stop the forced UGC

November 23, 2010 · 0 comments

UGC was always heralded as the pinnacle of social media - consumers who are passionate about a brand and taken it unto themselves to make or say something about it. this was genuine and transformational - consumers who really wanted to participate in a brand who would do the marketing work with and for us.

these people were truly influencers and dynamos that contributed a great deal to the paid efforts of a brand. and then UGC became a buzzword. then it became a tactic. now it's become a cliche.

we wanted UGC to the point where it was made a mandate. this led to our bereft situation now where it is just plain forced. campaign after campaign we demanded of our consumers that they make something for the brand. that was how they had to participate with the brand, like it or lump it. of course it was positioned as true participation in that it meant something (ex. the ads would be used in a later campaign). but it was really an attempt to game a trend.

the net effect, in my estimation, is the blatant use of UGC as a tactic that is all too often pointless, uninteresting and not strategic. it's been diluted and devalued to the point of ambivalence or worse detestation by consumers.

i'll revert (again) to forrester's technographics ladder to point out the folly. there is only a small percentage of people actually willing to make any kind of social content, much less for a brand. the industry has taken a niche interest and attempted to make it a play for everyone. that's a cardinal sin for the ad world.

the fallacious appeal of positioning a brand as in-touch or relevant or hip to the social movement is now turning on itself as fatigue of doing the advertising job for a company sets in.

doing this forced brands to heavily incentivize the program to make it have more mass appeal. essentially it gave an easy campaign route or made it palpable as a promotion. it's a thin veil and has just been a way to run a promotion. so it's not some vaunted social media and UGC garnering effort,it's just a promotion with the barrier to entry as making a hokey piece of content.

much of my issue is that it defeated a few of the core social media precepts.

1) influencers
one might think that social media finds, nurtures and leverages these critically important voices and you'd be right. these people are out there making brand content and sharing to their network (and sometimes elevated beyond that). so naturally, people who make content around a brand are influencers. in this case, you're wrong.

the artifice under which the content came from doesn't identify influencers it merely identifies people who want to win a prize. congrats, that's a lot of people, but few if any actually may be the loyalists willing to genuinely, recurrently participate with your brand.

2) credibility
someone in it for the money doesn't make a convincing spokesperson. it holds true elsewhere and it holds water in this case too. people incented to do something are less credible resources than those who have more pure intentions.

social media is a relationship builder, but these forced UGC campaigns are just an attempt to do something different, quasi-aligned to a consumer interest. especially egregious is where there is no strategic link in doing a UGC campaign - it's doing it to do it. that seems wrong to me. shiny new object syndrome at its worst.

a UGC component should be a natural fallout of a great campaign or the place where the brand is amplified organically. i'm not convinced that the crux of a campaign should be based on user submissions or the only reason for a campaign to exist is to get UGC.

some examples.

3M did a campaign for post-its called "you stuck it where?" asking consumers to submit videos of them using it Post-Its in an innovative way. i guess it could be fun, but i don't understand how that makes for anything interesting other than to say they did a UGC campaign (hopefully with the adjective 'successful'). who really cares to see the tepid product of such an endeavor? and it's not as if they are creating a new market or use for post-its so it's not strategic or relevant.

cadbury had a campaign for their picnic chocolate bar asking consumers to send in their videos of them trying to eat the bar in 30 seconds. so what, i can watch people eat a chocolate bar?

so then what's a good use or a strategically relevant use. the tourism queensland "best job in the world" is a great example. the UGC served an actual purpose. it actually created advocates and influencers. it was incredibly interesting to a broad group of people. and the UGC was just natural to the endeavor they were partaking in.

i'm a little on the fence with the doritos 'white bag' UGC campaign. it was an interesting quasi-crowdsourced initiative that would have been good with or without the UGC component. but it was seemingly a natural extension of the premise around naming and marketing a new flavor of doritos from a consumer perspective.

lego has a great community with UGC out the wazoo but it's purposeful and the company only embraced it, not forced it into existence.

old spice could have asked for copycats but didn't because it wasn't right. the copycats happened and did so organically which made them far better than the coaxed variety.

i think the industry has already gone a little overboard with the whole UGC affair and it's getting tired. i'm writing this because i think there are completely valid uses for this and directly asking for it, but its overuse is going to spoil it for everyone. not that it matters to many that it gets spoiled so long as they could potentially benefit from it. it's worth protecting because in the right cases, it's powerful.



 subscribe to rss feed Add to Technorati Favorites


Clicky Web Analytics