Over recent years we’ve seen a huge change in the way consumers discover brands and make purchase decisions. In this digital world the internet provides easy access to opinions on pretty much everything out there.
Studies show that 83% of consumers still trust recommendations from friends and family - people they feel a connection with and who don’t have a vested interest in selling a product. This is true of everything from retail to health regimes and travel.
Travel influencers have certainly had a huge impact within the digital world and the way people see their travel options. These influencers inspire their followers and communities to be adventurous and spontaneous, and to branch out of their comfort zones. This week we caught up with Karl Watson who has amassed nearly 37,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel which is dedicated to backpacking around the globe.
Describe yourself and your channel?
My name’s Karl Watson, I’m a freelance video editor based in London. My main passion is going off on backpacking adventures around the world and sharing them through my YouTube channel.
The idea of my videos was not to do the usual short vlogs or music montages of my travels, but to create TV style documentaries, complete with music, maps, voice-over, everything, to give the audience pure escapism. I want them to hit play on one of my episodes and forget they’re sitting there in front of their screen - and just feel like they’re on the trip, experiencing the adventure with us.
What inspired you to share your passion for travelling in documentary form on YouTube?
For me, a video of an adventure is the ultimate souvenir as I get to relive the trip through it. I’d been making videos of my travels for years, mostly for myself as a hobby, but it was only in 2014 that the YouTube channel really began.
The previous year, my mate James and I quit our jobs and went backpacking round the world for 9 months and filmed our entire trip, just using a home video camera, and created an 11 episode series “HK2NY: Hong Kong To New York”.
It went online towards the end of 2014, I had no idea if anyone would watch it, especially since the majority of travel videos on YouTube were short form, not a series of 45 minute episodes. Gradually as the months went by the views and subscribers began to build up. In the space of 2 and half years the channel grew from 0 to 35,000 subscribers, with over 2.5 million views.
How have you worked with brands before?
One of the main brands I’ve worked closely with is STA Travel. This was in two capacities, the first was editing some of their campaign videos that were shot by other people. The second was self-shoot directing and editing videos for them in different locations around the world.
Another was filming for 3 weeks in Australia, this was a joined venture between STA Travel, Queensland Tourism Board, Gold Coast Tourism Board and Contiki tours. I got to travel around with various other backpackers, creating promo videos for their ‘Make Waves In Queensland’ campaign, the highlight of which was filming at the Great Barrier Reef.
How do you decide which products to endorse or promote on your channel?
If I endorse or promote a product on my channel, it’s because I’ve tried and tested it. Whether it be a useful piece of kit to have on my travels, or a tour company I’ve used, I have to believe in it before I promote it.
What would you like to see brands do to work better with you?
I get lots of offers just to do simple product review videos. I think it’s much better to naturally show a product in action rather than a straight-up “I’ve been sent this for free, this is why you should buy it” video.
From speaking to my subscribers, I know they get sick of YouTube channels that started off sharing travel experiences, and now just become clogged up with product review videos.
Whilst there are some channels dedicated to product reviews, and that’s what their audience wants, for someone like me who shares authentic, honest travel videos, I would lose a lot of trust with my audience if I suddenly start plugging loads of products. I think brands have to think of more creative ways to get their products across.