YouTube as a Culture Engine

The definition of culture reads: ‘The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively’.  We were all around when the revolutionary platform YouTube was introduced. We all remember the first viral videos; from ‘Chocolate Rain’ to ‘Leave Britney Alone’ (Oh my days!) – but YouTube is now much more than an unregulated platform kids use to watch cult videos. It’s a ‘Culture Engine’ that churns out consistently relevant content that both the public and brands can utilise.

Charlotte Morton, Head of Creative Agency Relationships at Google, introduced us to the concept that ‘YouTube is a culture engine for the 21st century’.  But what does that mean? YouTube is an ‘intentional’ platform – one in five YouTube views is driven by a search – but the difference between YouTube and other social websites like Facebook and Twitter is that it’s not just a reflection of culture but in fact a locomotive in which culture itself is created at break-neck speed.  With over a billion users a month and no commissioning editor, the site gives its users a completely open canvas and outlet for creative expression. We are free to decide which parts of culture we want to immerse ourselves in, taking our experience through our own camera angle – very different to the world of spoon-fed media 30 years ago.

YouTube generates new culture by consistently cross-pollinating themes and interests. From ‘Gangham Style’ and ‘One Pound Fish’ to ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’, there are no limits to the themes of YouTube user-generated content.  Brands must dig deep to reap the benefits from a host of native behaviours. It’s a question of finding what it is their consumers are already tuned into and running with it. How can they take advantage of content and reclaim ideas to optimise viewer retention on their own videos? Brands now have to be actively aware of YouTube as a Culture Engine, because nowadays, some users actually have more of an impact on how their target demographic views their product than they do.


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