YouTube boosted a new breed of celebrities: names like PewDiePie, Smosh and The Fine Bros may not invoke recognition with all readers of this blog, but they do have more than 56 million subscribers together on YouTube and they are truly famous amongst the younger audience. These YouTube creators are the heroes of the new generation and brands can learn a lot from their content strategies. YouTube analyzed the success of her top channels and based on that formulated the hero, help, hub content framework and ten content principles to help brands build strong branded content strategies. Two heroes that are both very successful on YouTube are master Chefs Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay. Let’s compare their channels based on the models created by YouTube.

Comparing the YouTube channels

A quick look at the channels shows that Jamie overall is doing a better job. He has more subscribers and more views. Particularly in terms of subscribers his advantage over Gordon is big.  

Stats Jamie versus Gordon

Jamie has more subscribers and views on his YouTube channel than Gordon

However this isn’t all related to the strength of his content strategy. A quick look in Google trends shows the popularity of Jamie globally is about twice as high as that of Gordon. So that will naturally bring more subscribers and views to his channel. With that in mind, Gordon actually isn’t doing that bad.

Google Trends Jamie vs Gordon

Almost twice as much people search for Jamie vs Gordon (globally)

Hero, help, hub content: Jamie versus Gordon

The hero, help, hub content framework balances push content with broad relevance (hero content) with pull content that answers questions that people ask online (help content) and supplements that with content that is meant to keep people coming back to your channel once they have been there before (hub content). Both Jamie and Gordon do a nice job ticking all three boxes and both are publishing videos on a regular basis: Gordon uploads new movies to his channel about once or twice a week and Jamie even uploads about four to five times a week.

The figure below is a snapshot of the different kinds of content Gordon creates.

Gordon HHH

Most of the hero content is actually created outside of YouTube. The big hero moments for Gordon are the launches of his cookbooks and of course his TV shows. On his YouTube channel, Gordon also has some nice pieces of hero content: he has a hero format that feels a bit like Guinness world record. One example movie is Gordon eating the hottest curry in the world, that has almost three million views.  Help content logically focuses on recipes, but also on cooking tips (e.g. how to skin and debone a fish). Gordon finally has two great hub formats to keep people coming back to his channel. Hub formats are a bit like creating a format for a TV show so you can keep publishing new movies with a regular drumbeat. Gordon does so with the formats “Gordon’s great escape” and “Chef Ramsay in disguise”. The first format is like a travel show focused around food and the second is more like a ‘prank format’: Gordon dresses up like a different person and then participates in cooking courses of other famous Chefs pretending he cooks for the first time and then miraculously creating the best food ever until the point that he gets unmasked as Chef Ramsay.      

The hero, help, hub content framework from Jamie looks very similar to that of Gordon, but it is more elaborate and very well structured in playlists on YouTube.

Jamie HHH

His TV shows and cookbooks are pieces of hero content. Jamie however also creates hero content around what we call ‘tent pole’ moments. He for instance creates recipes tailored for days like the 4th of July, father’s day and valentines day. His help content also focuses on recipes and cooking tips (Jamie’s 1 minute tips). For help content Jamie however also focuses on drinks and cocktails and he even answers common questions around establishing healthy eating habits for children. Finally, in his hub formats “Jamie & Co” and “Fresh talent” Jamie collaborates with other Chefs sharing their specialties.

The ten content principles from YouTube

Now let’s compare the two channels based on the ten content principles of YouTube. Both Chefs did an awesome job with their channels and they really tick all boxes. You can see below how I scored Gordon: ten out of ten. His movies answer many common questions about cooking, so his content is discoverable. His channel is organized well, so you can easily see what content is available and each piece of content is valuable on its own, you don’t have to watch videos in specific order (accessible). The content is high quality and relevant and many pieces are very entertaining which makes it shareable. Gordon collaborates with other Chefs in his “Gordon in disguise” format. He talks in consistent tone of voice to people that are cooking enthusiasts, tends to speak directly to the viewer and he consistently uploads new movies within his formats (targeted, conversational, interactive, consistent and sustainable). Last but not least, Gordon is himself, a Chef with clear identity (authentic).

Gordon 10 principles

Gordon’s content strategy scored based on the ten YouTube content principles

Despite the great work Gordon delivered, I believe Jamie did even better. You can see in the figure below how I scored Jamie. I scored Jamie higher on accessible because of the beautiful structured way of organizing his playlists. It is very easy to see the broad variety of types of content Jamie creates in one overview if you enter his channel. I am pretty sure almost any cooking lover or even a person that loves healthy food but has little time to cook will find something that interests him or her within a short glance at the channel. I also believe Jamie invests more in collaboration with other Chefs in his formats “Jamie & Co” and “Fresh talent”. This is highly valuable because both parties of the collaboration get to tap in each other’s fan base. As a result both are likely to gain viewers for their channels. Finally, I scored Jamie higher on interactivity. Even more than Gordon, he explicitly asks his viewers to engage and comment and to subscribe. A nice example of that is the movie “Slap Jamie Oliver and subscribe” where Jamie makes creative use of clickable areas in the video to create interactivity allowing viewers to choose the story in the video. Both Jamie and Gordon are super consistent in recommending new videos after you watched one. At the end of each video you’ll find links to other videos you might find interesting to keep you engaged in the channel.  

Jamie 10 principles

Jamie’s content strategy scored based on the ten YouTube content principles


Who is Laura Vitale?

Looking at these two great channels you’d expect things can’t get much better anymore. Not true. Ever heard of Laura Vitale? Let’s have a look at the stats and you’ll know why I am asking: Laura has more subscribers on her YouTube channel “Laura in the kitchen” than both Jamie and Gordon and she has about twice as much views on her channel.

Laura in the kitchen stats and content

Laura Vitale has almost twice as much views on her channel as Gordon and Jamie

Laura completely built her fanbase by creating great cooking content on YouTube. She wasn’t famous in any way before she started vlogging. After the economy went south in 2008 and her father closed his New Jersey restaurants, Vitale found herself without an outlet for her culinary skills and cooking passion. So, while remodeling their home, Joe Vitale built a model kitchen in their basement in hopes Laura would take the hint and whisk her way into the world of cooking videos. Somehow, despite not being famous, Laura managed to get more subscribers and much more views on her channel than two of the world’s most famous chefs and as a result she has even launched her own TV show. Here are some things Laura does very well and that I believe have contributed to her success.

Know your audience

First of all, I believe Laura listens very well to her viewers and because of that understands exactly what questions she needs to answer with her video’s. I played around with YouTube for a while typing many of the most common cooking questions in the search box to see which of the three channels appeared on top most often. About two out of three times, if I entered a commonly asked question about cooking in the search box, Laura’s channel ranked higher in the results than those of Gordon and Jamie. You can easily see what commonly asked questions from users are by typing a word in the search box and then looking what suggestions the search box makes. In the example below I typed “how to bake”, resulting in nine suggestions of commonly asked questions about baking. I believe Jamie and Gordon rank lower on these types of questions because their video’s are often focused on relatively ‘fancy’ recipes. The names of their video’s are less straightforward than those of Laura, who uses recipes like “Homemade cupcakes”, “One pot single step spaghetti” and “Peppers and egg sandwich”. These names are a very close match to the questions people ask online. Of course the choice to go for more advanced recipes for Gordon and Jamie can be a conscious one because they are high-end Chefs, however it comes with a trade off which is narrowing down your audience towards cooking fanatics as opposed to the average home cooker.   

YouTube cooking searches

Laura’s video’s are a close match to the most commonly asked questions about cooking on YouTube, which results in her videos often ranking high in search results

Thumbnails that are suitable for every screen

Another thing that Laura does very well, is creating crisp and clear thumbnails. This is particularly important if you search for videos on a device with a small screen. In the figure below you can see a side by side comparison of the thumbnails of the three channels.

Smartphone thumbnails

Both Jamie and Gordon use small logos in their thumbnails which is a smart thing to do given the fact that both of them are famous: the logos are a stamp of recognition on the video. The use of these logo’s however also raises challenges when trying to convey the content of your video amongst a big list of search results. Gordon’s thumbnails are somewhat dark and Jamie’s are somewhat messy (many elements), which makes it hard to see in one glance what the video will offer. Laura’s thumbnails focus entirely on the food with as little distractions around it as possible. The difference is subtle, but you have to keep in mind that one of these thumbnails has to compete with many other thumbnails within the list of results after a search query and a viewer will make a choice within a split second. Details can make a big difference here.

So how did Laura score on the ten content principles?

You can see how I scored Laura on the ten content principles below.

Laura in the kitchen ten principles

Due to her super clear thumbnails and the fact that Laura matches her content and channel structure so well with the basic questions people ask about cooking I scored her extra high on discoverable and accessible. The tone of voice of Laura is clearly aimed towards normal people cooking normal food, which makes her videos very targeted and consistent. Her super consistent shout outs to comment, subscribe and engage make her very interactive and of course she has an authenticity that two famous Chefs cannot really compete with because of the fact that she is a “normal” woman cooking from a “normal” kitchen right in her own home.    

This blog is based on the book “Online Brand Identity”. The book covers various topics related to this article, including:

  • Building branded content
  • Hero, Help, Hub strategies for brands
  • Passive versus active dialogue
  • Making most out of mobile for branding
  • Making best use of the digital creative canvas

You can find a free sample of the book here.