If you’ve ever seen a wacky video of a full-grown man eating a gummy worm the size of a human arm, you’ve probably seen Vat19 in action. With over 4.1 million subscribers, Vat19’s YouTube channel has not only become the mainstay of its retail business, but also has transformed the company into a content leader. The zany channel features hilarious challenges, extraordinary experiments, and best of all, gigantic candy.
1. Where does the name “Vat19” come from, and how did you come to establish the company?
The story behind the Vat19 name is a secret.
In December of 2006, my company did two things: we sold video production services (shooting and editing) and we made original content that we sold on DVDs on our website and Amazon. To promote our DVDs, we made somewhat quirky trailers.
Around that time, a key employee quit and I decided to pivot the company to more what it is today. I stopped selling time (the video production services) and stopped making our own products.
Instead, we began to make somewhat quirky commercials for other companies’ products.
2. How do you and your team come up with Vat19’s crazy products?
We have a talented team of buyers who search the globe looking for curiously awesome products. We test every product thoroughly before deciding to carry it.
3. How do YouTube and social media play a role in developing your consumer base and your brand?
YouTube is very important. Interestingly, when I first started posting videos to YouTube, it was merely for their robust (and free!) video hosting.
Ten years ago, we did a lot more PPC advertising and banner advertising in order to get the word out about Vat19. Today, we focus more on YouTube and social media.
4. Aside from product commercials, how does Vat19 use social media video and trends to supplement the YouTube channel?
We’ve had some success with video on Facebook in terms of driving traffic to our website.
A “hit” video on Facebook, however, does not seem to increase your fan base nearly as much as a “hit” on YouTube increases your subscriber count. Facebook feels much more hit-driven whereas you can build a community on YouTube.
5. What is Awesome Time, and how are you using it to connect with your customers and YouTube audience?
We started Awesome Time in 2012. It is our twice-monthly video newsletter where we showcase all of the new products we’ve added to our store. We don’t have the capacity to create a dedicated video for every product, so we use Awesome Time to fill in those gaps.
6. As an influencer, how does Vat19 decide on which brands to partner within your YouTube content?
Did their check clear? In all seriousness, that’s super important.
But all kidding aside, we feel like we’re creative enough to find a way to work with nearly any brand. We’ve spent the past 10 years practicing the art of selling people stuff, so we feel absolutely zero shame in promoting another brand’s product or service. It’s what we do!
Plus, our fans fully understand that we’re a store, so it doesn’t come across as “weird” when we promote another brand.
7. Lightning round:
Favorite gummy item?
Giant Gummy Bear or Worm?
Why do I have to choose? They’re both perfect.
Weirdest invention from Vat19?
As a retailer, we don’t actually make most of the products we sell. However, we did come up with this gem: The Stank Prank Candle.
The candle, disguised with the name “Orchard Breeze”, starts out smelling of sweet apples. But after a few hours, the scent turns into what can only be described as a breeze made of farts.
8. What message do you hope to send to your audience at the end of the day?
We’re the most fun place you can go shopping online for unique and unusual gifts.
9. What is a piece of advice you would give to other entrepreneurs and social media creators?
When you first start out, save most (if not all) of your money for advertising, promotion, and marketing.
Customers aren’t that impressed that you were actually able to create your product or service. That’s a given despite how torturous the process may have been to actually bring your product or service to market. Very few products are so magical that they’ll “sell themselves”.
You need a lot of money, time, and luck to promote yourself.
10. What are some new upcoming projects you can tell us about that your audience should be excited about?
On November 2nd, 2017, we’re releasing the first episode of the Vat19 Movie. Subsequent episodes will be released daily until the story concludes in dramatic fashion.
It features a lot of the characters that our current fans already know and love — and, of course, features a healthy dose of product placement.