Matthew Scott, SVP of Business Development & Strategy at Crowdtap, answers our questions about the future of content marketing and how brands are finding success by viewing their customers beyond the impression.
A: Two or three decades ago, there were finite places where content could be placed by marketers and discovered by consumers. Today, the broadcast pillars of the past are competing for attention with upstarts in the form of digital media properties and social apps. In 2016, content formats and channels will proliferate, with mobile apps like Snapchat and Instagram continuing to dominate Millennials’ media time.
For brands this means that developing the volume of content needed to keep up with today’s media cadence is both resource-intensive and expensive. Small to mid-sized brands with limited budgets can lean on influencer partnerships to develop relevant, authentic content in places where they might not have the resources to create and amplify their own.
Q: 2015 was a big year for user-generated content. What do you see for the year ahead for brands infusing UGC into their marketing efforts?
A: Marketers are beginning to realize the power of user-generated content when it comes to empowering consumers to tell their brand’s story. Reports suggest that upwards of 30 percent of Millennials have some form of ad-blocking software installed, and yet – as young people are evading advertisements – they are creating more of their own content than ever before. While this trend challenges the status quo for many marketers, it also presents an opportunity to harness existing consumer behavior and give real people (and their experiences with brands) a more prominent role in the marketing process.
One example of this from 2015 was Whirlpool’s “Every day, care” project, which placed real stories from real people at the center of the brand’s largest advertising effort to date (full disclosure: Whirlpool and its digital agency, DigitasLBi, are Crowdtap partners). Across paid, earned and owned, the brand amplified user-generated content to spread the message that simple moments of care in the home can make a big impact. By taking an authentic approach to bringing this story to life, the brand generated a 6.6% sales lift in just six months, as well as a 6X lift in online brand sentiment. In 2016, more brands will follow Whirlpool’s example and consider UGC beyond the confines of earned media – repurposing this content across owned and paid media channels.
Q: When you look back at 2015, which marketing campaigns stand out as indicative of trends to come in 2016 and beyond?
A: In 2016, the brands that stand out will be those that value their customers beyond their ability to be counted as an impression. Looking at consumers merely in the context of their capacity to buy “stuff” limits the potential of what’s possible when we partner with people to infuse their ideas, opinions and stories into our brands.
REI’s #OptOutside effort stands out as an example of this concept in action. On Black Friday this year, the retailer shuttered its stores across the U.S. and instead encouraged people to “opt outside” rather than spending the day cooped up in malls and stores. The irony of launching a Black Friday campaign that encouraged consumers to close their wallets for the day generated a ton of buzz around the brand and its values. While in-store sales for that day obviously suffered, the effort created a longer-term impact by reminding consumers that REI is a brand that believes in and celebrates the simple beauty of the great outdoors – above the flash and superficiality of the holiday shopping season.
Another campaign that stands out is Minute Maid’s #DoinGood effort, which brought to life the insight that Millennial parents can be harder on themselves than prior generations. The campaign launched with a digital video in which children reminded their parents that they were doing a great job – in spite of the messiness of modern parenting – and then the brand invited bloggers and everyday consumers alike to shout-out their fellow parents for “doin’ good.” The simple honesty of the insight is what makes this program so powerful. As one YouTube commenter put it, “This brought me to tears. I myself struggle with not knowing if i’m doing good all the time. Very comforting message to send us parents, Minute [Maid]. Thank you!” Marketers can emulate REI and Minute Maid’s successes by identifying ways to dimensionalize their brand values in social media by providing an authentic context for the role of their brands in consumers’ everyday lives.