Consumer-Generated Ads: Dos and Don’ts

Most executions of companies getting consumers to create traditional-style advertising — i.e., 30 second spots and the like — are gimmicky, forced and contrived. I think the greatest opportunity for marketer-consumer co-creation lies in tapping the spontaneous passions of loyal consumers to create or explore entirely new formats for creative expression. Church of the Customer dedicates a lot time probing such examples.

For advertisers who really are determined to co-create ad campaigns with consumers, Pete Blackshaw and I created the top 10 Principles of Consumer-Generated Advertising Campaigns (and this also was the basis of my latest MediaPost Spin column):

  1. Connect The Program To Larger Business Goals: Ensure that your strategy aligns with well-defined goals and objectives, and create a measurement framework for program planning, tracking, adjusting and evaluating. A consumer-generated campaign is not a license to veer into irrelevance or sloppiness.
  2. Keep It Authentic: Leverage the full creative power of the participants and don’t set narrow guidelines on the creative. The traditional media framework for inserting creative is losing its effectiveness, even among the pros. Allow for flexibility in shape, form and raw spontaneity.
  3. Be Transparent: Don’t play fast and loose with the fact that the brand facilitated content creation. Avoid a potential backlash by being completely transparent.
  4. Encourage Advocacy: Don’t be shy about allowing entrants to vote for their favorites and encourage their friends and family to vote. This builds momentum around the campaign, and ensures that the best content rises to the top.
  5. Empower Syndication: Make it simple to upload, simple to share, simple to embed on blogs and other community and video platforms. Let the people become the distribution and evangelical pipeline.
  6. Tap The Long Tail: Don’t hesitate to leverage non-winners for other marketing purposes. Embrace them as passionate and loyal stakeholders, and use the Web site as a repository for their rich content.
  7. Capture The Moment: Capitalize on “great brand moments” when consumers are highly vested and more likely to advocate, such as new product launches, purchases, or actual brand use and enjoyment. This will help passionate, credible and authentic storylines rise to the top.
  8. Be Consistent: If you create an environment of dialogue and interaction, stakeholders will notice inconsistencies across other customer touch points or company silos. While the campaign may end, its equity around “participation, community and feedback” may live on. Decide beforehand if your brand’s cultural values, resources and commitment will sustain after the campaign ends.
  9. Embrace Criticism And Deprecation: You’ve got to take the bad with the good. While a good strategy will acknowledge and plan for detractors, the reality is that everyone is empowered to publish. Accept and embrace this truth, and leverage criticism or deprecation as a gift of feedback and opportunity.
  10. Move From Campaign To Platform: Campaigns may have clear beginnings and endings, but there may be dimensions of your program that want to live on forever. Prepare a platform to facilitate and leverage sustained engagement and brand return.

…so, are you in compliance?

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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