The world-famous YouTube sensation MrBeast (no period, no space), whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, has a lot to teach academia with regards to making great videos that people want to actually watch. Just in case you don’t know, MrBeast creates a variety of different types of videos, has over 59 million subscribers, over 300 videos, and is an international YouTube sensation (Alexander, 2021; YouTube, 2021). By identifying the ways MrBeast makes his videos, we in academia (K-12 as well as higher education) can create our own videos that will be more impactful to students and help them better retain information.
In reviewing his many videos, watching interviews, and learning from others who have tried to analyze MrBeasts’ success, I have identified these 15 key factors:
MrBeast is a creative thinker; he also uses critical thinking skills to fully identify what topic he is trying to cover and how to actually best create his video. He has multiple brainstorming sessions and writes out what he wants to do and how he wants to do it. It isn’t fully scripted out, but he has a fully developed idea and plan (Creator Insider, 2020).
MrBeast is very open about his success and has always been very willing to help others succeed. In an online interview, MrBeast expressed that an important part to his videos is to hook the audience from the start; say what cool/interesting thing you are going to do upfront to captivate the audience from the very beginning (Creator Insider, 2020). This helps the audience to continue watching as well as watch to the very end.
MrBeast is very good at presenting his videos within an overarching story even if the video itself isn’t really a story. There is an introduction, build-up, climax, and then something is resolved at the end. All of this helps to captivate the audience and makes them want to see things to the very end; this also serves as a powerful retention tactic (Galloway, 2019). The power of the use of story has been shown to increase student engagement, learning, and overall retention of information presented (Caminotti & Gray, 2012; Moon, 2010).
Although MrBeasts videos aren’t made to be funny specifically, they are typically sprinkled with humorous situations or comments at times. It isn’t overboard, but just enough to keep things interesting and unexpected. The humor is also lighthearted and not hurtful or negative. This then helps with the additional key aspect of creating a positive environment within the videos. Additionally, the aspect of humor has be repeatedly researched and found to positively affect learning via increasing motivation and enhancing the educational environment/experience (Anders, 2019; Banas, et al., 2011; Daumiller, et al., 2020; Keller, 1987)
MrBeast’s video have a particular style. They aren’t fully polished Hollywood productions, but they are well edited, removing anything that slows down the presentation/action. It is an interesting professional-amateur stylistic expression. The style itself comes across as very real which leads to the next key factor of authenticity.
In MrBeast’s videos things are planned out, but they aren’t staged. The reactions and situations are very real. One video that comes to mind dealing with authenticity is MrBeast’s “I Ran A Marathon In The World’s Largest Shoes” (MrBeast, 2020a). In this video MrBeast completed a marathon (26 miles / 41.84 KM) in size 40 shoes (extra large clown-like shoes). Authenticity was so important to MrBeast that he actually filmed the entire thing and time-lapsed parts of it just to prove to the audience that it was indeed real. Authenticity and sincerity are extremely important to MrBeast in that this conveys that MrBeast is trustworthy and that everything MrBeast and his crew do on video is indeed true. At the time of this writing, this video has been viewed over 45 million times. Similarly, one of MrBeast’s most popular videos, “Going Through The Same Drive Thru 1,000 Times,” (viewed over 100 million times), was also completely filmed and used time lapse at times in order to fully authenticate the video and prove to the audience that it was all real and not faked (MrBeast, 2019c). MrBeast himself has stated that he wants to have fun with his videos but they must always be ethical (Neistat, 2019). This is an important key factor to incorporate in academic videos in that multiple research has shown the negative affects of instructors who are perceived as inauthentic (Johnson & LaBelle, 2017).
MrBeast goes out of his way to make everything as visual as possible which correlates very well with the age-old teaching advice of show rather than tell. As an example, a few months ago (from the time of this writing) MrBeast made a video called “Press This Button To Win $100,000!” (MrBeast, 2020e). In this video his crew would take turns pushing a giant red button (notice how the simple button is enhanced to be more visual). After pushing the button, a big screen TV would show a video of an explosion (very visual) and would then reveal either the grand prize of $10,000 or, a as MrBeast put it, “an insanely weird and random punishment.” Needless to say all of the punishments were very visual such as wearing a pair of pants filled with mayonnaise, painting a wall while handcuffed to a friend, or eating 5 chocolate covered crickets, and many more. Think of the very visual reactions to each one of those punishments as well as the visual reaction to actually winning the $10,000. At the time of this writing, this video has been viewed over 76 million times. Again, the importance of the aspect of visualization has been repeatedly shown to enhance learning, understanding, and retention (Clark & Lyons, 2010; Smaldino, et al., 2008).
MrBeast’s video “Molten Lava Vs Giant Ice Block Experiment” provides a great educational example of being interesting when presenting experiment results (MrBeast, 2019b). What sounds more interesting the typical academic way: “These are the effects of lava when it makes contact with metal, glass, and porcelain” or the MrBeast method: “let’s try to get into this safe using nothing but lava,” “lets pour a shot glass of lava and see what happens” and “what would happen if we put lava in a toilet?” By presenting experimental results in ways that are much more relatable, the video content becomes so much more interesting for the audience. Other interesting examples include moving marbles and a 10-pound weight with nothing but soundwaves via popular songs and breaking glass only using megaphones (MrBeast, 2018a; MrBeast, 2018b). The interesting ways that MrBeast presents videos contents makes everything so much more memorable and exciting, which correlates well with Keller’s effective ARCS Model of Motivation and the importance of obtaining and keeping learner’s attention by being and presenting interesting information in order to keep students motivated to learn (Keller, 1987).
An important element of MrBeast videos and success is that he doesn’t shy away from emotion. Generally, the emotion is excitement/enthusiasm, but happiness, exhilaration, appreciation, and even tears of joy have been expressed. All these emotions presented within MrBeast videos are real; like when MrBeast was literally buried underground for 50 hours and cried tears of joy when it was over (MrBeast, 2021b). This humanization of the content makes it that much more realistic, captivating, and authentic, compelling viewers to watch again and again. Research from New York University and City University of New York identified the importance of this factor stating that “…positive emotions can facilitate learning and suggest that positive emotions be considered an important factor that should be incorporated into instructional design, especially for multimedia learning environments” (Um, et al., p. 12, 2012). Similarly, MrBeast always has a prensence within his videos. He doesn’t always do the actions or challenges, but he is always there, commenting, guiding, and encouraging. This is similar to the aspect of the importance of instructional presence, where instructors help to build a sence of a community and of caring within the classroom (online or face-to-face) by being there, available, approachable, and truly caring (Anders, 2017; Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 1999).
It might seem obvious, but showing actions makes it much harder to be boring. MrBeast fully understands this so he has lots of actions in his video. Prime examples of this include “$200,000 Youtuber Battle Royale” and “Surviving 24 Hours Straight In The Bermuda Triangle” (MrBeast, 2019a; MrBeast, 2019e). The importance of action to avoid boredom and of avoiding being boring in order to maximize learning (similar to avoiding pure lecture formats) has multiple research to back it up and should always be addressed (Anders, 2019; Westgate & Steidle, 2020).
One of the things that makes MrBeast stand out is that he is always trying to do things differently by using variety and changing things up. Different types of MrBeast videos include: experimental videos, challenges, guest starts, philanthropy videos, quest videos, games, reaction videos, as well as mixing multiple types into one video. Prime examples of mixed videos includes “Would You Sit In Snakes For $10,000,” “Offering People $100,000 To Quit Their Job,” and “I Put 100 Million Orbeez In My Friend’s Backyard” (MrBeast, 2021c, MrBeast, 2021a; MrBeast, 2018c). Audiences know that they are in for something interesting and different with every video. The ongoing variety and change helps to generate interest and motivation in the viewer in the same way that it affects students (Keller, 1987)
MrBeast’s videos are very interactive in that he talks directly to his viewers, to his crew as well as to random people in his videos.In talking to his viewers I mean he is expressing what is happening, he isn’t just lecturing to them. A prime example of this is in his “I Spent 24 Hours In A Doomsday Bunker” video (MrBeast, 2020b). He doesn’t just talk about the bunker, what it has available, or what it can do. Instead, he actually experiences it and psychically goes through everything, commenting with the audience along the way. The audience therefore gets to experience it as well, through MrBeast and his crew.MrBeast actually and fully experiences the doomsday bunker (eating, playing, sleeping, etc.) for 24 hours and in a way the audience does too. Interaction in academia is of course extremely important and should be maximized whenever possible (Moore, 1989; Swan, 2002).
Networking: Learning from Others, Guest Starts, and Collaborations
A final key factor in how MrBeast keeps making videos that people want to watch, is by periodically bring in or collaborating with other YouTube stars/influencers. This is basically like having guest stars or special guest speakers. Again, this acts to keep things interesting and exciting, making viewers want to watch and come back for more. Prime examples of this key factor include “$300,000 Influencer Trivia Tournament!” (multiple guest stars), “I Filled My Brother’s House With Slime & Bought Him A New One” (MrBeast brought in Mark Rober, former NASA and Apple engineer, now famous YouTube science channel influencer), and “$250,000 Influencer Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament” (again, multiple special guest stars), (MrBeast, 2020f; MrBeast, 2020d, MrBeast 2020c). Having someone new in a class or guest star presenters has also been shown to improve learning and the student experience (Metrejean, et al., 2002; van Hoek, et al., 2011).
It is also important to note that MrBeast’s true genius and success comes in his ability to combine as many of these factors as possible, in many different ways, to make his videos outstandingly interesting, engaging, and just plain fun to watch. The idea of making a video or learning session “fun” was not specifically listed as a key factor in that “fun” is achieved at different levels and in different ways by incorporating the factors listed. What is the experience of “fun” if not something that is authentic, interesting, different (variety), and engaging? MrBeast knows this important idea and seeks to maximize the “fun factor” of his videos every single time. As MrBeast puts it, people start to realize that these are great fun videos and seek out more and more of his videos to watch. In the same way, we in academia need to work to make our videos with same level of commitment and incorporate these MrBeast factors to enhance videos so that our students are maximally engaged, learn and retain the information and have a great experience along the way.
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MrBeast. (2018a, March 18). Breaking glass using only megaphones [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKFKPQHdWRI
MrBeast. (2018b, August 3). Moving 10 pounds using only sound [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHb7g6yuGgE
MrBeast. (2018c, November 23). I put 100 million Orbeez in my friend’s backyard [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TflpIllQHY
MrBeast. (2019a, March 13). $200,000 Youtuber battle royale [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZV7rU6lnAKQ
MrBeast. (2019b, April 28). Molten lava vs giant ice block experiment [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfJMs4mrSJM
MrBeast. (2019c, October 19). Going through the same drive thru 1,000 times [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxGVgXf_LNk
MrBeast. (2019d, October 25). Planting 20,000,000 trees, my biggest project ever! [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPJKxAhLw5I
MrBeast. (2019e, November 9). Surviving 24 hours straight in the Bermuda Triangle [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9lVNzyhYnc
MrBeast. (2020a, March 22). I ran a marathon in the world’s largest shoes [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiGKBNGlzHo
MrBeast. (2020b, April 12). I spent 24 hours in a doomsday bunker [Video] YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBMmK1c44sE
MrBeast. (2020c, May 1). $250,000 influencer rock, paper, scissors tournament [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ih2WTyY62J4
MrBeast. (2020d, October 11). I filled my brother’s house with slime & bought him a new one [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vp5sSqyZ5Go
MrBeast. (2020e, November 15). Press this button to win $100,000! [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLoeAJUcz38
MrBeast. (2020f, December 1). $300,000 Influencer trivia tournament! [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1V_03efSkg0
MrBeast. (2021a, March 14). Offering people $100,000 to quit their job [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuQbOQwVaNE
MrBeast. (2021b, March 28). I spent 50 hours buried alive [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bqk6ZUsKyA
MrBeast. (2021c, April 11). Would you sit in snakes for $10,000? [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMfipiV_17o
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