How YouTube star How to Dad built a lucrative business out of video views
Jordan Watson first found internet fame when he filmed a video with his then four-month-old daughter Alba in 2015.
The clip, which demonstrates how to hold a baby for a friend who will soon be a father, went viral on Facebook.
What followed was what he calls “Z-Grade fame.” Becoming a household name on the internet and giving a handful of television interviews, he set up his YouTube channel in January the following year and began filming weekly videos.
Within two years, he was able to quit his job and work full-time making videos.
Since then, Watson has posted 600 videos online and makes an average of about $3,000 a month from YouTube. That doesn’t include his revenue from brand partnerships, which he says are far more lucrative.
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He has garnered 172 million video views on his YouTube channel and 250 million views on Facebook.
Watson co-founded a Jandal company called Golden with no money of his own in late 2021 to capitalize on his social media following of nearly four million people.
Golden was launched in Australia late last year and sales beyond the moat have already surpassed those of the domestic market. Around 70,000 pairs have been sold to date.
Watson says the idea of a business has been in the works for about four years to support his income. In 2019, an investor impressed with its audience engagement reached out to Watson’s management to start a business as a partnership. Watson knew right away it had to be Jandals not blowing out and falling apart at the top.
“I live in Jandalen and even before we launched this I always lived in Jandalen, rubber boots or barefoot. At the first meeting I said why don’t we put the bread label at the bottom and that’s where it came from,” said Watson of Tauranga.
Golden says its Jandals are superior because the plug pop (the part that divides the two straps and connects to the sole) is a copy of a bread tag, which keeps it from splitting and coming through. Watson tested the shelf life of the products in his videos for entertainment purposes.
“The classic New Zealand and Australian act has always put a bread label on it and that’s our difference – we made the plug so big it couldn’t pop out.”
Watson has made a handful of videos of him plugging his brand of Jandals, including offering strangers $20 if they could unplug the bread label – to no avail.
Though his social media career is booming, Watson says he wants to diversify his income streams and start a business that could further capitalize on his fan base.
“You never know when the bubble will burst. It’s a very strange industry to work in. When it all kicked off, there wasn’t a manual I could read on how to become a viral guy online — you just make it and make it up. It’s working so far, but I think it was a smart move to add something different to my repertoire and try to be a businessman.”
Watson devotes time each day to working on Golden and calls himself the unofficial chief executive of the five-person team.
He sees himself as the face of the brand and has the last word on every decision made. He holds a 20% stake in the company and is charged with the brand’s creative direction, including planning and producing video marketing content.
Most recently, Watson made a video of him breaking a Guinness World Record for a 100m sprint at Jandals, beating former German world champion André Ortolf by seconds.
Watson says all of Golden’s online sales to date have come directly from its social channels. “We have spikes when I come up with content that will be aired on the How to Dad channels, [the power of social media] is huge, and we’ll keep figuring out what we can do to keep it fresh so I don’t just become this Jandal guy.
How to Dad typically releases two videos a week and one video on the Golden Channels.
“I’ve gone back to the tried and tested way I did when I started and that was one video a week. I’m trying to stick to a maximum of two videos a week and give myself some breathing room and not put so much pressure on myself and it seems to be working. I’m still here, it’s still my full-time gig, I make money off YouTube and I work with brands every now and then, so while that’s still happening I can dabble in both and make both work,” said Watson .
“You have to stop and pinch yourself [sometimes] and be like, ‘Hey, I made a silly viral video all those years ago and now it’s a full-time gig’.”
Watson says new content is easy.
“I have a brain fart idea in the shower in the morning, I write it down and I film it that day and I can edit it that day and I can post it. It’s great to have an audience that still likes it and I’m confident that I can continue to do it for at least 10 more years.”
In 2016 he secured his first brand sponsorship deal with Tourism Rotorua which included a free trip to Rotorua in exchange for a short video for his social channels. The video went viral and received more than a million views on YouTube and over 20 million on Facebook. Since then, Watson had worked with companies like The Warehouse and McDonalds promoting his Kiwi Burger.
Social media influence is serious business as influencers can make six figures from ads in single videos, and there is even bigger money to be made from collaborating with brands in exchange for posts and mentions in videos.
Watson declined to disclose his fortune but said he’s not yet a millionaire.
He said he never viewed YouTube money as something he could make a living from. However, he said he could make much more than $3,000 a month from YouTube if a video went viral.
There were some YouTubers with the same number of subscribers as him who made $30,000 a month, he said.
“I create short-form content that isn’t optimal for monetization. I do quick 1 minute or 1 minute 30 second clips, but if you’re one of those vloggers who make 10 minute vlogs, you can definitely get paid a lot more since your video has more ads.”