Archive for the ‘User generated content’ Category

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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.