Archive for the ‘consumer generated content’ Category

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The Truth About Crowdsourcing

November 18, 2009

Nigel Hollis of Milward Brown had an interesting post on crowdsourcing last week, outlining how numerous brands and some agencies are using the concept. His post and the comments that followed cemented my opinion that crowdsourcing is really about the procurement of spec work from professionals, not the solicitation of ideas and content from typical consumers.

I’ve written about User Generated Content and Consumer Generated Content in the past. With few exceptions, most branded content worthy of any attention (by other consumers) is actually being produced by skilled amatuers and semi-pros, not crafty brand loyalists. We can add professionals and agencies to the list of producers.

Most brands continue to create an illusion that their crowdsourcing activities are consumer contests, but Mountain Dew’s recent campaign is fully transparent, listing agencies and independent film companies as their primary target audiences.

Crowdsourcing has become nothing more than a massive RFP drop based on the theory that creative is a numbers game. Get enough participants/entries and you’re likely to find suitable work at bargain basement prices.

Why would any agency, independent film company, or industry professional spend their time, energy and money on what amounts to the lowest pay spec work with poor odds? Because they see these activities as promotional and portfolio-building opportunities; a means to get noticed, build a reputation, and get hired for ‘paying gigs’. Apparently these participants feel no cognitive dissonance about crowdsourcing.

Will crowdsourcing become widespread or mainstream? Will agency fees for creative and production crater as a result? Nobody knows for sure, but what we do know is over time marketers run the risk of creating a patchwork quilt brand without the guiding hand of experienced marcom strategist.

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UGC, CGC, and UPCs – Part VI

July 17, 2007

Let’s wrap up with a few additional thoughts on how brands can leverage CGC to engage consumers

Make-a-flakeProvide toys and apps that are fun and enable creativity
Not all consumer-generated content needs to result in free-form creation. Online toys are a great way for brands to let user create “content” while entertaining themselves and their friends. Online apps like Line Rider and Make-a-flake are great examples of CGC tools – both succeed because they are simple, fast, and fun.

Apps like the Snakes on a Plane phone call from Samuel L. Jackson require little effort on the part of the consumers but pay off big time in entertainment value.

Not all CGC needs to be shared
The producer and consumer of content can sometimes be one in the same. Branded apps and games can allow users to create their very own, private creations.

Back in 2001 my team re-launched Conefactory.com for Edy’s/Dreyer’s Ice Cream. The new site allowed kids to run their very own virtual ice cream factory and create custom flavors for a fictional town. The kids had full control; from selecting ingredients, to naming flavors, to setting prices. A fancy algorithm on the backend determined flavor favorability from the community each day and rewarded our junior CEOs with ConeCash.

Conefactory main viewConefactory ingredients viewConefactory consumer feedback

Jones SodaTap skilled amateurs and semi-pros
As we discussed in an earlier post, skilled amateurs and semi-pros rarely create content just for their love of a brand. But that’s okay. Enlisting semi-pros has virtually no downside so long as the brand is transparent about who is actually creating the content. Also, costs are much lower and the creative can sometimes be better than an agency can produce because semi-pros don’t have to run through bureaucratic minefields. For the marketer, it’s a take it or leave it proposition.

Consumer Generated Products
Consumer generated content is a natural segue to consumer generated produces. Snakes on a Plane (the motion picture) enlisted the public to play co-producer/director/writer and Jones Soda allows it’s consumers to create/name flavors and even design their own labels. Note, the vote for your favorite flavor/color contests don’t really qualify as CGP.

Did I miss something? If I did please feel free to post your ideas on how brand marketers should be using CGC.

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UGC, CGC, and UPCs – Part V

July 16, 2007

In this post I’ll begin listing my thoughts on how marketers can actually use UGC/CGC. Feel free to join in.

Trip Advisor reviewEven the best agency can’t polish a turd
Marketers often look past the most powerful form of consumer generated content: word of mouth. I have personally spent countless thousands of dollars based entirely on reviews posted on sites like Amazon and TripAdvisor. I have also spent well over six figures on automobiles (both new and used) based on Consumer Reports Used Car guides, where rankings are based primarily on consumer input.

Companies who fail to deliver innovation, quality and top-notch customer service are doomed in an age where CGC/WOM channels play a huge role in driving consideration and conversions.

Rule #1 of CGC is to make sure your product doesn’t suck.

Pillsbury Bake-OffEncourage consumer generated value
When embarking on a marketing program that leverages CGC, design it so the content generated will be of value to other consumers. I’ve seen hundreds of branded contests with the goal on catalyzing CGC, but too often the resulting content provides no value. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is a great example of a CGC program that provides value for both the creator and the brand’s target consumer.

Grab the long-tail – with caution
Blogs, podcasts, and social networks can provide unique opportunities for marketers to engage influencers within a relevant niche. The key word here is “relevant”. If your product isn’t highly relevant to both producers and their audience, don’t waste your time.

Also recognize that social networks, whether explicitly private or not, are personal spaces. You are an uninvited stranger and interruptive marketing doesn’t work here.

As always, provide value and relevance first, engage users later. I have a hunch sponsored widgets will lead the way in providing relevant connections between brands and consumers who use social networks.

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UGC, CGC, and UPCs – Part IV

July 15, 2007

George MastersIt might be easier to wrap our brains around the commercial potential of UGC/CGC if we put producer-types into groups. Thus far we’ve discussed amateurs and professionals, but there are two additional producer-types that are making the most notable consumer generated content: skilled amateurs and semi-pros.

Skilled amateurs excel in using one or more content creation tools and often have some degree of creative talent. They aren’t pursuing a career directly related to their talent but may want to monitize it through channels like contests. Skilled amateurs are few, but exactly who CGC proponents and brand marketers want to catalyze.

Semi-pros fall into several camps. Some are sporatically employed actors, writers, directors, and artists trying to break into the big time. Others are students in art, film, or journalism schools trying to get noticed. Often semi-pros are already commercial artists or media professionals who have a personal interest or excel in an area outside of their current jobs.

Many ballyhooed examples of CGC content come from folks in these two groups. George Masters, who created the iPod Tiny Machine animation is the epitome of a “skilled amateur”. Examples from semi-pros, including the creators of Dorito’s Superbowl ads are far more numerous.

Pop Secret spec adThe allure of cheap but potentially breakthrough advertising has spawned Internet services like CurrentTV’s VCAM, letting marketer’s solicit spec work from both semi-pros and skilled amateurs. These so-called “consumers” are unlikely to have a deep affinity for the brands they create content for, but the Koolaid drinking proponents of CGC aren’t very interested in discussing this point. The illusion of loyal consumers toiling away to produce branded creative is far too sexy to distroy.

Part of the illusion is a perception of authenticity. This is often more a result of less-than-professional production quality than the heartfelt affinity of the creator. Even though the illusion may be more hype than reality, marketer’s should take interest leveraging CGC created by semi-pros and skilled amateurs.

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UGC, CGC, and UPCs – Part III

July 12, 2007

Dance CrewProfessional or amateur, most content is produced with a specific audience in mind. Most UGC is produced for a micro audience; friends, family, and possibly a special interest group. Rarely do amateurs (users) produce content for an audience outside their small sphere of acquaintances. Professionals obviously focus on much larger audiences.

Relevance, quality, and uniqueness/creativity drive content appeal. As each factor increases, so does the potential size of the audience and the degree in which they’re engaged. Most UGC is only relevant to a very small audience. Andrew, you would have no interest in browsing my daughter’s Facebook page, believe me.

Relevance + Quality + Uniqueness/Creativity = Value

Every producer makes a value promise to their audience. Even my wife and kids would have zero interest in our vacation pictures if they were poorly lit and blurry. Fred Rutherford repeatedly failed to deliver his value promise to the Cleavers because his slideshows ran far longer than their interest.

Bob SagetOccasionally UGC will appeal to a large audience due to it’s absurdity or shock value. Television programs like America’s Funniest Home Videos have made a cottage industry of UGC for almost two decades. But rarely does an amateur intentionally design content to appeal to a large audience, and when they do, they usually fail. This is a key point many marketers don’t seem to understand. 

 Add a brand contraint and you really have a tall order. Unlike user generated content, consumer generated content is supposed to say something compelling about a brand. Too often UGC appeals to a large audience because it is pornographic, violent, grotesque, or degrading – exactly the kind of content most brands want nothing to do with. Amateurs, for whatever reason, have great difficulty creating content that is G-rated-funny, inspirational, or creative.

Brands who have attempted to initiate CGC to reach a large or influential audience are often disappointed with the results – but you won’t read this in the trade press.

The idea of CGC appeals to marketers because “authentic content” is thought to make a stronger connection between brands and consumers. CGC is viewed not only as entertainment, but as a testimonial for the brand. A the very least, CGC should say something positive about the brand. Tangerine Toad aptly points out that CGC like the Mentos/Coke videos say nothing positive or negative about either brand.

In part IV I’ll delve into UGC created by skilled amateurs and semi-pros.

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UGC, CGC, and UPCs – Part II

July 11, 2007

SlideshowBelieve it or not, user generated content isn’t new. Users; “the unwashed masses”, amateurs, and common folk have been creating content since cave paintings. This observation may seem obvious to you but you would never know it if you only listened to the proclamations by pundits and the MSM. Back in the analog age we had Brownies, 8mm, Kodachrome, Etch-a-sketch, Paint-by-numbers, Selectrics, reel-to-reel, Lite-Brite, Spirograph

And consumer generated content? In the ’30s Curly won $50,000 in a radio jingle contest. In the ’40s we had the first Pillbury Bake-Off recipe contest. And in the ’70s Razzles asked consumers to decide once and for all whether Razzles was a candy or gum.

Richard DeaconWhy do we create? To preserve memories, share our joy, win accolades, pass time, challenge ourselves, extend a dialogue, or just plain have fun. This hasn’t changed for centuries. What has changed is the tools we use to create and share content:

  • Creation tools – everything from cameras to software is making content creation easier and more polished. Technology is delivering on the previously unattainable trifecta: Faster, cheaper, and better.
  • Sharing media – the days of huddling around a photo album or being invited to sit through Fred Rutherford’s vacation pics/slideshows are probably over. Today new media allows users to “broadcast” their creations to the world.

Our desire to create and motivations to share haven’t changed much. However, new tools and media have opened the flood gates of content creation and accessability.

In part 3 I will touch on content quality, relevance and value and how they relate to various audiences.

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UGC, CGC, and UPCs – Part I

July 10, 2007

White AlbumUser generated content has been a huge topic in marketing circles over the past few years but I often feel like we’re talking past each other and missing it’s core relevance to marketers. We even get bogged down arguing terminology; Is it user generated content, consumer generated content, authentic media…or something else?

I’ve listened to idealistic revolutionaries like Joseph Jaffe who believe consumer generated content is an exciting new opportunity for brands – a way for consumers to shape, own and engage a brand.

Andrew KeenI have also read Andrew Keen, who believes UGC is dumbing down art, culture and society in general – encouraging even the most uncreative and inarticulate to express themselves through digital media.

Might there be a thread of truth and hype in both arguments?

I’ll post my thoughts on this topic over the coming week, culminating with specific ideas on how (or if) marketers can actually leverage CGC to build a brand and move UPCs through the checkout aisle.