Beyond Gaming: How ‘Fortnite’ Is Disrupting Traditional Marketing on YouTube and Facebook

By Bree Brouwer · October 03, 2018

Beyond Gaming: How ‘Fortnite’ Is Disrupting Traditional Marketing on YouTube and Facebook

Note: This post was updated on April 19, 2019.

Jimmy Fallon’s late night team made an incredibly smart marketing move last week. The team combined two very popular topics in online video right now (K-pop music and the Epic Games title Fortnite) by booking the famous Korean band BTS and having them participate in the viral Fortnite dance challenge where members had to mimic the moves of characters from the popular video game.

While this decision clearly reveals NBC’s close attention to some of the biggest trends in the world, the result was also some indirect but incredibly powerful marketing for Fortnite. And that’s partially why the Epic Games title has seen such explosive success: disruptive marketing.

In many ways, Fortnite marketing has ignored the way the video game industry traditionally handles marketing. Cultural- and fan-led content has driven massive interest in the title without Epic Games having to do much of anything. Plus, instead of relying solely on teasers and trailers for upcoming video game titles, the game publisher has taken a decisively more involved approach to its social video strategy.

We have the facts to prove it, too, thanks to Tubular’s new Q3 2018 State of Online Video (SOOV) report. Here’s what we discovered about the unique Fortnite marketing strategy!

Fortnite Marketing Reaches Beyond the Gaming Industry

Back in April, I covered the incredible viewership Fortnite videos were receiving on platforms like YouTube and Facebook. Even then, I knew something was “up” about the way the game was gaining traction both inside and outside gaming circles. Why? Because out of the ten videos I covered, seven of them had nothing to do with gameplay content or trailers; they were all about funny moments, fails, and Fortnite-related challenges IRL. Basically, user-generated content and ideas were becoming one of the most-watched forms of Fortnite videos.

Sure enough, as revealed by Tubular’s Q2 SOOV report, Fortnite fails became one of the hottest trends in the first quarter of this year, pulling in an astounding 726 million views on YouTube alone. We discovered that these videos were crossing into genres including people & vlogs as well as entertainment; essentially, the renowned video game was appealing to both gamers and non-gamers alike, a feat which many video game publishers would kill to achieve themselves. And Epic Games did no traditional marketing to earn this attention for their game — the publisher basically sat back and watched the views flow in!

Now we’re onto our Q3 SOOV report, which indicates this trend of non-traditional Fortnite marketing is still going strong. Specifically, the Fortnite dance challenge, now known as the FDC, is driving millions of views across social right now (it’s no wonder Fallon included it on his show). This challenge pulled in 629 million views on YouTube across roughly 33K videos and 8 million views on Facebook from 222 uploads. The clips definitely didn’t stick to the gaming category, either; like we found earlier this year, the Fortnite dance challenge is easily crossing into genres including kids’ entertainment, general entertainment, and even sports.

The FDC clip below pulled in 72.5 million views on its own. After its upload, the clip saw about 8 million views by in its first three days, and it only continued to gain popularity after that, hitting 40.3 million views in its first 30 days of being online in Q2 2018. What better Fortnite marketing could Epic Games ask for with all these viral sensations? It’s the equivalent of social word-of-mouth!

Even Traditional Marketing Gets Millions of Views for Fortnite

Okay, okay — so Epic Games did some traditional marketing to get the success of Fortnite to where it is today. Even then, the video game publisher didn’t stick to the same-old teasers and trailers that it could have. Instead, Epic Games continually looks for opportunities to flesh out its own online video strategy, from making announcements to bringing in influencers to delving into sponsored video.

For example, in Q2 of this year, Epic Games released six videos about upcoming in-game content and upgrades. We called this the “New Item” strategy in our SOOV report because these six clips were double the amount of in-game content announcement videos the game publisher released in Q1. This Fortnite marketing strategy clearly paid off for the publisher’s proprietary YouTube channel, which gained 60% of its Q2 views from these clips alone.

Epic Games also didn’t shy away from working with influencers and sponsors. According to Tubular data, 6% of influencer content created in the gaming category on YouTube featured Fortnite in their titles. We also found that in Q2, the video game title was the main topic of about 700 sponsored videos on YouTube. Our DealMaker product shows Epic Games was the top sponsor of Q2 with 247 million views generated; the sponsored video below, featuring gaming superstar Ninja playing Fortnite with sports entertainment group Dude Perfect, saw 30.5 million views, an average 30-day view count of 20.6 million, and a high 30-day engagement rate of 2.4x!

The Takeaway? Just Do Something Involving Fortnite!

I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again: if you’re trying to figure out a way to get in front of new audiences or boost your social video strategy, look no further than Fortnite-related content. Sure, you’ll be generating more attention for the game and contributing to its disruptive marketing style, but everyone can win in this situation (even in-game, too, if you’re that good).

If you want to go the traditional route, turn to sponsorships, partnerships, and influencer-based strategies which involved the popular video game title; this will probably mean your brand teams up with Epic Games to make gameplay content, fails, or behind-the-scenes features. Or, if you’re liking this idea of non-traditional marketing tactics, pay attention to the Fortnite-related trends we keep uncovering here at Tubular and make your own version. Right now, that’s definitely the Fortnite dance challenge.

It remains to be seen how the game will affect trends for this quarter and next, but we have absolute faith in the internet to create the next viral Fortnite videos (we have a hunch Epic Games is okay with this, too).

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