With young, huge, and mobile-savvy audiences at their disposal, marketers in the Asia-Pacific region are making extensive use of initiatives that incorporate user-generated content (UGC).
Once peripheral, UGC campaigns are growing more ambitious as brands engage their customers not simply in amplifying their messages, but also in designing their products.
“Brands are seeking to find a way through the clutter of a 12-hour-plus daily diet of media clutter,” writes Stephanie Bouvard, marketing director for World Federation of Advertisers Australia-Pacific. “Consumers trust their family, friends, and other customers, but ultimately brands want to be trusted, too.”
Following are a handful of examples of successful UGC campaigns.
How 15 Million Tweets Saved SPC Ardmona
In perhaps the most dramatic example, UGC helped save a company from collapse.
In January 2014, Australian tinned fruit manufacturer SPC Ardmona was in imminent danger of closure. Salvation came from a most unlikely source: a campaign inadvertently launched by a customer named Linda Drummond, who tweeted:
Ari Sztal, group account director at Melbourne-based advertising agency Leo Burnett, worked on the subsequent campaign. He said it was successful largely because the idea originated among existing Ardmona customers.
“The movement started out there, and we felt it was important that it stay out there and remain behind-the-scenes,” Sztal said. “We really wanted to empower the customers to carry that branded message forward because having the face of a person is always much stronger than having the face of a brand.”
The results speak for themselves, with almost 15 million Twitter impressions in four days. The campaign generated $5 million in earned media off the back of only $2,500 in paid media.
Most importantly, SPC tinned fruit sales increased by 60%, and a new, five-year, $70 million deal with Australia’s largest supermarket chain, along with $22 million in government funding, secured the company’s future.
Music To Marketers’ Ears
Samsung had a different challenge when it launched its Samsung Galaxy Note II smartphone/tablet in Malaysia: figuring out how to promote the new device’s creativity tools.
“We did it by triggering a consumer movement and letting the generated conversations and buzz do the job,” said Eric Cruz, executive creative director at advertising and creative agency Leo Burnett Malaysia. “We asked Malaysians to unleash their creative imagination and express what makes Malaysia a ‘Wonderland’ for them. Yuna, the trend-setting Malaysian singer-songwriter with a fan following of over a million, was chosen to lead this movement.”
Print and online formats drove consumers to a Web site where they could post their submissions, which Yuna later used as the inspiration for a song she called “Home.”
Word spread among her fans and their networks of friends through weekly Facebook blasts from Yuna herself, mobilising he audience to share, spread, and co-create, Cruz said.
According to its winning submission to the Spikes Asia awards, as a result of the campaign, “Galaxy Wonderland generated high PR mileage with approximately MYR 1 million in earned media; 265,719 unique visitors explored Galaxy Wonderland online, resulting in 426,888 page views.”
Music also played a key role in the launch of Intel’s Ultrabook in 2012, when the company hired Korean band 2NE1 to write a song supporting the launch.
Fans around the world uploaded videos about their reaction to the launch, and for a kicker they had to finish their video by humming the iconic Intel jingle.
Customer As Co-Creator
Volkswagen took the concept of UGC in another direction: Rather than asking for help to design a campaign, the company had its customers design a product.
More specifically, its People’s Car project asked Chinese consumers to imagine the future of cars. The campaign turned into the world’s largest crowdsourcing product project. More than 30 million people submitted over 260,000 car ideas.
Volkswagen then commissioned a 10-part online series to bring the idea to life and ultimately unveil a concept car–a multipurpose vehicle that seats seven people– at the 2013 Shanghai Auto Show.
By the end of the campaign, the number of Volkswagen’s followers on social media had increased by 300%, its People’s Car was a top 10 trending topic on Chinese microblogging site Weibo, and intent to purchase a Volkswagen increased by 18 percent.
Nick Baker, the outgoing chief marketing officer for Tourism Australia, took a deep dive into UGC through the highly successful Best Jobs in the World campaigns.
The focus on UGC started in 2009, when Tourism Queensland launched an ad for its Best Job in the World campaign. The position: a six-month contract as a caretaker for an island on the heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, including luxury accommodation and a AU$150,000 salary. Applicants were asked to submit a video application and share it through their own social networks.
“After six weeks of the campaign we achieved some phenomenal results–with 620,000 applications by 330,000 individuals from 196 countries,” Baker said. “As candidates sought to progress their Best Jobs in the World applications, we received 46,000 video entries and thousands of supporting references from some of the most famous celebrities in the world.”
Tourism Australia followed up similar campaigns around the roles of “chief funster” in NSW, “Outback adventurer” in the Northern Territory, “park ranger” in Queensland, and “taste master” in Western Australia.
Buoyed by the success of these campaigns, Tourism Australia significantly expanded its UGC stream. The Australia.com Web site now hosts between 700 and 1,000 user-generated photos per day, while its @Australia Instagram account and Twitter feed have generated headlines worldwide with engaging and interactive posts.
Learn From The Leaders
So what are some lessons from these successful approaches? “You need to ask yourself why you are doing it,” Sztal said. “And you need to make sure you understand your strategy. When you are reaching out to consumers, remember you are celebrating their creations, so make sure you reward them.”
A reward doesn’t have to be in the form of money or prizes, but recognition is important, he said. “You want them to become ambassadors over the longer term,” Sztal added.
Tourism Australia’s Barker says marketers should work closely with an in-house technology team, aim to create whole platforms around direct engagement with customers, listen to their responses and speak with authenticity.
Ultimately, according to WFA’s Bouvard, brands don’t have to embrace UGC, but many ignore it at their peril. “While user-generated content should definitely not dictate your brand identity and strategy, it surely cannot be ignored,” Bouvard says. “If the best insights drive the best business results, then user-generated content, when managed appropriately, will provide the greatest insights.”