The power of word-of-mouth marketing remains.
"Wait, I thought this article was about user-generated content." You are correct. User-generated content stems from the basic principle behind word-of-mouth marketing: Peer recommendations are incredibly influential and provide enhanced credibility.
User-generated content is flourishing with the rise of mobile, emerging technologies, and social platforms. These channels are creating a sharing ecosystem that thrives on user-based input -- whether a photo, video, review, podcast, question-answer database, or blog post.
According to eMarketer's predictions, nearly 155 million U.S. internet users consume some form of user-created content -- up from nearly 116 million in 2008. eMarketer estimates the number of user-generated creators will grow by similar proportions, reaching 114.5 million this year, up from 82.5 million in 2008.
As technology continues to enable people to seamlessly share experiences, opinions, and information with the online world, as well as allow people to easily access this peer-generated content, more brand marketers are harnessing the consumer tendency to share. Building a campaign around crowd-sourced content serves as a genuine way for brands to engage with their audience and is a refreshing departure from traditional one-way messaging efforts.
Let's take a look at five brands that set the bar high with user-generated content campaigns.
Burberry: "Art of the Trench"
Burberry helped pave the way for leveraging user-generated content as a powerful marketing tool with the "Art of the Trench" campaign. How to transform a brand viewed as stodgy and old-fashioned into one of the hottest fashion labels in the world? It's quite simple, really. Show real, fashionable people wearing the brand's signature vintage (yet trendy) piece -- the trench coat.
With the help of the street-style guru, Scott Schuman of the Sartorialist, and professional fashion photographers, the brand launched the Art of the Trench website. In addition to the professional photographs, Burberry fans were asked to upload photos to the site, and all viewers of the website could comment on and share the photos. Users were also able to browse trenches according to weather, color, style, gender, popularity, or collaborations. Within the first six months, the Art of the Trench site generated 7 million views and is still active today. The campaign re-established Burberry as the "it" brand in the fickle world of fashion.
Why it's great
When faced with fleeting fashion fame, Burberry turned to fans to revive the brand image. A loyal community is a powerful tool. (Having an extremely fashionable community doesn't hurt either.) Burberry transformed fans into powerful content contributors and paved the way for brands to truly embrace user-generated campaigns. In my book, this campaign is one of the best user-generated campaigns because it was the first of its kind.
Old Spice: "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like"
This one is a classic -- the pinnacle of user-generated content. After a series of traditional TV spots featuring the buff, bare-chested Old Spice Guy, Isaiah Mustafa, a response campaign was launched based on user feedback. Mustafa was featured in 186 videos, responding to tweets and Facebook posts from Old Spice fans.
Due to the remarkably quick turnaround time on the videos, Old Spice saw a huge spike in its social media influence. Twitter followers increased by 2,700 percent in a two-day period, and OldSpice.com experienced a 300 percent spike in traffic.
From a sales perspective, the campaign worked as well. According to Nielsen data provided by Old Spice shortly after the campaign launched, the campaign resulted in this staggering stat: In the last month of the campaign, with two new TV spots and the online response videos, sales increased by 107 percent.
Why it's great
Old Spice gave the audience the response it wanted (customized video messages) when it wanted it (immediately) and where it wanted it (on social media). The campaign serves as a great example of responding to the connected consumer. The brand harnessed real-time interaction with its buyers to execute a brilliant campaign. The campaign featured an unprecedented level of interaction with its followers and ultimately drove sales.
Tourism Queensland: "The Best Job in the World"
Get paid $150,000 AUD to spend six months in the Great Barrier Reef? Sold. That's the reaction Tourism Queensland was hoping for with the launch of the "The Best Job in the World" campaign, which aimed to create international awareness of the islands of the Great Barrier Reef. The campaign asked "job candidates" to submit a 60-second video to IslandReefJob.com. The winner received a job as an island caretaker for six months, accompanied by a hefty salary and beautiful, free housing on Hamilton Island in Australia.
Launched in January 2009, the campaign solicited more than 34,000 user-submitted videos from more than 200 countries and generated more than $200 million in global publicity value for Tourism Queensland. For the purposes of this article, "The Best Job in the World" qualifies as "The Best User-Generated Content (UGC) Campaign in the World 2009." (That's pretty much like winning an Effie).
Why it's great
The campaign offered a priceless incentive that captured the imagination of people all over the world. The result: fantastic free content and stellar earned media. "The Best Job in the World" campaign is the perfect example of a brand leveraging content to drive awareness globally.
Heineken's Ideas Brewery
Heineken is constantly turning to its customers to generate buzz for its products and develop new, innovative marketing strategies. Heineken's "Reinvent the Draught Beer Experience" challenge, run via its Ideas Brewery, asked fans to design the "ultimate draught beer drinking fantasy." Winners received a cash prizes as well as a two-day trip to Amsterdam to participate in a beer-making workshop.
Why it's great
Heineken takes user-generated content one step further by asking its audience for product innovation ideas. The challenge showcased the company's innovative culture in a participatory way by inviting fans to demonstrate their creative know-how and technological prowess. In addition to product innovation, the contest also enabled Heineken to obtain an insider look into what the brand's consumers want.
Rent the Runway's "Our Runway"
With an innovative business model that allows women to rent high-end designer dresses and accessories for special occasions, Rent the Runway is built on the idea of sharing. The brand found a way to leverage consumers' propensity for sharing by encouraging them to upload photos of their Cinderella moments. Rent the Runway found that their consumers were already uploading their glamorous photos to Facebook and Twitter, so it harnessed this organic crowd-sourcing effort via a branded "Our Runway" campaign to celebrate the fashionable moments.
In addition to showcasing celebratory moments, the UGC aimed to help each renter find a dress that works well for her body type. All renters are encouraged to upload an image and provide details about what dress they wore, their measurements and any additional comments or feedback about the outfit. Prospective renters can then search the massive database of photos to "find women like me" in order to determine what dresses look best on women with similar body types (as opposed to skinny-minny models).
And, the campaign works. Women who have viewed these UGC photos are 200 percent more likely to rent than those who have viewed a standard dress shot on a model.
Why it's great
Rent the Runway enhanced social proof by having real women model the clothes in addition to showcasing the popularity of the brand via the numerous photos. It also made online shopping less intimidating by equipping prospective renters with an arsenal of information and photos to make an informed purchase.
At AMP, we believe that "content is currency" in the digital age. User-generated content enables brands to engage with consumers in a conversation around your brand (in an organic way). What's next for brands and user-generated content? Given content is the currency in the digital age, we predict more and more brands will include a UGC layer when applicable.
As more platforms and APIs become available, marketers can create more targeted UGC campaigns with lower barriers to entry, thus facilitating easier and deeper levels of engagement. Social marketing platforms like Olapic and Offerpop allow marketers to collect, curate, showcase, and measure their UGC campaigns on one platform. New social platforms, channels, and technologies are allowing marketers to easily implement more meaningful UGC campaigns.
In a world where consumers have tons of control over brand images, we anticipate more marketers will implement UGC campaigns. After all, user-generated content provides brands with enhanced credibility, a wealth of free content, and a source of invaluable, real-time consumer insights.
Remember: Content is currency. And user-generated content will make you a wealthy marketer.
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"Art of the Trench." image via Burberry.