The secret to Vice’s success: work against the status quo

Media company focuses on niche interests and trends to help build up a rabid following

The Vice Media brand been called the millennial whisperer and the voice of a generation.

In marketing circles, it’s better known as the little media company that has exploded into a multi-billion dollar content empire.

Today, Vice is one of the world’s fastest growing media brands and the envy of traditional news outlets.

Some of the world’s biggest media brands, including Rogers (which owns Marketing), are now partnering with the Vice brand to boost their collective content.

Vice said it’s successful because the company’s vision is to work against the status quo with a network of channels that cater to the latest generation of news and entertainment consumers.

“It’s seen that our best success is when we did the opposite of what everyone thought we should be doing,” Mike Germano, Vice’s chief digital officer said during an interview with Marketing magazine at The Gathering event held in Banff Feb. 18-19.

He said Vice’s specialty is a focus on niche interests and trends, then helping to build up a rabid following.

“Vice caught new trends because they lived it and weren’t afraid to embrace that. That’s important,” said Germano. “A lot of people when they see a niche, whether they are embarrassed or scared, they don’t go for it and don’t involve themselves as much as they can in it maybe because society doesn’t think it’s smart. At Vice, we’re attracted to it because we see a good story … or we think it’s something we want to promote.”

Examples include its Fightland channel for mixed martial arts, the Thump electronic dance channel and its new food channel called Munchies, all of which have a growing follower base.

“Usually when someone is passionate about a niche to the point where they are wiling to do content about it or get involved in it or create services about that niche, they are on to something. They have discovered a piece of gold,” said Germano.

Germano’s own story is an example of how Vice targets and elevates brands. He cofounded the Carrot Creative digital agency out of college and grew it to 65 staff with clients including MTV, Disney and Home Depot. When the deal with Vice was announced in late 2013, Carrot called it a “steroid injection.”

He recommended marketers look for ways that consumers can easily represent the brand. For Vice, that includes content that takes a different approach to traditional media, and covers stories others don’t.

Germano pointed to Vice’s controversial coverage being imbedded with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as well as its stories about violence against the transgender community.

It’s a myth that young people aren’t interested in the news or serious issues affecting people both locally and globally, he said.

“What is our media power? We have a first-mover advantage on youth culture. Why? Because we let young people tell us the stories they want to tell,” said Germano.


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