Car manufacturers are very familiar with races on the track. But what about competition on YouTube? We did a study across the top 30 automotive brands worldwide, analyzing both videos created by the brands as well as the YouTube accounts of 1.5 million enthusiasts who have created their own videos about their favorite cars. Today we put the Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz brands to the test to find out how each brand is doing. All three are German luxury brands that perform well in the U.S. and across the world. But how well do they do on the world's No. 1 video platform?
YouTube: Owned Media
Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz each have a robust owned media presence on YouTube. They have many official channels, produce and publish many videos, and have broad audiences and good engagement with those videos. But as we drill down deeper into the analytics, we find that there are varying degrees of success for each brand across multiple categories.
In the first category, number of official YouTube channels across all countries and languages, it was a photo finish. Audi had 25, BMW had 25, and Mercedes was the winner with 26 channels. BMW was the winner in the total views category, with a total of 107 million views. Audi was second with 103 million views, and Mercedes-Benz was third with 80 million views.
There was a strong correlation between number of total subscribers and total videos. Audi was the winner, and BMW the runner up, in both categories. Audi had 570,000 subscribers and 3,293 videos, while BMW had 469,000 subscribers and 2,209 videos. Mercedes-Benz had 446,000 subscribers and 1,851 total videos.
But BMW took a strong the lead in the social actions category. Unlike TV or most other web video distribution platforms, on the YouTube racetrack likes, comments, and shares play a big role. BMW viewers created a total of 4.4 million social actions, or 1,992 per video. Mercedes-Benz was second with 3.3 million social actions and 1,770 per video. Audi had 2.6 million social actions and just 786 social actions per video.
How did BMW get so many more social actions versus its competitors? Well, the data shows that for BMW, getting more total social actions correlated with getting more overall views. In average social actions per view, BMW was just slightly behind Mercedes-Benz, 4.10% to 4.12%. But since BMW had more views per video on average — 49,000 to Mercedes' 43,000, BMW was able to tip the scales in its favor in overall social actions. Audi received only 2.51% social actions per video, and 31,000 views per video.
How Can These Brands Improve Their Owned Media Presence?
The owned-media numbers for each of these brands could be improved by focusing on gaining subscribers through a unified channel management strategy. Subscribers are a key indicator of how many non-paid views (and, as a consequence, social actions) a channel will get in the future. Averaged across all channels, these automakers currently have low subscriber numbers when compared to other non-brand created YouTube channels.
Audi is the leader on average across all its branded channels with 22,780 subscribers per channel. BMW is second with 18,764. Mercedes-Benz is third with 17,156 subscribers on average. Across its 25 channels, BMW has the largest single YouTube channel, with 369,000 subscribers. Mercedes-Benz has the second largest single channel of its 26 channels at 149,000. the largest of Audi's 25 channels has 65,000 subscribers. These numbers can be compared to the simple-yet-prolific channel of car-obsessed YouTuber SaabKyle04, who has 506,000 subscribers.
YouTube: Earned Media
On YouTube, brands can have an important voice. But they aren't the only ones talking about their products. For popular brands like these luxury car manufacturers, there are many other voices that get to have their say as well. Earned media videos, aka creator videos or fan videos, can come from many sources. These may be the YouTube channels for traditional magazines or TV shows where cars are regularly discussed or reviewed, such as Motor Trend or Top Gear. Or they can be YouTube-only automotive channels like SaabKyle04. These videos can also be created by small businesses, general news outlets, or individual owners who just want to show off their new car.
In the earned media category, the three automakers are virtually in a dead heat in the average social actions per view. Mercedes-Benz leads with 0.81%, BMW is second with 0.79%, and Audi has 0.78%. This means that across numerous fan-created videos, the average fan engagement per video remains essentially constant with these luxury brands.
But at this point in the earned media analysis the similarities disappear, and BMW takes a significant lead over its rivals. There were 178,000 individual creator channels that produced at least one video about BMW. Audi was second with 118,000 channels, and Mercedes-Benz was third with 89,000 channels. Some of these channels created more than one video. There were a total of 524,000 videos about BMW, 333,000 about Audi, and 325,000 about Mercedes-Benz.
But BMW blew the doors off when it came to number of total views from independently-created videos. Fan videos were viewed 4.2 billion times about BMW, compared to 2.3 billion views for Audi and 1.9 billion views for Mercedes-Benz.
95% of Audi, BMW & Mercedes Videos Created by YouTubers
Importantly, when totaling the number of overall views created by brands versus the number of views created by the community. It wasn't even close. Videos created by the YouTube community were responsible for more than 95% of all views about these brands. BMW was the leader in this category as well: 97.5% of its views were from community-created videos. The Mercedes-Benz community creators were responsible for bringing 96% of the views about the automaker, while Audi's community drove 95.6% of the views about its brand.
While brands like BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz have important voices on YouTube, it is clear that the community is driving the conversation.