People love food-focused programming. Yet, many food brands rely on TV to carry their messages, which is an expensive way to build an audience of buyers.
San Antonio-based grocer H-E-B, one of the nation’s largest family-owned businesses with 350 stores throughout Texas and northeast Mexico run lots of TV commercials but only has 32K subscribers on YouTube.
SUBWAY Restaurants is on TV every day, but the sandwich maker only has 73.5K subscribers on YouTube.
The Food Network runs food-forward programming on cable all day, every day. The network has 838K subscribers on YouTube.
Bon Appétit has 4.61M subscribers on YouTube—six times as many subscribers as The Food Network, which has a lot of subscribers.
All of this leads me to ask, what’s up with Bon Appétit? How do they do it?
Bon Appétit Is Unafraid of Long-Form Video Content
Haley Nahman, Deputy Editor at Man Repeller, wrote an interesting piece on the media brand’s success on YouTube.
The story centers around Food Editor Claire Saffitz. Saffitz got her degree in American history and literature at Harvard in 2009 and unsure of what to do after graduation, she enrolled in culinary school. When she finished, she returned to school again: this time for a Master’s in history at McGill University. The lady is smart and she loves to cook.
Twenty-five episodes in, her show Gourmet Makes is now the most popular franchise on Bon Appétit’s YouTube channel.
Shows like Gourmet Makes, Reverse Engineering, and Making Perfect are recipe videos that feel like something your chef-friend might make for you if you asked nicely. Almost all of them surpass 10 minutes in length, many approaching 40.
Today, Bon Appétit has the fastest growing YouTube channel in the food category, with over 40M monthly views and over 5B minutes watched.
Reverse Engineering Is A Practice We Can All Get Into
To understand something deeply, something like what makes Guy Fieri’s Trash Can Nachos work, or what makes Bon Appétit ‘s content sing, it’s helpful to “reverse engineer” the problem. To do so, you start with the finished product and deconstruct the opus into elements.
For me this is the key: Food is personal and the people who prepare it are interesting humans with personality. This is why people watch recipe shows on TV and/or on the web. It’s why people book fancy dinners months in advance, and why they take such great care to host dinner parties at home. It’s also why people spend many thousands of dollars to travel to exotic destinations to eat the food featured on these shows and learn how to prepare it.
To take this idea a step further. People want to eat the food that they see prepared on the shows they watch, but more than that, they want to eat the dishes that Claire Saffitz or another celebrity chef prepares because then it’s extra special. Why is it extra special? It’s extra special because the dishes are dipped in stories that are told by skilled, charismatic, and authentic chefs.
Bon Appétit is also successful on Twitter and everywhere the brand lives digitally. On BonAppetit.com there’s a prominent podcast, among many other juicy servings. The lifestyle brand has taken age-old traditions and smartly updated them for the digital age. Intentional viewers can use their DVR to capture their favorite food-related TV programs, but with YouTube, all the episodes are just sitting there waiting to be played.