2015: The Year of User Generated Content
2015 was an amazing year for user generated content (UGC). The launches of Meerkat and Periscope brought live streaming to the masses, while network giants like Twitter introduced new storytelling formats with Moments and Instagram moved beyond the square with landscape and portrait photos. Snapchat continued to evolve into a publishing powerhouse, and Facebook expanded its products with more features than ever.
Leading brands took care to incorporate UGC into their overall marketing for 2015 and make sure it was an integral part of their campaigns. From fashion to entertainment, toys to travel, UGC made a big impact on the biggest campaigns of the year. In fact, many of the most notable campaigns were based on UGC participation.
The Straight Outta Somewhere meme generator was one of my favorite campaigns of the year as it made it easy for people to create and personalize their own ‘Straight Outta _____’ image based on the historic Straight Outta Compton album cover art. The campaign was a viral success and spread like wildfire on social media, giving a huge lift in awareness to the film generating increased ticket sales for the new movie, soundtrack, and remaster of the original album.
By making a meme generator that was strikingly on-brand and simple for fans to customize, the campaign was able to attract everyone from sports teams to celebrities to participate in the campaign. The meme generator was a great strategy and one I think more brands will follow in 2016.
Another great campaign from 2015 was the Star Wars #ForceFriday campaign, a global release and unboxing of dozens of new and exciting Star Wars toys. Their marketing team did an amazing job building up the hype for what would have been just a normal Friday and turned it into a global event with a global livestream and hashtag where fans shared their excitement and photos of new purchases of Star Wars toys.
Leveraging social media and user-generated content to hype the buildup and excitement of a new release can be very powerful. While not every brand may have the strength and numbers of the Star Wars fanbase, brands everywhere can use their greatest asset, their customers and fans, to become their greatest marketers.
A trend I see for 2016 is the increasing personalization of content as well as a greater shift to lifestyle-focused UGC. Coca-Cola did this really well in 2015 with their #Shareacoke campaign, literally personalizing their products for people to seek out specific variations just so that they would share, and create UGC on social networks. By personalizing their products and UGC marketing efforts, they created a greater emotional connection between their fans and their products.
In 2016, lifestyle campaigns in particular will continue to grow in popularity as brands ask their fans to participate in a visual conversation of what their products enable them to do. Moving away from repetitive product shots on social media, brands like the outdoor company Poler Stuff are promoting their own products through hashtags. Poler Stuff's #Campvibes asks fans to participate with amazing camping and hiking photography, not requiring them to feature Poler gear in the photos. It is about the lifestyle, not any specific product. Poler then curates and shares the best photos and videos on their website and in store to inspire visitors to go on their own camping adventures.
This is just the beginning of a whole new wave of marketing where brands and fans are creating content together around their shared love of products, movements and communities creating strong stories. With a phone in every pocket, there is so much opportunity to crowd source amazing content and share the collection with the world. With new social networks appearing each year and the established ones growing and continuously innovating, user-generated content will be a major focus for marketing campaigns for many years to come.