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User-generated content gains steam from mobile, social

Although the concept first gained steam during the social media boom of the past decade, marketers are finding new ways to employ user-generated content, especially video and photos, in their campaigns.

NBC Universal’s iVillage partnered with user-designed apparel site CafePress this month to promote an online photo contest celebrating Earth Day. The initiative encouraged consumers to submit photos that answer the question, “Why on Earth are you saving the planet?” The company required consumers to submit e-mail addresses when uploading photos.

Bob Barnett, director of health at iVillage, said that one advantage to the tactic is that “the consumer loves it when we feature their content.”

“I think the general audience enjoys that peer-to-peer approach,” he added. “In general, the women who come to our site want to understand the experience of other women who come to the site.”

Briar Waterman, digital group creative director at EuroRSCG Chicago, said that marketers have recently increased their use of the tactic in part because of the spread of smartphones.

“We’re calling it ‘mocial’ – basically a combination of mobile and social,” he said. “There’s an ongoing conversation that we can have, especially when consumers are not in front of their computers.”

Last month, Sun Chips, a brand in PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division, launched a multichannel campaign to promote a compostable chip bag it introduced. The campaign encouraged consumers to share photographs of happy moments in their lives, which then became part of a growing online photo montage.

Aflac also launched its first user-generated video contest last month, urging consumers to submit videos of themselves explaining exactly what Aflac does for policy holders in 10 seconds or less.

“Some of the recent use [reflects] that marketers are getting a better sense of doing programs like this,” said David Berkowitz, senior director of emerging media and innovation at 360i. “If you were doing this in 2006 or 2007, it was more about trying to do something cool, and now it’s more about using user-generated content to achieve an actual marketing objective — and it is getting more sophisticated.”

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