New media, new culture and how it’s confounding brands


By Mark Schaefer

If you’ve been following popular culture at all, you’ve probably learned by now of the downfall (at least temporarily) of YouTube’s greatest star, PewDie Pie.

PewDiePie, a Swedish gamer and humorist, is the first person alive to hit 10 billion views on YouTube. He pulls in more money each year than most Hollywood movie stars and he’s the epicenter of YouTube culture.

And then it all went south.

The Wall Street Journal documented at least nine of his videos that had anti-Semitic messages. Two in particular went viral, one were two people in Africa held up a provocative sign and another where an actor dressed as Jesus explained that Hitler had done nothing wrong.

The outfall was swift. An affiliate of Disney terminated his contract with a thud. His career was over, right?

Not so fast. Here’s the rest of the story.

  • In his initial apology video, PewDiePie seemed stunned. He said, “What I really don’t understand is how you people did not get the joke.” In a second video he railed at The Wall Street Journal for not understanding new media and accused the organization of targeting him.
  • Millions of online fans around the world defended him, and after the article, his subscriber base increased at its fastest rate ever.
  • Several journalists also came to his defense, including a prominent Jewish writer.
  • Nonplussed, PewDiePie created a video where he goes back in time and kills Hitler to clear his name. It received over 6.5 million views.

On the surface this makes no sense. How can people rally behind a person who sponsored those kind of messages? The truth is deeper, more subtle, and there is a profound message here for every company employing Millennials or selling to them. Something has changed.

This is the topic of a fascinating new episode of The Marketing Companion. Any show that begins with rich Corinthian leather and ends with Hitler has to be interesting (you have to hear it to believe it). I think this is one of better shows and it pulls in some help from Chris Brogan.

If you’ve never listened to the Marketing Companion before, give it a try. If you don’t laugh in the first 90 seconds I’ll give you your money back. Here we go …

If you can’t access the episode above, click on this link to listen to Episode 98

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Many thanks to our friend Scott Monty for the awesome show intro. Be sure to check out his amazing newsletter The Full Monty and his new podcast available here:


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