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These YouTube mega-stars turned online fame into real world brands

These YouTube influencers are leveraging their online fame by branding their own merchandise to sell in the real world.
Image: Youtube Kids
A girl watches a video on Youtube on a computer on February 27, 2013 in Chisseaux near Tours, central France.Alain Jocard / AFP/Getty Images file

From Rachael Ray to Ellen DeGeneres, celebrities have been frequent guests on home shopping television channels like QVC and HSN. Whether it's cookware or blankets, a celebrity's name on a product can translate into big bucks for retailers looking to profit in a changing economy.

Now, the next generation of stars is taking a page from the same marketing playbook. Celebrities who made it big on YouTube are leveraging their online fame by branding their own merchandise to sell in the real world to their millions of followers.

More than 1 billion hours of video are viewed on YouTube each day and, according to Forbes, the Top 10 YouTube stars earned a combined $127 million this year alone.

"The smartest influencers know that their fame has a expiration date, and if they want to have a career out of this, they can't just be an influencer - they have to be bigger than that. They have to be a brand," Entrepreneur editor-in-chief Jason Feifer told NBC News.

Turning virtual fame into a real-world fortune

From homecoming to gymnastics class, 17-year-old twins Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight document their every move, and song, on their YouTube channel.

Brooklyn and Bailey are now selling their own line of products, branded with a logo of a double “B”, in front of their 4 million subscribers.

“I would call it, like, an everyday line," said Brooklyn. "We've got t-shirts, wallets, pencils, notebooks. We were seeing, any time we'd post an OOTD [outfit of the day], those girls would want the outfit that we were wearing. So we decided to create something of our own so that they could also feel a little bit more connected to us in that way.”

Brooklyn and Bailey did not disclose how much they are earning from this venture, other than the line is "doing well," noting that all of the earnings go towards saving for college.

“On the weekdays, we go to school. It's very normal. We have math homework too! But at the same time, we live this totally different life where we're going to business meetings," said Bailey.

YouTube stars Rhett and Link, the hosts of the popular channel ‘Good Mythical Morning’ have turned their fame into a major business by developing a line of personal care products including beard oil, lip balm, and hair pomade. In one episode of their YouTube show, they shared how they developed the products for themselves and wanted to share it with their community.

"It's very normal. We have math homework too!"

Rosanna Pansino, a YouTube star who has a baking channel with millions of subscribers, recently debuted a new line of kitchen tools. NBC News visited one of her first stops in Burbank, California.

"This is the first time I have ever made a baking line, so I learned so much about the process," Pansino told NBC News. "There's so much work that goes into it. I knew it was possible to have a career online, and make a living creating content full time. But I didn't know that that was going to happen for me."

Outside the store, hundreds of fans anxiously waited in line to get their hands on aprons, mixing bowls, cookie cutters, and sprinkles.

"It feels surreal, it was the only world that I could pick to describe it," said Pansino.