A disconnect has developed between consumers and brands. With over 36% of consumers now using desktop ad blockers, advertisers need to take action if they are going to create worthwhile campaigns that compel their audiences to respond to their messages and engage with their brand.
Despite an increase in ad blocking, consumers haven’t lost faith in brands — 84% feel brands have the power to make the world better according to research by McCann – but they are put off by what they perceive as a lack of authenticity. Consumers don’t want to be bombarded with pushy marketing tactics; they demand relevant and meaningful interactions that guide them and provide value.
To meet these expectations, marketers must put trust and transparency back into their processes. In addition to providing personalised experiences, they also need to give consumers a voice by allowing them to play a more active role in building the brand.
Consumers don’t want to be bombarded with pushy marketing tactics; they demand relevant and meaningful interactions that guide them and provide value.
Campaigns that use user-generated content (UGC) have become a powerful way to connect with consumer and make brands and marketing more authentic. Let’s take a closer look at what UGC is, and why UGC campaigns require a thorough understanding of the audience to be successful.
Why UGC is a gift to marketers
It’s often an unspoken truth in marketing that consumers trust the word of peers over brand communications. This isn’t to say brands don’t have influence or credibility — over 64% of UK adults are brand loyal — it’s just that the endorsement of real customers carries more weight. Indeed, studies show 60% of consumers define peer-produced content as the most authentic, three times more than ideas shared by a brand.
Therefore, UGC campaigns present such a valuable opportunity for marketers. Put simply, the concept covers any piece of content created and shared by unpaid contributors or ‘fans’ of a brand, be that photos, social media posts, videos, or any other form of promotion or endorsement that comes from customers rather than the brand itself. UGC isn’t a new idea — the term has been used by the mainstream industry since the early 2000s — but modern media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are making it easier to leverage. For example, brands such as Aerie, IBM and Wayfair have all harnessed UGC campaigns on Instagram to amplify their social reach.
By showcasing customers’ creativity, the campaign encouraged them to act as marketers while further enhancing Starbucks’ own creative and innovative brand image.
The key benefit UGC offers for marketers is obvious: by engaging with content created by brand advocates, consumers develop closer ties with both spokespeople and the featured brand, as well as higher levels of trust. Take, for instance, Starbuck’s White Cup contest, where customers were encouraged to doodle designs on cups and share photos online for a chance to have their design printed on a limited edition Starbucks reusable plastic cup. By showcasing customers’ creativity, the campaign encouraged them to act as marketers while further enhancing Starbucks’ own creative and innovative brand image. Moreover, the campaign-built trust by proving the company strongly values customer feedback.
To carry out effective UGC campaigns that compel customers to act, as Starbucks did, marketers must ensure they have personal relevance. And to do that, they’ll need a clear view of their customers and prospects – their wants, needs, behaviours, purchasing habits and lifestyle interests – and meet them with the right message at the right place and time.
Taking a people-based approach is key
Much of UGC’s appeal lies in its uniqueness; offering consumers the opportunity to interact with content that speaks to the elements they love about certain brands. So, it follows that for UGC experiences to make the right impact, marketers should base efforts on deep person-level insight: covering not just who they are and how they behave, but also the creative messages and offers that resonate with them and drive them to act.
The challenge is gaining this all-encompassing picture of consumers. Most marketers know modern audiences are highly connected — the average UK consumer owns three smart devices — and as a result, following consumers as they bounce across a complex web of channels and screens can be difficult to track. Moreover, marketers tend to store much of their audience attribute and interaction data in systems that are siloed, making it even harder to connect the dots and develop a precise understanding of individuals and their journeys to conversion.
Consequently, to obtain the comprehensive insight needed for successful UGC strategies; marketers must take a different approach — one that’s centered on the principles of people-based marketing and measurement.
People-based marketing and measurement is predicated on the ability to de-duplicate unique users across disparate channels and devices, and link those anonymous, unique IDs with demographic, intent, interest and other audience attribute data to create robust audience profiles. When these profiles are combined with multi-touch attribution for user-level analysis, marketers can measure the influence of each touchpoint along the path to conversion and see which creative messages, content, and other marketing tactics connect with each audience and drive the best results for their business. Armed with this insight, marketers can then tailor their UGC campaigns for optimal impact.
And that’s not all: using this type of audience-based performance analysis, marketers can also identify new audiences for particular UGC efforts that they haven’t considered before. For example, data may show certain unexplored audience segments are performing well against key business metrics, making them ideal targets for UGC. Moreover, they’ll also be able to see what types of experiences these new audiences prefer, so they can tailor their UGC campaigns accordingly.
As the consumer call for personal, authentic and transparent experiences gets louder, there is a growing need for marketers to answer by making brand development more collaborative — and UGC could be the ideal solution. By developing bespoke UGC efforts and letting individuals play a leading role in building their brand, marketers can create one-to-one connections with customers and prospects. All they need to do is ensure they have the right data and measurement foundation to launch a UGC revolution.