Tag Archives: user generated content

It’s all fun and games until someone gets iced…

Although a number of high-profile companies have had success with user-generated content, it is not irrational to fear that these types of messages could damage brand equity. Inconsistencies in the way consumers portray the brand and how the company strives to portray the brand can create tension and ultimately degrade the company’s reputation in the market. Companies that invite users to create content can take steps to protect themselves to a certain extent, but what happens when consumers take it upon themselves to start the conversation?

Smirnoff faced this dilemma in the early summer of 2010 when it discovered a drinking game website based around its malt beverage, Smirnoff Ice. The game challenged ‘bros’ to punk their friends by presenting them a Smirnoff Ice, which they then had to chug while taking a knee. At first, consumers thought it was a clever marketing campaign gone viral – until the website mysteriously shut down, leaving its fans with the message ‘We had a good run bros.’

Smirnoff’s parent company, Diageo, eventually responded in an article to AdAge, saying “Diageo has taken measures to stop this misuse of its Smirnoff Ice brand and marks, and to make it clear that ‘icing’ does not comply with our marketing code, and was not created or promoted by Diageo, Smirnoff Ice, or anyone associated with Diageo.”

Consumers responded in droves, slamming Smirnoff Ice for shutting down the site and discouraging consumers from having fun with the product.  Besides expressing disappointment, most comments had a common thread; they thought Smirnoff had made a big mistake.

“I think it’s a bad move on Smirnoffs part to just take down the site. I understand they don’t want any liability associated with irresponsible drinking behavior, but honestly, this site created some sort of dialogue for Smirnoff within a group that probably wouldn’t have even touched the stuff prior to the site. Most of the guys I know have heard of the site, think its funny, have participated.”

“This is just stupid on Diageo’s part, both from a business standpoint and branding standpoint. The only people that drink Smirnoff Ice are younger consumers that have nothing but love for brosicingbros.com.

I went into a liquor store a week ago and bought a sixer to ice some bros on my kickball team. I asked how smirnoff ice sales were. The owner said they had skyrocketed.  Money is money. Smirnoff ice is a goofy brand to start. They have been trying to sell the stuff to guys from the start. This is a win-win.  Mike’s hard lemonade……here’s your window bros!”

This highlights a key issue in the user-generated content debate: should companies let consumers own the brand, even when it doesn’t go along with their strategy?  There’s no clear-cut answer to this, but in the next post I’ll discuss some guidelines that can help brands decide how to best address unexpected user-generated content, whether it results from a sponsored marketing campaign or a consumer’s spontaneous creativity.

Open dialogue, open happiness

Many companies are reluctant to embrace existing user-generated content for fear that the messages disseminated won’t reflect their brand personality appropriately, or may imply negatives things about their product and/or service. Brand giant Coca-Cola encountered this problem in 2006 when a pair of consumers introduced the infamous Mentos and Diet Coke video.

Comments ranged from “this just makes me want to go to a store and make a mega mentos+coke bomb” to “no wonder there wasting it ITS DIET COKE EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.” As a result, Coke’s reaction to the video was less than favorable. They worried that the ingredients of Diet Coke, specifically aspartame, would come under question as consumers wondered what type of ingredient could fuel this reaction. Coke went on to create a YouTube-like cite called the Coke Show to draw traffic away from the video and ultimately create a more controlled conversation. However, the user-challenge based site failed to garner many submissions, and instead created backlash among consumer groups who saw the motive behind Coke’s new site (Morrissey).

Based on consumers’ reaction, Coke decided to take a different policy moving forward, “The biggest takeaway [from the Diet Coke-Mentos video] was consumers own our brands,” said Carol Kruse, VP of global interactive marketing at Coke. “We had absolutely nothing to do with it, but we were the beneficiaries. [We] needed to embrace that.” (Morrissey)

Coke went on to delve into a consumer controlled Facebook page, online contests and blog with the hope of engaging consumers on a more organic level and creating increased loyalty. Their strategy is simple: put fans first. Coke continues to prove their loyalty to this philosophy by doing things many other brands shy away from.  For example, their Facebook page not only is controlled by two super-fans in conjunction with Coke VP’s, but also displays user created content in their main Facebook Wall feed by default (even critical comments), allows fans to upload their own content their various social media sites and incorporates employee photos, Coke products from around the world and pictures of old Coke nostalgia (Baron).

The result is over 14 million engaged fans on Facebook alone, and a new image for Coke. A big brand went grassroots and empowered millions of brand ambassadors to speak in their name.  This has continued to increase Coke’s brand equity around the globe, as well as further distance the brand from competitors.

Baron, Lisa. 2009. What Coke Knows About Social Media That You Don’t. Outspoken Media. Retrieved from http://outspokenmedia.com/social-media/what-coke-knows-about-social-media-that-you-dont/.

Morrissey, Brian. 2008. Coca-Cola Hunts for Social-Net Formula. ADWEEK. Retrieved from http://www.adweek.com/aw/content_display/our-products/in-print/digital/e3iac100babad132e4d5267adba9a8f04c7).

The Digital Consumer-Brand Gap

Digital media has opened up endless possibilities for involving consumers through new channels. Brands can touch consumers wherever they are, whenever they’re online.The challenge lies in leveraging these media to create a mutually involved consumer-brand relationship. Too often, brands distribute traditionally formatted messages through digital media. This creates a disconnect between how brands use social media and how users consume information on digital media.  This can explain the current irrelevance of most brands in the digital world.

A study released by 360i highlights how most brands are speaking in a language foreign to the digital sphere. Although expansive possibilities for consumer-brand conversations exist, most brands still talk at people.

Don't shout!

They take a traditional media approach by simply passing along information, instead of connecting with consumers in a meaningful way.  A dissection of consumer-brand interactions on Twitter reveals how irrelevant most brands truly are:

  • 43% of consumer tweets are conversational (@replies to other users)
  • Only 12% of all marketer tweets show active dialogue with consumers
  • Only 1% of consumer tweets that mention a brand are part of a conversation with that brand

In the words of Nigel Carr, “the measure of communication lies with consumers; they are the ones who will notice or not, become involved or not.” Messages in the digital realm don’t need to be more informative, persuasive or believable. Instead, they need to be more noticeable, more relevant, more involving and more effective (Goldman, 1995).

Conversation is remarkable!As advertisers, it is our responsibility to utilize digital channels in ways that are cognizant of consumers’ usage habits. We must understand how consumers use digital channels, how they consume information and what content is most relevant in a digital format.  My next series of posts will examine how advertisers can better develop remarkable digital messages, as well as how brands must evolve to maintain relevance on digital media.

360i. (2010). Twitter & the Consumer-Marketer Dynamic [White paper]. Retrieved from http://ht.ly/2hkb3.

Goldman, Debra. (1995, April 10). The Species. ADWEEK, 31-21.

What on Earth is Viral?

This is a post I wrote for my company blog, but I liked it so much I thought I would post it here as well. Enjoy!

Viral is the new buzz word – everyone in the ad industry is talking about it, and more importantly companies are jumping on the bandwagon.  The best part?  Small and large companies alike can get in on the action!  The tough part is realizing sometimes viral is easier said than done…and the fact that it uses a digital medium doesn’t always mean it will produce instantaneous results.  

It isn’t a viral campaign until it goes viral.  Although you can develop a viral campaign, you audience chooses whether or not to pass it on through e-mail, social networks, and websites.  

This means the campaign must be creative, different, and talk-worthy.  The user must derive some value from the campaign, whether it be a laugh, a useful, relevant piece of information or way to emotionally connect with friends and family.

Know your audience and what will be most relevant to them, and provide this in an interesting, innovative way.  If you do this, you  have given yourself the potential for a successful viral campaign.

Check out these top ten viral campaign picks from TimesOnline for some inspiration.

1. Nike: A Touch of Gold.  This campaign got 50 million views worldwide.  For those that aren’t football buffs, these ball handling skills aren’t exactly common – which sparked on an online debate over whether the clip was real or digitally produced.

2. Agent Provocateur.  Explicit? Yes. Effective? Most definitely – 360 million views effective. 

3. John West Salmon.  This landed 300 million views.  Proof that sometimes what people choose to pass on may surprise you.

4.  Quicksilver Dynamite Surfing. This ad made its way onto 95% of surfing websites…four days after it was released.  

5. Carlton  Draught. Most viral campaigns don’t have this big of a budget, but the sheer creativity of it makes it relevant to companies of any size.  It also shows how digital mediums can work with traditional ones: this ad was released two weeks before it aired on T.V. to generate buzz.

6. Trojan Games.  This site went up in 2003 to generate buzz and is still getting hits five years later.  Disclaimer: View at your own risk, its slightly provocative. 

7. Dove Evolution.  A testament to the real results a viral campaign can produce.  It positioned Dove as the “real beauty” company, which gave them a double digit sales increase.

8. Berlitz: Improve your English. This ad became so popular, the website it linked to couldn’t handle the traffic and had to be shut down.

9. Mentos and Diet Coke.  Paying attention to how people are using or talking about your product online pays off.  This experiment by Eepy Bird wasn’t commissioned by either company, but still got them major exposure. Well worth the 3 minutes.

10. Marc Ecko: Still Free.  The company caused some major controversy when they released a video on the web of a cover operation to tag Air Force One with grafitti.  It caught so much attention that major networks like ABC, MSNBC, and CNN covered the story and the U.S. Air Force itself investigated whether it had been simulated or was in fact real.