Vlogs, explainers, unboxings — whatever genre you go with, go with confidence.

In the previous installment of our guide to building a successful YouTube strategy, we talked about the features you can optimize — from clickable titles to appealing thumbnails — in order to increase the efficacy and reach of your video content.

Now, we’ll discuss the main genres that drive traffic on YouTube. From “Unboxing” videos to the classic “Explainer,” each genre offers something unique, but only a few will truly propel your brand, product or service, and KPIs forward. Most importantly, remember: YouTube’s algorithm learns based on human behavior. And that means that getting your videos in front of users isn’t about gaming the system with unconventional videos or gimmicks — it’s about producing content they’ll love.

1. Unboxing

It’d be an understatement to say that unboxing videos are popular. According to Google, the amount of time people spend watching videos of this category in a year — just on their phones — is the equivalent of watching Love Actually more than 20 million times. They’ve become such a runaway hit that startups solely devoted to aggregating and disseminating unboxing videos in the style of QVC have begun to pop up left and right. So, just what are they?

In unboxing videos, YouTubers open products and review their first impressions in real time. The format allows viewers to vicariously experience purchasing a new gadget, beauty product, or video game. When searching for this style of content, most users aren’t just curious — 62% of them are researching a potential purchase. So, if you’re looking to introduce your product to an engaged “bottom of the funnel” audience, unboxing videos might be the best format for you.

2. Vlog

Vlogs, or “video blogs,” are informal, direct-to-camera videos in which YouTubers talk about current events or tell personal stories. While YouTube is flooded with aspiring vloggers, the biggest channels give primetime TV a run for its money, with popular videos amassing millions of views within days of release.

Vlogs create an intimate connection between the video creator and viewers in ways other formats simply can’t. Since most vlogs rely on something of a cult of personality around the host to draw in viewers, building a following from the ground up can be daunting; but sponsorship opportunities — such as Unilever’s partnerships with prominent vloggers — abound.

3. Explainer

Sometimes, it’s best to illustrate a problem to your viewers, and then explain why your product can save the day. In explainer videos, YouTubers use screen capture tools, graphic design, or cartoons to make the case for a solution they believe in. The goal is to convey your industry expertise and thus gain the trust of potential customers or clients. The longer you can keep users engaged — through humor, compelling narration, or fun design — the more likely they are to trust your brand.

While some explainer videos are polished, impressive productions — like this example from Mint, a financial planning platform — they don’t have to break the bank. Screen capture videos present a cost-effective alternative, functioning as a hybrid between a product review and traditional explainer video.

4. Whiteboard

Cue whiteboard videos, the business casual cousin of explainers. By identifying a problem and making the case for a specific solution — just like explainers — whiteboard videos appeal to no-nonsense decision-makers in search of a quick rundown on your product or services (and what they stand to gain from investing in them). They generally mimic a real-time presentation style that brings the audience along for the ride.

Popular whiteboard examples — from Coca-Cola’s strategy video to Purina’s mesmerizing pet food ad — succeed by signaling industry expertise while prioritizing watchability.

5. Fireside Chat

YouTube favors brevity, but industry experts and interested consumers won’t mind diving into longer videos if the subject matter is compelling. Fireside chats can provide just the right format for a lengthier exploration.

Typically, these videos feature a guest who’s well-versed in a specific issue and a moderator who fields questions — such as this talk with Jeff Bezos for the Internet Association. Fireside chats are a useful way for your brand to address current events and developments that apply to your field, thus setting yourself up as a thought leader and a trusted resource within your industry.

Go Forth and YouTube

This list is by no means exhaustive — among the categories we haven’t touched upon are the equally valuable tutorial, compilation, and reaction video. The five we have explored, however, should give you an idea of how you can best communicate your brand’s mission to your target audience.

If you haven’t yet established your YouTube presence or feel it’s in need of a serious upgrade, review parts one and two of our strategy guide and hop to it!

Author Jake Dawe

Jake works with our clients and L&T's content management team to create and publish cogent, effective marketing content. A recent graduate of Yale University with a B.A. in American Studies, Jake pursued independent research that traced the evolving voice of ``Shouts and Murmurs`` over ninety years. When he's not writing and editing, Jake is probably watching The Crown or making up for four years of lost pleasure reading. Thanks, college.

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