Brands are relying more on user-generated content in their campaigns as a way to better engage with consumers.
Canon, for example, invited photographers to submit photos illustrating eight different movie theme categories into a YouTube community. One image from each was selected as an inspiration to be developed into a short film by Ron Howard, shot entirely with Canon digital SLR products.
Consumers helped select the winners and the YouTube channel served as a place where consumers could interact about topics relating to photography.
Even without incentivizing with prizes, Canon drew 96,000- plus photos in about three weeks. It was a huge leap from past contests where the highest total of images obtained was about 40,000 over a five-month period, notes Rob Altman, manager of camera marketing at Canon USA.
Partners in Innovation
At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, Intel CEO Paul Otellini announced the Ultrabook Project, featuring recording artist and Intel creative innovation director Will.i.am (below), who will visit 12 cities over the next year to work with fans and colleagues to develop and distribute 12 songs using an Intel-based Ultrabook laptop.
Canon's printer division recently launched a campaign where consumers at a party were invited to take photos of a performance by musician Herbie Hancock. The images were submitted, printed on Canon printers, and turned into a music video Canon released.
In its Pen Ready project, Olympus marketed a new camera by giving away 1,000 of them to consumers across the US and encouraging them to share images and videos they shot on a Tumblr site.
The increased participation was attributed to Canon's emphasis on social media and encouraging consumers to tweet and post on Facebook about the campaign.
"We saw virally and exponentially the numbers increase as people started participating," Altman says. "That really drove response and engagement."
The campaign's first portion was so successful, Canon extended it and has now asked consumers to submit photos that represent different pieces of the script.
"It was about encouraging people to do more," says Altman. "To take better pictures and challenge them to inspire others and to be inspired. We sought ways to have people share their images using the best of social media, but at the same time the best of real and thoughtful photography."
Campaigns that involve user-generated content also contribute to success when pitching local stories about the consumers involved, says Amy Tunick, president of Alliance, which handled the campaign's PR.
"When you have someone in the area who has become a localized hero who is connected to a brand in such an organic way, it adds value to your PR exposure," she says. "It's not just a national story. It touches people in a very personal and local way."
HP presented a live improv event, "HP ePrint Live," on YouTube, Facebook, and mobile hosted by comedian Rob Riggle to promote ePrint technology. HP encouraged consumers to send a note, picture, song, or drawing to its HP Web-connected printer to provide inspiration for the improv show featuring Riggle and members of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.
Intel created its Visual Life campaign for the launch of its Second Generation Intel Core Processor family. Visual Life encouraged consumers to share their experiences through film and photos, while Intel also produced a series of short films featuring inspirational personalities, including blogger and fashion photographer Scott Schuman.
Consumers no longer want to hear about products from a company, he explains, but rather from friends or others like them.
"By allowing multiple sets of voices," says Eddie Rehfeldt, VP of experience design at Waggener Edstrom Studio D, "you get to the one or two that hit the right notes with a level of authenticity."
Michael Bourne, SVP and account director at integrated ad agency Mullen, believes user-generated content is a powerful communications tool.
"Consumers have more creativity than we give them credit for," he says.
With consumers having access to multiple tools and platforms for creating and publishing content, there are few barriers as they look to create and network their creations to a larger group.
"A campaign that enables you to focus on yourself and then play dress-up with a brand's products and share that experience with others will revolutionize how people shop," adds Bourne.