By  on September 27, 2007

When Julie Supan was hired as senior director, marketing, at YouTube, she came in under unique circumstances. "I needed to help launch a site and build a brand — with no budget," said Supan.

Times have certainly changed for the almost two-year-old Web site, which is now the eighth most trafficked destination on the Internet. In November, Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in Google stock.

"The key difference about our site is about community in control," said Supan. "We let the community decide what's popular."

This strategy has resulted in three million videos watched daily, with 8,000 videos uploaded per day. She added that YouTube is successful because "you can watch what you want, when you want it."

The audience is predominately in the 18- to 55-year-old age range, but the topics covered via video have no limit. She showed some examples, ranging from a video that provides instructions on how to make an omelette in a Ziploc bag to another that chronicles a girl with bone marrow cancer who is trying to raise awareness for the disease.

Supan said YouTube also provides an outlet for companies to grow their brands. "You can reach out and engage a new audience," she offered.

In a departure from traditional marketing, Supan encourages fashion brands to build their own "channel" on YouTube to create buzz and promote new campaigns. "Use the resources you already have to produce short videos," she said. Neiman Marcus has taken advantage of the site, uploading videos with testimonials from figures in the fashion industry, including Giorgio Armani; Leonard Lauder; Stefano Pilati, creative director of Yves Saint Laurent, and Yves Carcelle, chief executive officer of Louis Vuitton.

Ford Models has also embraced YouTube. To date, the company has posted more than 257 videos and has approximately 13,000 subscribers. The videos show fitness and beauty experts and, of course, models. "It's been a high ROI [return on investment] and boosted the careers of some of the models," Supan said, adding Ford has made only a "modest investment" in the channel.

To Supan's surprise, magazines are becoming more interested in YouTube as well. She has been fielding calls from fashion magazines to learn more about the Web site and recently visited the publisher at People, who told Supan the magazine chronicles the lives of people, while "YouTube is a reflection of them."For brands considering YouTube, Supan has imparted three keys to success: be real, be consistent and be interesting. "If it's done for the community in mind, it will be successful," Supan said. "Our goal is to get more great content into the system."

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