thing that determines if a thing is cool. But I also see, that most often, success comes with REAL stuff – stuff that’s straight from the heart, stuff that resonates with the audience and is not faked. To give kids their due, today’s kids are very very quick at detecting “fake” – and they react therefore positively to stuff that’s NOT. Lilly spoke about true life experiences, and touched upon stuff that ALL in the audience, whether 9 yr old like my young one, 14 like my older one, or close to 50 like their mom – could nod at!
(An interesting side piece of analysis seems to be that most of the youtubers I mentioned above are 26 – is that the sweet spot age for success?)
This I think is a great lesson for management folks, and also advertisers – actually, why stop there – parents, teachers, husbands, wives, you name it! It’s best to be atleast 2 out of the RFC trio to create success – but obviously, the R is the most important – it lets you reach people, and, as I have said before, it really is about the people!
d) The Art of the Split Personality
In our time, what you saw was what you got – maybe we had a school face and a home face, but that was it! Now, one has (and maybe should have), a school group 1 face, a teacher face, a school group 2 face, a home face, a facebook face, a snapchat face, a whatsap one, a linkedin face, a vine, a youtube, a …a….a! (Btw, as you may remember from my earlier post, each face SHOULD behave differently atleast in the social media channels!
Lilly Singh, has what the kids called, her “parent” personalities – each of them is her obviously, each of them now has independent twitter, and what she called “instantgram” handles. Each of them (or, well, she dressed up as each of them), promoted and asked for subscription to, each of these handles. Each of them exists in a parallel universe!
Now, dont get me wrong, split or even multiple personalities are as old as time. From Vishnu’s dash-avatar or 10 incarnations; to Jekyll and Hyde; to Batman/ Bruce Wayne or Superman/ Clark Kent or Spiderman/ Peter Parker, we are familiar with all of them. But never have all personalities existed simultaneously – which brings me to the question – how do these kids deal with these? Is it a generational cohort thing? or just a byproduct of technology? And more worrying to me as a parent, what then is constant? (And, to refer to an earlier thread, how do they which is REAL?)
This btw, spins traditional marketing completely on its head, doesn’t it? STP – who do you target if the target is multiple? do you disambiguate this multiple personalities, or address each separately? If former, or even if latter, which ones?
e) New styles of Marketing:
i) Marketing is getting more aggressive – witness multiple avatar handles marketed at same time; promo tours; the whole digital landscape
ii) Its more crowd sourced – The entity being marketed doesn’t necessarily have to do it themselves – there are apps/ twitter handles/ vlogs ….AND people taking selfies/ pictures all the time to post
iii) Younger and younger kids now understand it
So the question seems to be – are kids getting stuff too early? is success/ gratification/ the trappings of the material world coming too early? Isn’t it better if kids remained kids?
Also, in the whole hurry to take pictures and post them, aren’t the kids missing out on the beauty of what the naked eye sees and remembers? Out of the 800 show attendees, atleast 90% had the video/ photo stuff on ALL the time (intact, Lilly even said – guys, you watch my videos on the net all the time- now that I’m here, watch me LIVE)
All in all, it was a super evening – the kids met an idol and were part of a hysterical mob and I learnt many things about kids and kids in mobs and youtubing and vlogs.
I think, all else notwithstanding, Superwoman is quite amazing, and, as I told her during the meet and greet – the world needs more like her!