Last week saw the release of Santander’s latest multi-channel campaign, powered entirely from clips of user-generated content (UGC) running across TV, outdoor and digital channels.
Why is this significant? Because 2017 is the year UGC matures. It’s no longer the difficult teenager of content marketing, showing promise but ultimately not widely understood by big brands. It’s a confident medium, employed increasingly across the advertising spectrum and driving a significant proportion of media spend.
None of this, however, is news to socially-focused brands who have long championed its game-changing ability. Here’s why:
Building Brand Trust
A new study by Olapic, based on a survey of thousands of active social media users, found that in Europe 46% of respondents trust UGC more than other types of content. That’s nearly double as many who say they trust traditional content from brands.
It’s also important to contrast this figure with the percentage of consumers who trust advertising and editorial content produced by publishers – only 6% of people in the UK.
What does this reflect? A cultural shift in consumer behaviour that’s been going on for some time. Buoyed by the growth of social channels such as Instagram, visual communication is enjoying a renaissance – and it’s in the hands of consumers, rather than big brands or traditional publishers, who are increasingly overlooked and less relevant in their lives.
However, this doesn’t mean brands can’t have a role, and UGC holds that key to building brand trust. In fact, the same report found 56% of people are more likely to buy a product after seeing it featured in a positive or relatable user-generated image, demonstrating the power it holds over purchasing decisions, with authenticity as the key.
Tapping Consumer Insight
User-generated content holds inherent value for brands – showcasing the product while tapping into consumer truths like no other content can.
Starbucks has long understood this. Their ‘White Cup’ campaign encouraged fans to doodle custom designs on their cups and share with the brand via Instagram, creating a rich source of content they could own while tapping into natural consumer behaviour on social channels.
As a side note, I’m still convinced Starbucks misspell names on cups to encourage social sharing by consumers, more on that theory here from Buzzfeed.
Further to that, we’re seeing UGC increasingly feature across more traditional media as brands realise its power and influence. It’s hard to miss the ‘Shot on iPhone7’ campaign by Apple, with 10,000 billboards becoming the world’s biggest gallery installation, featuring the best UGC curated from the internet.
Everyone’s an Influencer
With increasing pressure on marketing budgets, brands are increasingly replacing celebrity endorsements with hundreds of ‘micro-influencers’ – loosely defined at having between 10k and 100k highly engaged social followers. Olapic’s report found people are seven times more likely to trust images of other consumers, rather than branded content on social media. To capitalise on product-focused UGC brands should, therefore, consider every consumer to be an influencer if they are going to truly reach and understand their target audience.
Ultimately, it’s the disconnect between brands and consumers across digital that too often creates unnecessary noise, preventing a true understanding and connection with the audience they are trying to reach. UGC can help close that loop, turning brand awareness into advocacy, creating a richer, more authentic experience and a meaningful place for brands in their lives.