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YouTube Shares Insights into How MrBeast’s Team Creates Compelling Thumnail Images

Looking to maximize the thumbnails on your YouTube videos in order to get more attention in-stream?

This will help. This week, YouTube interviewed Chucky Appleby, who’s the main man behind thumbnail creation for MrBeast, the most successful creator on the platform.

MrBeast, aka Jimmy Donaldson, has famously claimed to spend a heap of time on thumbnail and title creation to maximize viewership, paying, on average, around $10,000 per thumbnail for his clips, and generating up to 20 thumbnail variations for each upload.

YouTube Thumbnail Testing

Thumbnails are key to grabbing attention, and as such, MrBeast’s team makes the thumbnail and title a big focus, coming up with both even before shooting a clip.

The full interview includes a range of interesting insights, and is worth watching for YouTube creators. But it’s also 47 minutes long, so here’s the Cliff’s Notes for those seeking thumbail creation tips.

1. Trust is key

Appleby’s first key note is that you need to establish audience trust with your thumbnail images.

As per Appleby:

“Trust is what makes people come back and click on your videos. If we had lied in any of our videos, and people felt like they were misled, the audience wouldn’t keep building, and eventually we’d start to see the audience not coming back, so trust is a very important factor”

As such, Appleby says that it’s important to ensure that your videos deliver on what the thumbnails promise, and there’s a direct connection between the thumbnail image and the content.

Which also needs to be delivered fast.

Appleby says that the thumbnail image should directly align with the video intro, to ensure expectations are met quickly.

Appleby also notes that unlike traditional TV, which can set an expectation for what’s going to happen at the end of the episode, and keep users hooked till that twist, on YouTube, people can click away at any time and watch something else, which is another reason why it’s important to deliver on what you promise early.

2. Consistency

In terms of branding, consistency will help viewers recognize your content in-stream, and build a loyal audience.

Appleby notes that Donaldson’s face is the key to MrBeast’s branding:

“In 2019 we decided to start putting Jimmy’s face in every thumbnail, because we were branding the videos around him. If you trusted Jimmy on the last video that he uploaded, and he delivered on the content, then the next video you see his face and you’d be like “oh, that’s the guy that delivered on the last video I enjoyed so I’m going to click on this video as well.” 

As such, a consistent thumbnail approach, including colors and formatting is important to building that audience link.

MrBeast videos

3. Visual clarity

Appleby also says that ensuring that your audience understands what the thumbnail represents is key to driving viewership.

“Make your thumbnail easy to understand, so that when people look at it the first time they’re saying “I know what’s going on in this video, I’m going to click on it”. If they have to spend, like, 10 or 20 seconds to try to understand what’s going on in your thumbnail, they’re probably not going to be that invested, and they’re going to keep scrolling, so making it easy to understand is incredibly important.”

Appleby further notes that if you have too much going on in your thumbnail, it can be confusing, which is often a mistake that creators make when formatting their thumbnails on a bigger screen:

“When you design your thumbnail in Photoshop, for example, it’s very big, and it’s the whole screen of your computer. But when it’s actually on YouTube, it’s much, much smaller, so you have to think about what does it look like when it’s smaller, and how is someone going to perceive this, and how is someone going to read this thumbnail because all the small details you pay attention to when a large screen don’t really help you as much when it’s a smaller image.”

4. Testing

While not everyone has the resources of MrBeast, and can create and test a range of thumbnail variants, Appleby says that it is important to try out different versions before settling on the best option.

Appleby notes that the MrBeast team comes up with around 50 thumbnail/title concepts per video, before whittling down to the most compelling combination.

“There are many things that we do, like changing the shirt colors, putting Jimmy in a suit, putting him in a shirt with the MrBeast logo, a different color of a house, we change so many different aspects so we end up having hundreds of variations.”

And yes, Appleby also describes the team’s now well-known approach to open or closed mouth images of Donaldson in the images.

“I was the one fighting internally for a mouth open, and Jimmy kept talking to me and saying like “I think we should close the mouth”, and then as soon as A/B testing came out, he was like “let’s run the test”, and I was like “awesome, let’s do it”, and it was funny because the change was insane, because we did it for about 30 videos, and all 30 of them with the closed mouth actually led to higher watch time. It was a small difference in overall time, but 30 in a row gave us the signal.”

So closed mouth smile is what MrBeast goes with now, and that’s why. If you wanted to know.

Appleby points to YouTube’s recently added thumbnail A/B testing option as a means to try out your ideas.

There’s a heap more in the full interview, which could help you come up with more compelling images for your video clips.

If you’re serious about YouTube, it’s worth a watch.

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