Digital MarketingStrategiesThe Official CGM Glossary

The Official CGM Glossary

Let's finally nail down all those buzzwords and terms surrounding consumer-generated media.

As the online video space evolves, it behooves us to clarify what we mean by “consumer-oriented video.”

Definitions matter because they not only feed transparency but also clarify where we stand. Clarity is a good thing. Our space, I fear, is getting a bit murky.

So here’s an attempt at clarity, drawing from how I usually frame the video space with clients and others:

  • Consumer-generated media (CGM): At its core, CGM represents first-person commentary posted or shared across a host of expression venues, including message boards, forums, rating and review sites, groups, social networking sites, blogs, and, of course, video-sharing sites. It’s commonly influenced or informed by relevant experience with brands (e.g., “I’m so angry with Jet Blue,” “I love Target”). Although direct company feedback and general offline water cooler talk technically count as CGM, they have less of an enduring latency effect because they’re not archived online for easy access by other consumers. CGM emphasizes the “media” rather than “content” precisely because it acts like paid media. Whether through search queries or serendipitous discovery, CGM frequently intercepts other consumers during the purchase cycle and, coupled with high trust levels, impacts business results.
  • Consumer-generated multimedia (CGM2): This subset of CGM is more anchored to “site, sound, and motion” components, each with the potential to dial up the effect and persuasiveness of the consumer storytelling. Visualization elevates drama, emotional resonance, and the ability to prove one’s case through documentation (one big reason TV commercials have been so hard for advertisers to shake). Video is far and away the most significant form of CGM2, and sites like YouTube and MySpace lead the pack. By and large, CGM2 reflects unaided, or organic, consumer content creation. It may implicate brands positively or negatively, but the marketer has no direct hand in its creation. The Kryptonite lock video is one of the earliest examples. Brands like Apple have seen plenty of CGM2 on both the positive and negative side of things.
  • Consumer-fortified media (CFM): Unilever’s Dove Evolution is a classic example of CFM. The advertisers created the spot, but its meaning was shaped, or fortified, by the conversation, commentary, and debate that wrapped around the content. The right combination can create an exponential positive buzz lift or outright disaster. In the case of Dove Evolution, tens of thousands of women talked about the ad, embedded it in their blogs, and wrapped fresh commentary around the core. The same thing often happens when the news networks drop enticing news segments on their sites or YouTube. Just think about the New York TV video on rats at Taco Bell or the TV networks seeding a Justin Timberlake “rap” on YouTube. The input is credentialed and formal; the output is fortified (and validated) by the consumer voice.
  • Consumer-solicited media (CSM): The term that most commonly captures this form is “co-creation.” Others loosely call it “participatory advertising.” In essence, the marketer sets the specs, and consumers exercise a range of creativity and brand evangelism within those parameters. It could be a create-your-own-ad contest, or an upload-your-experience photo or video utility on a brand Web site. Recent examples include the Dove ad during the Oscars (the product of a contest) and the Frito-Lay, GM, and NFL spots during the Super Bowl. One of the very first examples is’s “Bush in 30 Seconds” campaign three years ago. Think about an RFP (define) whereby we set criteria for suppliers to duke it out to win our marketing business. CSM has the potential to be hugely effective, but it’s not entirely pure or organic.
  • Compensated consumer-generated media (CCGM): This is when marketers outright pay consumers to do certain things, or when publishers compensate artists or content creators for submissions. In a video context, there are both benign and inappropriate applications. Revenue-sharing models like Revver (potentially forthcoming on YouTube) apply an issue- or slant-agnostic approach to the compensation structure. Positive or negative, if your contribution draws the eyeballs (and provided you’re not using illegal content), you take a piece of the revenue. On the less savory side, if your video model is like PayPerPost, where contributors are outright paid to endorse or promote a product and the disclosure factor is submerged in murkiness, there’s a far higher risk and backlash factor. Lots more discussion is needed over this… soon.
  • Paid media: This is exactly as it sounds. Marketers buy media, usually in the form of impressions, to affect sales. Some call this “marketer-generated media” (MGM), but the old description works just fine. In the context of video, paid media may come in the form of the pre-roll, post-roll, or official sponsor link. Sometimes this, too, gets a bit fuzzy, but by and large the distinction is pretty clear.

Other Common Terms

There’s a host of other terms folks use to describe what’s going on in the video space: social media, user-generated content (UGC), participatory media, we media, and more. All are fine, and in some situations they may be more appropriate. I tend to emphasize tried-and-true vernacular with my clients because it helps bridge understanding much faster and helps the client sell the vision to higher levels. At the end of the day, we’re all answerable and accountable to the consumers who try, buy, and judge our products. The simple distinction between “consumer” (buyer) and “marketer” (seller/persuader) helps keep us out of the fuzz.

So there you have a few ground-level definitions. In 12 months, we’ll probably need to add new terms or collapse a few into a single definition.

However we cut this, my most important piece of advice to marketers, particularly CMOs, is: let’s keep our descriptions honest, accurate, and consistent with the true nature and dynamic of how consumers are shaping or influencing media.

Meet Pete at the ClickZ Specifics: Online Video Advertising seminar on March 19 at the San Francisco Marriott in California.

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