Building Brands That Last (1/2): Creating Scarcity on YouTube

[This is the first part of a two series post. Click here to read the second part.]

Once you’ve defined your brand and found your edge, the next question you should answer is: How do I create videos that last? And that’s the purpose of this post.

The ultimate goal for a brand strategy is to create something that lasts over time. Then, through consistency and showing up in a regular basis, your videos can be known over time. It’s not about getting an overnight success and then stop. Unless, of course, your goal is to get a hit and then retire, but I guess you just don’t want that. Your goal is about how you can create something that is relevant and don’t miss its essence over the years.

There are a lot of videos and channels on YouTube that have been hits for years. And it’s possible for you to achieve something like that while building a great brand.

However, to make sure you understand the idea perfectly, I’ve separated in two posts the idea of creating something that lasts on YouTube. So with this post, the first step is to create scarcity on YouTube in order make your content indispensable. Thus, in the second post we can cover the main idea of creating content that lasts.

Scarcity is what drives today’s economy. In fact, economics is the Greek work for scarce. The beauty of being scarce is that (1) you can’t be easily copied, and (2) your product increases its value. Then, it’s easy to conclude that by being scarce your competition has a bumpy road to take you over.

Solving problems

If people go to watch one of your videos, it means they want to solve a problem they have. (And I’m not talking about a problem with the faucet and how to fix it.)

And if you can solve that problem, they’re going to trust you (a bit more at least), so you have the opportunity to be on the radar of their minds.

What happens is that, when someone has a problem and enters on YouTube to solve it, you only have one chance to tell them your story. Because if you tell it wrong, the next time they’ll know they’re watching a video from you so they might skip your content and click on another one.

When you’ve solved their problem, you’re getting closer to get more trust. But at that point it only means they’re willing to hear your story. If you tell it right, you’ll earn their permission (maybe they’ll subscribe), but it’s for sure they’ll come back again to solve their problem.

Well,you might be asking yourself what is that problem about? This is different for each case, but it can be loneliness so they want to be connected to other people, it can be fear and they’re looking how to feel less afraid, it can be to impress somebody: their family, friends, boss… You can increase the list but these are some reasons people actually go to YouTube.


Who is your channel for?

What problems does your audience have?

How can you solve those problems?

Is it going to resonate with them so they can tell it to their friends?

Going against the norm to thrive on YouTube

As marketers, we’ve got the responsibility to make ethical decisions with what we do. And, before we dive deep, here is interesting to come up with the difference between manipulation and marketing.

Manipulation is when somebody open your video (often through a catchy headline or an attractive girl on the cover), regretting it afterwards. (And you know it.) Manipulation is a short-term strategy that sooner or later punches you in the face (always.)

Good marketing is when you persuade somebody to watch your video, and, afterwards, the person will be happy that they found you. That person will be happy because you’ve solved that problem.

Alas, YouTube is full of videos that tries to manipulate you to fulfill the ego of the marketers that just want to boost their visits. Again and again this is all based on near-term thinking forgetting the damage you’re doing to a brand in the not-so-far-away-term.

How many videos have you watched, where the title made you expect something that you might be looking, ended up being something different? More times than you can count I guess.

YouTube is full of manipulation. But…

Every problem comes with an equal or greater opportunity. Napoleon Hill

This is a great opportunity for you. Because you’ve got the chance to go through the noise and tell your story in a way that resonates with people. You’ve got the opportunity to solve somebody’s problem, in a way that when you solve it with your video, that person is going to tell it to 10 friends. They’re going to be happy that they know you.


The challenge here is this:

Can you tell your story in a way that resonates with people and at the same time it solves their problem (not everybody’s problem)?

Taking it to the next level

Emulate drug dealers. Make your product so good, so addictive, so “can’t miss” that giving customers a small, free taste makes them come back with cash in hand.

ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Folks at Basecamp (authors of the book Rework) got it right with the drug dealers concept. Maybe for you money is not involved yet, but this idea still remains. You’ve got to make it your videos so good, that people come back for more.

So let’s see how you can emulate a drug dealer

The lock-in effect: a double-edged sword

The lock-in effect means when is just too hard for the consumer to switch.

This is a technique that is really close to manipulation unless you do things right. However, by YouTube’s nature is complicated to do it in an unethical way. Anyway, just to make it clear, when I talk about the unethical lock-in practices I’m referring to the companies that use this technique to actually make it really difficult (in terms of money, time, or hassle) to switch. The best examples are banks, phone providers,…

On the other hand, there’s the ethical use of the lock-in effect, and this one is built in the brand itself. The best example that comes to mind is Google. They’ve created a powerful brand that people still use it, despite knowing that the search results are sort of the same in other sites like DuckDuckGo, where they don’t track them.

Another less obvious example is YouTube. Now they clearly have the monopoly of video. People instead of searching videos on Vimeo or even on Facebook, the lock-in is so powerful that everybody goes to YouTube.

And that’s what you should aim to. You’ve got to make your brand so good that when they want to solve their problem people will seek your videos.

In the end, the lock-in effect is emotional. And when people find a solution (your videos) to their problems, they won’t switch easily.

Resonating with an audience by being scarce

Now that you know you can build a remarkable brand and use the lock-in effect in your channel, sooner or later you’ll figure out that, in order to maintain that engagement, you’ve got to build your permission asset. And this step comes before you even jump into YouTube (!)

If what you want to do is build a remarkable brand, this is the way. If you just want to make some hits with a few videos maybe this is not for you. However, you’ve got to build a structure from the beginning that allows you to take your brand to the next level. And here is where you’ve got to go out of YouTube.

The problem with YouTube is that your contact with your audience is just there. Nevertheless, you can build a direct communication that doesn’t involve YouTube. So here’s where building a direct communication with your audience becomes critical to the survival of your brand.

I’m sorry to tell you this, but there’s no a map to follow, or technique to build your permission asset. But I can tell you that, right now, one of the best ways is email. Because it’s been around for decades and you can have a direct communication without third parties involved.

Thus, you can build a variety of things around your brand that would increase the lock-in effect in order to get emails for your permission asset. It can be through a free ebook, a blog, newsletter, podcast… Whatever is more valuable to your audience that matches your brand’s story.

There’s no recipe. You’ve just gotta find a way to get people’s permission to contact them. What would you achieve with this? The first this is a parachute in case YouTube crashes (unlikely, but worse things we’ve seen). And the second is that, you can contact them directly if you have something to tell them (it can be a new product, an event…), something that they might miss if they don’t watch your videos. In the end, an email is personal and relevant. YouTube is great but we haven’t achieved that point yet.


Do people come back to more (just like drug addicts)?

Is it easy for your audience to switch or you have a strong emotional link with them?

Are you working on your permission asset?

How to become scarce on YouTube

Now it’s time: How can you become scarce on YouTube? That’s a hell of a question actually.

Before we tackle it let’s remark two big problems:

1. There are millions of videos to choose from (and nobody knows you.)

2. Most videos are not social.

So with these point in mind we can say that, to create scarcity on YouTube, you’ve got to make your videos for your audience, and make them viral, in a way that you connect people with each other.

Let’s tackle them separately.

Videos for your audience
It’s been said that writers don’t write for themselves, they write for their audience (with a few exceptions). So don’t make videos for yourself, make them for your audience. And of course don’t make a video that you know isn’t gonna work.

Making videos for your audience means finding a reason so the user tell his or her friends. The key point here is to make it better if the video is better if your friends are watching it.

Make your videos viral
When I say to make a video viral I don’t mean to make it an overnight hit. I mean to build it in a way that spreads organically through the people you want to resonate to. And you do that by making video for your audience, and making your videos in a way that people will be eager to tell their friends.

Make sure your videos are viral in the sense that it can go from person to person among the people of that category. You don’t have to go big.

That’s how every single viral video starts.

Making videos for your audience and thinking in virality, allows you to spend zero dollars on traditional marketing and avoid the TV-Mindset where brands and YouTubers end up spamming people. All you need is to resonate with one person with your videos, so he or she can do the marketing for you by telling to their friends how your videos solved their problem.


Are you building your videos to be social?

Do you make videos for your audience or for yourself?

Would people among your category be eager to share your video with their peers?

Stay scarce

Once that you’ve answered those questions you’ll have to cross the chasm at some point.

The point of being scarce is to be valuable to a certain group of people. If you get a lot of subscribers and people give you their permission to send them relevant content, there’ll a point where you’ll try to please everybody, but you don’t have to.

In fact you don’t need millions of fans, just a few thousands. Here’s interesting to quote Kevin Kelly and his article of 1.000 True Fans:

“To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.

A thousand customers is a whole lot more feasible to aim for than a million fans. Millions of paying fans is not a realistic goal to shoot for, especially when you are starting out. But a thousand fans is doable. You might even be able to remember a thousand names. If you added one new true fan per day, it’d only take a few years to gain a thousand.”

Kevin Kelly

When you reach that point, you either stick with your audience and keep creating value for them, or you extent your brand trying to please everybody (see point one and five in this post). That’s where you should figure out that your job is not to expand that audience with your product. Your job is to find more products to your audience.

Because once you’ve got enough people (here is interesting to define a priori how many people you actually need to achieve your/their goals) there’s no reason for you to say how do I get more subscribers, you say what other products can I provide to these audience that will still match the story I tell?

The main idea here is not to get as big as possible. The point is to know really well your audience and resonate with them in a way that they tell other people. You might get bigger or not, it doesn’t matter. What matters is whether you have a spot in the consumer’s mind or not.

Final practice

Do people know you?

Do these people trust you?

Do they want to hear your story? If not, why don’t they?
Are you resonating enough with them so you can have the opportunity to get their permission?

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[This is the first part of a two series post. Click here to read the second part.]

Recommended lectures

1.000 True Fans

22 Branding Laws to consider before jumping into YouTube (points one and five)

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