The Covid-19 pandemic has forced lockdowns across the world and has brought wholesale changes to the way we all live, travel and work. Amidst it all, companies’ business aspirations have been put on hold, and their responsibilities as employers, providers and members of the community are now front of mind.
The many changes have forced marketers to think on their feet. Carefully crafted strategies have had to be cast aside, as fast-changing events left pre-Covid messaging looking increasingly out of step with reality. At the peak of lockdown, people facing illness and barely able to leave their houses weren’t interested in the glossy aspirations of the ‘old normal’. Even as lockdown eases, marketers are needing to find their way in a ‘new normal’, where people’s goals and perspectives may be substantially different.
User generated content as a unifier
Within the chaos, brands have successfully found their voice by allowing consumers and the community to be heard. At a time of global uncertainty, user-generated content (UGC) has become a unifying medium. By providing a platform through which to share and amplify our experiences, brands have used UGC to respond empathetically and responsibly to the crisis. But getting it right demands both a sensitivity to events, and the ability to properly manage a wealth of diverse content.
Under lockdown, not only did the usual marketing messages suddenly become insensitive or irrelevant, marketers found themselves restricted in their ability to create new ones. With offices closed and film crews furloughed, creating Covid-aware messages with pre-Covid resources was out of the question.
But quickly, many brands discovered the ability of UGC to fill the gap. Not just a make-do substitute for the usual messaging, UGC quickly demonstrated an ability to connect brands to individuals as they shared a new and unsettling experience. From staff members showing how they were helping keep the shelves stocked, to users sharing their lockdown recipes, UGC became the perfect way for us all to bond.
Video marketing done right
Co-op Food was one of early brands to seize the moment. Scrapping its Easter campaign, it instead used self-filmed footage of its staff to raise funds for food charity, FareShare. Touching on the ‘strange times’, and tipping a hat to of-the-moment issues including confusing technology and dodgy connections, the ad struck the perfect note. US beauty brand, Billie, tried something similar, focusing on its customers to challenge the pressure to look good on camera.
Other brands showing creative use of UGC included fashion chain Zara, which got its regular models to photograph themselves wearing new lines at home. Paddy Power created ‘Darts from Home’, in which sports stars competed via smartphones, while the Getty Museum challenged social media followers to recreate its artworks. German football team Borussia Mönchengladbach even invited fans to send in selfies, then printed them on life-sized cutouts to ‘populate’ the stands when play resumed behind closed doors.
Marketers didn’t just discover UGC with the pandemic, of course. However, as much of the world emerges from lockdown, brands’ experience with UGC has left them with a better understanding of how its use can increase their relevance. For businesses seeking to build engaged relationships, UGC is the perfect medium to show their awareness of customers’ needs and experiences.
Video content that people trust
Through the appropriate use of user-generated content, businesses can build greater trust. Illustrating and amplifying marketing messages with footage filmed by users shows a greater understanding of user perspective, and a greater willingness to listen. Such footage also works to instil confidence in customers and stakeholders. If customers are filming their experience of shopping, travelling, banking or otherwise doing business with you, others are more likely to judge that it’s safe.
UGC also helps showcase the authenticity of a brand. Particularly when unscripted, spontaneous, or even outright incompetent, UGC often reveals human connections to core brand propositions like security, value or environmental awareness. Above all, building campaigns around user-generated content allows marketers to reflect and amplify their brand’s customer-centred focus.
Separately, the lower cost and quicker turnaround of UGC campaigns makes them a better fit for the squeezed budgets of the new normal. But while UGC saves on the expense of scripting, planning and filming with high production values, it presents challenges of its own.
Managing too much of a good thing
Open the doors to UGC and things don’t always go to plan. From hashtag hijacking, through inappropriate content, to simply getting overwhelmed, brands who engage the public don’t always get what they ask for. The alternative – going out and finding existing content – can be an arduous slog of tracking down original posts, contacting the owner, and securing the relevant rights.
In both cases, it’s important to have a system that not only stores any growing library of material, but which helps you manage essential metadata such as the owner and licence status. Better still, it would be useful if that system could handle user generated content submissions directly, and securely manage content as it’s needed by different editing and production teams. And if that system could help you manage UGC in-line with regulations such as GDPR, all the better.
Equipping your business to make the most of UGC
This is exactly the kind of role for which a digital asset management (DAM) platform like Imagen is ideal. Built in the cloud, and customisable with branded, secure portals, Imagen can directly handle the submission process, gathering the necessary information and permissions at source. Features such as automatic transcription help speed up time-intensive processes like auditioning and moderating clips, while extensive, searchable metadata makes it easy to zoom in on the right content.
Imagen also supports the secure sharing of UGC among marketing and production teams. With user-level permissions, fast global distribution and built-in support for versioning, the platform supports frictionless workflows among distributed teams without fear of unauthorised access.
With many marketing budgets undergoing significant cuts, UGC provides new ways of engaging through pre-existing channels, without sacrificing quality or straying from what your brand stands for. Investing in a DAM platform helps you manage the logistical, regulatory and practical challenges of gathering and working with UGC, enabling you to concentrate on sending the right message in changing times.
We help brands of all sizes ingest, manage, search and work with large media archives. Secure, powerful and unbelievably fast, discover how Imagen helps you amplify your voice through effective media management.