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The Unus Annus experience was emotional and positively unique, leaving a long-lasting imprint on its viewers by way of its intentional demise
What (was) Unus Annus?
24 hours ago, YouTube content creators deleted their channel Unus Annus during a live stream to an audience of over 1 million viewers. Each day, for 365 days, Mark (Markiplier) and Ethan (CrankGamePlays) uploaded new content to YouTube, ending every video with the channel’s iconic countdown timer ticking away. They promised that, when the clock ran out, the channel (and every video in it) would be deleted. They held firm to their promise and succeeded in creating something so much more than a project designed to be discarded.
Solid, Consistent Brand Building from Start to Finish
Brand-wise, their work was exceptional, nothing short of a monumental accomplishment, especially given the leanness of their team. As brand expert Marty Neumeier has said (pardon the paraphrase), defining your brand is less about what you say it is and more about what others say it is. In this case, Unus Annus was so successful at conveying their brand that much of the fan art (and dare I say, even some memes) brilliantly captured the spirit and concepts behind it.
The videos featuring Mark and Ethan may have varied tremendously in content but the themes ran clearly throughout. Their brand colors were stark black and white. Fitting, given the black and white nature of time and death. Their language of “deleting the channel” was consistently synonymous with death. The recurring motto was “memento mori,” which roughly translates to “remember you will die.” All of these elements were intentional, sometimes stated plainly, and sometimes implied.
Unus Annus was always meant to be a reminder that the clock is ticking and that what truly matters is what we do with the time we have. The goal was always to stir up their viewers to feel something, a point that Mark stated explicitly during the live stream. As the clock neared all zeroes, the unmistakable feeling that something real was about to be gone was tangible. And in the closing moments, the clock ticked its final second, the screen cut to black, and the channel was gone.
What’s so striking is the completeness of the brand. Many brands have come and gone but Unus Annus was simultaneously created with its literal deadline. We observed its start and end without question. It didn’t fade away, it ended with a bang, with an abrupt cut to black that proved oddly reassuring. Because it was always meant to happen that way.
Only the Beginning
There is much more to be said about this experience and about this brand, but I wanted to write a few things down while the loss is still fresh in my mind. It’s difficult to explain it, honestly. It’s maybe akin to moving away from a good friend that you know you’ll likely never see again, or, even if you do, you know it won’t be the same. The emotion is very real, and that is again a testament to the remarkable actualization of the brand.
Yes, the timer has run out on the channel, and it really is gone. But our clocks are still ticking. We still have a limited time here on this earth — what will you do with yours?
TL;DR Unus Annus was a 365-day, self-destructing YouTube channel that was deleted by its creators, successfully closing its own book and proving itself an extraordinary project whose memory alone will live on due to its strength as a brand.
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Amidst so much noise around the question of what “brand” really means, our unsung hero — the soup dumpling — has the answer we’ve been searching for. Enjoy.
This article originally appeared on The Startup, Medium's largest active publication.
If you’re like me, you don’t actually need an excuse to dig into some deliciously juicy and warm steamed soup dumplings. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the dead of winter or during a summer heatwave — they call my name all year round.
While recently digging into a batch of these other-worldly delicacies, I came across something interesting.
Now, don’t hate me for this. I try to get freshly-made soup dumplings when I can but it’s not always in the cards (and sometimes the cravings are strong enough that I simply can’t sit around and wait for a proper dumpling joint to whip up a batch of pure juicy magic just for me) so… I eat the frozen ones from Trader Joe’s.
I promise it’s not as bad as it sounds
Except, in this case, it was.
I ate five out of six dumplings and, wouldn’t you know it, the time came to consume the FINAL one (you will eventually learn my dumpling eating technique but it will have to wait until another day, good friend) and everything was fine until…
No filling. Just broth.
The room went dark around me. Chopsticks dramatically fell to the floor, probably in slow motion. Which is weird because I wasn’t using chopsticks. Or slow motion.
A single tear slowly danced its way down my bewildered and defeated face.
The pain… the shame. This was an abomination.
Thankfully, my family was there to comfort and grieve with me during those difficult days.
In time, I did eventually come around.
And the lesson I learned is the one I share with you today.
Don’t Not Have Filling.
Er, guess I should say, “have filling.” Either way, here’s the actual concept in a nutshell (or a dumpling shell, if you will, but I think in that case you would call it “skin” which, now that I type it out, seems pretty darn strange):
People don’t buy what your business does or how it does it. They buy the WHY behind your business.
Simon Sinek’s highly influential book — Start with Why — goes into a lot more detail about this model, which he refers to as the “Golden Circle,” a circle consisting of three rings and, at least in my imagination, filled with delicious, golden broth and, yes you guessed it, a proper meat filling.
The dumplings call me yet again but before I go, think about this…
How carefully have you considered the WHY behind your business? Every business stands for something at its core. Some businesses were founded to meet a need where nobody else would or could. It doesn’t have to be a save-the-world kind of cause but it does have to be there.
“Brand,” in the simplest and most practical terms, means aligning the WHY behind your business with your target audience.
Start with your WHY. If it is at the top of your mind, is it also driving your actual business decisions? Do your employees know what it is and do they value it the way you do? It should be built into and integral to your business. If it isn’t, it’s time to incorporate it.
The strength of your brand depends on it. What does that translate to, in real life? Let’s say you were to compete with a company that is the same as yours in every way (even target audience) but they fail to effectively communicate their brand. You, on the other hand, have committed (after reading this article, naturally) to communicating what your business stands for in a way that resonates with your target audience. In the marketplace, you will win that battle every time.
So, go find your filling! If you already have, make sure it’s there to resonate with your target audience. You’re already on your way to building a better brand.
As for me, I’m off to go devour a dumpling… or six.