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Co-Creating Brand Stories With Online Video

  |  July 3, 2013   |  Comments

Brands need to provide creative customers with the right messaging on corporate websites and social media channels to enable customers to support the brand story while adding their own personal touch.

More brands are exploring crowdsourcing as a way to engage consumers by allowing them to create ads for the products they love. One of the most popular examples of crowdsourced advertising is Doritos' "Crash the Super Bowl" ad contest, which has run for the last seven years. By launching the campaign on Facebook this past year, the brand was able to engage its fans and extend its reach through social media while at the same time reducing its marketing and ad production costs.

While most brands have difficulty convincing consumers to create compelling content on their behalf, many consumer electronics (CE) brands experience the complete opposite - consumers tend to create more content than CE brands know what to do with. CE brands have an opportunity to amplify their stories by harnessing the massive amounts of user-generated content uploaded online. By allowing brand enthusiasts to make their own experience part of the brand's story, CE product brands can create marketing that connects with consumers in a more relevant way than traditional advertising.

YouTube has emerged as a hub for consumer product reviews. In the past six years, the number of hours uploaded to YouTube per minute has spiked from less than 10 to over 100. Many of the videos are the user-generated "unboxing" videos, which consumers use to research products before making purchase decisions (over 16 million as of this writing). In these videos, consumers generally take a product of out the box and then review their first impressions or trial runs of a product - they are essentially short infomercials with less bias. Brands should seize this opportunity to build more personal meaning into product messaging. Unboxing has the potential to be a valuable marketing tool for CE brands that want to increase engagement with consumers.

User-generated video increases consumer trust, compared to brand-sponsored ads on social media. Consumers just don't trust social media advertising. According to Adobe's State of Online Advertising consumer research, 73 percent of those surveyed said that an ad should tell a unique story. Sixty-seven percent agreed that "a video is worth 1,000 words" and that "user product reviews are the best source of truth." Consumers trust peer reviews, which can ultimately be more influential (not to mention less costly) than brand advertising.

The challenge for brands is how to align customers' content with their own messaging to support the larger narrative they want to communicate. It must start with a compelling brand story that explains why a product is meaningful to its intended audience. Any brand that wants to inspire customer loyalty and advocacy needs to highlight the difference its product makes for customers, and perhaps even unexpected features and uses. Unboxing is a perfect opportunity for motivated customers to show how a product fills an unmet need. The brand's job is to provide the right motivation and encourage customers to share their stories with the brand and others.

Brands often incentivize customers to create marketable content such as unboxing videos through cash prizes, discounts, and giveaways. Eighty-three percent of customers reported that they expect or would like to be offered "deals and promotions" for their participation on social networks in a research survey conducted by Pivot (disclaimer: my company is a sponsor of the Pivot Conference).

Brands need to provide motivated "creative customers" with the right messaging and assets - such as downloadable graphics - on corporate websites and social media channels. This will enable customers to support the brand story while adding their own personal touch.

In the crowded CE product market, it's hard for brands to communicate the difference their products make. But brands that use customer-generated video content to make their customers an active part of their story are changing how people discover and understand their products. Unboxing isn't going away. It's easy to open product packaging, but the challenge now for CE product manufacturers is to open up their brands to customers just as effectively.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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McNeal Maddox

McNeal Maddox is the strategy director at Siegel+Gale, based in Los Angeles. His first experience with brand development came in junior high, when, not content to remain mere consumers of comic books, he and his brother formed their own comic book company. The brand name, logo, and signature style they created were so strong that one of their books is a permanent part of the Lynn R. Hansen Underground Comics Collection of Washington State University Library's special collections archive - and they even sold a few.

Since joining Siegel+Gale, McNeal has worked for several clients including Microsoft, Dow AgroSciences, McAfee, Genworth Financial, Yahoo, United Talent Agency, Activision, and PayPal. McNeal previously served as a project manager at FoxSports.com, where he managed the design, development, and implementation of customized promotional campaigns for major advertisers. He also worked as a web developer at ING Advisors Network.

McNeal graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a BFA in graphic design, and received his MBA from the University of Southern California.

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