The top fashion brands on YouTube, in 5 charts

The fashion industry is not making the most of YouTube.

Around 90 percent of fashion brands have a presence on the video-streaming site, according to new research from business intelligence firm L2 and YouTube marketing platform Pixability. That sounds like a lot, but that’s actually a bad look for the fashion world, said Andreas Goeldi, chief technology officer at Pixability.

“The fact that some fashion brands have no presence whatsoever is quite shocking,” said Goeldi. “Nobody in the beauty industry now would consider not having a channel.”

Still, there are some standout fashion brands finding major success on YouTube. We dug into the data to determine which brands are killing it on YouTube, how much they’re spending on the platform and what’s holding the broader industry back. A few takeaways:

Chanel is the clear leader.
With nearly 350,000 subscribers, Chanel has the top brand fashion channel on YouTube. The company has racked up more than 140 million views on its YouTube channel, outpacing the second-most-watched fashion channel, Louis Vuitton, by an impressive 46 million views, according to L2’s research.

“It’s a combination of content, having a strong paid-ad strategy and giving people an environment where they can actually engage,” said Goeldi. “Chanel has a keen awareness of what kind of content really resonates with its audience.”

Fashion brands lifetime YouTube views
Fashion brands’ lifetime YouTube views through Nov. 2014 (Source: L2 / Pixability)

The company has a video series about the history of the brand, “Inside Chanel,” that has performed extraordinarily well (perhaps because it declines to explore founder Coco Chanel’s activities as a Nazi agent). One episode, “The Jacket,” details the evolution of Chanel’s jacket designs. It has 855,000 views. In another, “The Colors,” a smooth, sultry narrator explains Chanel’s color palette, in stark contrast to the rapid cuts of the visual component. That one has nearly 2 million views. There are 44 total episodes, most a few minutes in length, many of which have accrued millions of views.

“The low-performers tend to have unimaginative content: Let’s just film our latest fashion show and upload our TV commercials,” said Goeldi. “That stuff doesn’t cut it anymore. You have to have medium-length content that’s unique to YouTube. That’s what the audience expects nowadays, and that’s what the strongest competitors do.”

Dior is the fashion industry’s top YouTube spender.
Dior has spent nearly $4.7 million on YouTube over the past year, according to Strike Social, a certified YouTube data partner that estimates online video spend. Chanel had the next-largest YouTube spend, more than $2.8 million, followed by Hugo Boss at more than $2.2 million, Lacoste at nearly $2.1 million and Calvin Klein at a touch above $1.7 million. (The Strike analysis did not include Louis Vuitton.)

Strike Social estimated spend
Fashion brands’ estimated YouTube spend over the past year (Source: Strike Social)

Chanel has the highest proportion of earned views (views that come through search and social sharing, as opposed to views driven from paid ads). Of Chanel’s 55 million YouTube views over the last 12 months, 19 million (35 percent) came from organic sources. Dior’s channel racked up close to 61 million views over the same period, but only 11 million (18 percent) were earned views. That’s a testament to the high quality — and shareability — of Chanel’s videos, said Patrick McKenna, CEO of Strike Social.

“Channel has five of the top 10 best-performing videos in the category, and every video they have in the top five has a ton of organic views,” gushed McKenna. “Chanel’s creative and content producers should be applauded. … Great creative gets rewarded on YouTube.”

Strike Social earned vs paid views
Fashion brands’ earned views vs. paid views over the past year (Source: Strike Social)

Fashion brands’ YouTube style needs a makeover.
The fashion industry has discoverability issues on YouTube. While nearly 80 percent of official brand channels pop up on the first page of YouTube search results in response to brand queries, fewer than half have content that reaches the top three results, and fewer than 20 percent control the top spot, according to L2’s research.

Part of the problem, explained Goeldi, is that many brands aren’t hip to best practices for the platform. A full 24 percent of YouTube videos published by fashion brands do not include text descriptions, limiting search visibility, according to L2.

“Many brands still struggle with using effective titling, descriptions, tagging and so on,” said Goeldi. “Metadata is not rocket science, but it’s something that a lot of brands have not figured out how to do.”

Only three fashion brands — Chanel, Dior and Burberry — have north of 100,000 channel subscribers. The average fashion brand on YouTube has 33 percent fewer YouTube subscribers than Pinterest followers, despite YouTube’s substantially larger user base, according to L2.

That’s not to say fashion brands aren’t growing their YouTube followings. During October 2014, the average fashion brand had 204 percent more views and 87 percent more subscribers than they did during the same period last year, L2 found.

Fashion brands' YouTube growth
Growth in video views vs. subscribers across 74 fashion brand channels through Oct. 2014 (Source: L2 / Pixability)

Some of the most successful fashion brands, Chanel included, overlap closely with the beauty market (cosmetics, fragrances, hair care and so on). Beauty-focused videos tend to perform better on YouTube than strictly fashion-oriented content, according to L2’s research.

“A lot of the most successful brands are the ones that have exposure in both of these sectors,” said Goeldi. “The competitiveness of beauty in digital helps these brands become more sophisticated in their strategy.”

That’s also a reflection of the young YouTube audience, which has an easier time affording beauty products than high-priced fashion items, added Goeldi.

“Beauty is also more interesting to some extent, because beauty tutorials tend to be quite detailed, whereas fashion tends to be quite limited from a video perspective,” he said.

Fashion vs. beauty
Beauty vs. fashion on YouTube through Oct. 2014 (Source: L2 / Pixability)