In order to succeed in their marketing efforts, brands need to tell stories that resonate with their consumers. Sounds simple, but it’s a feat that’s often easier said than done. According to Noah Tratt, global senior vice president of media solutions at Expedia, one strategy brands can use to become personally relevant is to curate and promote user-generated video content.
In his presentation at ClickZ Live Chicago, “Achieving Authenticity: User-Generated Video Content Transforms Storytelling Power in Find Yours Campaign,” Tratt explained that most travel sites today are optimized to be functional – they help consumers book an air ticket or a hotel. However, travel is an emotional and personal experience. People travel to relax, people travel to experience new things, people go on adventures, and travel sites are missing that message, said Tratt.
“This was the big opportunity that we saw when we were working on ways to reinvent our brand message,” he added.
One way Expedia sought to make its message personal and resonant, said Tratt, was the use of user-generated content. To use this strategy effectively, a brand not only needs to curate user-generated content, but also build brand strength and tap into partnerships, according to Tratt.
With this in mind, Expedia created its “Find Yours” campaign featuring user-generated videos designed to resonate with its employees, consumers, and business partners. Through the use of cross-channel promotion that really pulls at emotional threads, Expedia was able to put the cameras in the hands of its customer base, prompting the company to share travel stories that had really transformed them.
“We helped create online travel, but over the course of time, the personal touch had been lost,” said Tratt. “The Find Yours campaign enabled us to capture the magic of travel and to make travel personal again.”
According to Tratt, in order to truly resonate with consumers brand needs to tell a story of “why” instead of just telling “what” they are doing. He used Apple as an example. “Apple sells technology, but the ‘why’ that Apple has successfully embedded in their brand is that they do those things to help people become more creative, to innovate, and to think differently, because that resonates with people,” he noted.
Tratt presented a number of user-generated videos to demonstrate how Expedia is attempting to bring the emotional and personal experience back to the travel industry. For example, the company launched a video called “Find Your Strength” to raise money for its partner St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The video features Maggie Cupit, a cancer survivor who speaks about her late friend Odie, whom she met at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It has generated more than 1.8 million views on YouTube.
Expedia has also developed the “Find Your Alberta” campaign to help its partner Alberta, a province located in Western Canada, build awareness. One of the most interesting parts of the campaign, said Tratt, is the viewfinder blogging platform that provides user-generated content in the form of both videos and text-based stories.
“[Alberta] didn’t just hand things to do in the province to bloggers. They had the bloggers, and we had the bloggers, reach out to their existing readership and solicit people for ideas of what are the cool things to do in Alberta. That was the basis upon which all this content was created,” said Tratt.
To close out the session, Tratt emphasized that curation, brand strength, and partnership are important elements when it comes to user-generated content. At the same time, he pointed out that brands must keep testing to learn what works and what doesn’t work.
“Partnership makes test and learn easier, because your partners have insight that you may not have,” he said. “So I highly recommend if you haven’t thought about test and learn for your marketing, you really should. And you really should have a dedicated test budget, so that when you learn some cool things, you can go back and use the ‘mad money’ to figure out what these new things mean for you as a marketer.”