Take a moment to imagine how Mad Men‘s Don Draper might respond if you told him his client’s customers would be creating the ads for his new campaign.
The concept of consumer-generated media used to be unthinkable to agencies and advertisers. But a few decades and a few thousand projects later, UGC (user-generated content) is both an unavoidable reality and a valuable marketing tool for brands.
So what’s changed? The channel, for one thing: today’s consumers have access to digital platforms that allow them to create high-quality, expressive content. Marketers have also become adept at managing consumer-generated messaging, such that they can use the power of word-of-mouth without compromising the brand image they’ve worked so hard to build.
That’s critical, because when it comes time to make a purchasing decision, 81% of consumers still consider friends and family to be the most trusted source of product information (just 47% say the same about advertising).
Incorporating those opinions into a marketing campaign can, therefore, produce highly effective results.
Challenges do remain, from ensuring that content comes off as authentic to meeting tangible marketing objectives.
How, then, can the Don Drapers of today determine whether this kind of content is worth the trouble? Let’s look at three recent campaigns and the three major reasons why consumer-generated media makes sense.
It inspires and engages audiences
For its new cross-channel marketing campaign, the Missouri Division of Tourism is putting tourists in control of its digital content.
The organization responsible for promoting the “Show Me State” enlisted the help of six groups of real family and friends from nearby locations like Chicago and Nashville to explore various Missouri destinations, outfitting them with GoPros and iPhones to capture footage of their travels.
Chris Kilcullen, VP and Digital Director with H&L Partners, the St. Louis marketing agency behind the ‘It’s Your Show’ campaign:
Tourism campaigns usually use high-end cinematic shots, professional actors, and scripted scenes, but for this campaign we wanted to try something different.
Since everything was unscripted, we didn’t exactly know what we were going to get. We did know, however, that footage would be genuine and authentic, and in those unscripted, organic moments, we believed that what we’d uncover would be very relatable.
The resulting content is featured on an interactive microsite that includes maps and videos and allows users to customize their own ‘show.’
With the new campaign, we’re saying, Don’t take our client/agency’s word for it, take it from these tourists.
Given its goal of inspiring potential travelers to plan a trip to the state, the Missouri Division of Tourism and H&L Partners were smart to tap consumers from multiple demographic groups and locations to produce content.
Each has different preferences and travel tastes, so the ensuing videos offer inspiration for all.
It demonstrates brand loyalty
Considering the extent to which consumer opinion is swayed by family and friends, consumer-generated content that demonstrates product and brand loyalty has tremendous marketing muscle.
If you know where to find your existing fans online, it doesn’t take much to harness their enthusiasm and share it with potential customers.
Baby and body care products company The Honest Company has mastered this tactic on Twitter. The company curates and retweets customer images of its products, and its distinctive packaging in particular.
When there’s a cute baby in the mix, Honest adds “Adorable #HonestBaby” to its share. It’s a simple strategy that encourages customers to share and tag their posts, while also providing Honest with a steady stream of fresh social media content.
When using consumer-generated content to showcase your brand, consider the nature of the platform.
The Honest Company reposts consumer-generated photos on Instagram too, but here it sticks with professional-quality images. The result is an elegant collection of content that’s consistent with this social site’s artistic image.
It creates personal connections
We know that consumers share content they feel reflects their personality. They also respond to content that speaks to them on a personal level. As such, companies are wise to invite consumers to share personal stories that relate to their brands.
Consider Mercedes-Benz. The automaker recently launched a social media contest that invites consumers to submit photos that align with its #NeverStopChallenging tagline.
The contest gives its followers the chance to see their photos featured on Mercedes social media accounts – but it’s the brand that’s the real winner here.
By associating itself and its vehicles with the concept of achieving lifelong dreams, Mercedes strengthens its image as an aspirational brand with a coveted luxury product.
Because Mercedes is simultaneously cheering consumers on and displaying a desire to support their personal hopes and dreams, audiences feel more connected to the brand.
That sentiment can translate into positive word-of-mouth, leads, and sales – three more reasons to love consumer-generated content.