Sales & Marketing

Brands need to be authentic – and not just at Christmas

7 min read

04 December 2019

To cut through the noise, especially online, brands have to be more authentic than ever. But don't just reserve this for the sentimentality of the Christmas period!

Now, more than ever, in today’s digital-savvy society industry brands need to be, behave and appear to be real to their audiences in order to achieve real results for themselves all year round – and even if your product, business or service is seasonal, your UGC should never be.

Authenticity is even more important today

With over 2 million monthly advertisers on Instagram, 7 out of 10 hashtags on Instagram being created by brands and now over 500,000 identified influencers using the platform Instagram to promote products, the ability to dominate your sector with authenticity is no longer simply desirable, it’s absolutely crucial.

But alongside this growth in numbers and social media manipulations, consumers have now become more cognizant of techniques and tactics used to advertise; new research suggests trust in influencers has started to ebb as consumers are more aware that influencers are most often paid by brands to give reviews.

Be aware of changing consumer tastes

According to The Drum, just 4% of people now trust what influencers say online. Add into the equation the fact that people have to declare they are being paid to review products, and it’s easy to understand increased apathy for social media marketing of brands as a road to market.

Couple this with the fact that consumers are increasingly more apathetic towards advertising content in general on any platform, and it’s clear to see there are fewer and fewer ways to create engagement and trust – those that do it though, remain strong and a lot can be learned from them.

Create ‘real trust’

UGC creates real trust and engagement One way of creating this trust and engagement, of being ‘real’ is to use user-generated content (UGC); this marketing tool can help cut through the noise and differentiate one brand from another in the consumers’ eyes.

Why does it work so well?

People trust other people, hearing that someone else has had a positive experience can be all that’s needed to force the decision to proceed with a purchase.

According to a study by Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust organic, user-generated content more than they trust traditional advertising; by engaging with content creators and gaining permission to use images, video or comments in the marketing of a product, UGC has the ability to completely transform content, making it more relatable and trustworthy.

By definition, to be real in marketing terms is to reflect the genuine reactions of consumers to your products or services.

Marketing assets

Using marketing assets that incorporate the voices, images and videos of actual consumers is just one method brands can use to engage new audiences.

Capturing the sentiment of satisfied customers and replaying that back to new/potentials can certainly help achieve authenticity too; it’s not uncommon for consumers to actively seek out the opinions of others when considering a new purchase – consumers are making their own decisions with regards to deciding if they will or won’t apply UGC to their purchase decision strategy.

Real results According to Glossier CEO Emily Weiss, “The brands of the future are going to be co-created” Weiss heads up one of the most successful beauty brands currently.  She believes her success has come from the involvement of their consumers in their own marketing.

Key examples

2018 marked Glossier’s fourth consecutive year of achieving triple-digit revenue growth showing no signs of slowing down, exceeding $100 million in annual revenue in 2018. Glossier celebrates the content created by its consumers by featuring hundreds of beauty routines, customer stories and reviews from their followers.

Frank Body is another example of a brand that has created its’ success from leveraging the visual stories from their own consumers, their unique UGC that features happy customers covered by their coffee scrub has helped reinforce the brand identity on social media.

Where to find real content?

The easiest way that brands can discover their own real content from their consumers is looking for UGC on social media.

Usually referred to as ‘social media aggregators’ or ‘visual marketing platforms’, there are a variety of SaaS solutions and providers out there that can help brands of any size to collect, curate and distribute UGC from social media.

Another option is leveraging ‘1st party’ data, loosely defined as the information you have gathered yourself about your audience.

This can be provided and managed by an outsourced company, collected and given directly to the brand (via online forms for example), and social media content can also be generated in response to a hashtag initiated by a brand.

A great example of this in action is Unilever’s Dove. The company recently used a platform like this to collect content from individuals as part of their new campaign to change beauty stereotypes. The Dove #showUs campaign was extremely successful and went on to win a Cannes Lions award in April 2019.

Not just for Christmas!

UGC marketing is ‘always on’, not just for Christmas! This highly relatable and trusted earned content is produced all year round, whether it’s encouraged by a campaign like Project #ShowUs and a worthy social cause or is simply created out of love for your product, UGC is getting posted and shared every day.

The Heineken Experience, UGC is constantly curated and played back to potential visitors on their website, but it is also is visible at the experience 12 months of every year.

The result; an endless loop of social advocacy that encourages new visitors. Naturally occurring, real advocates do exist, you just need to find them and share their content it where it matters. Good luck!