The Limits of Brand Love

Right about the time that Google ponied up a cool $1.65 billion for YouTube, marketers suddenly concluded that most Web users have nothing better to do than channel their untapped creative energies into Web content, especially content in support of their brand initiatives. And thus the user-generated content contest was born.

Make no mistake, we at White Horse have hopped right on the UGC bandwagon with everyone else, with some success to show for it. But with the last half-dozen or so UGC promotions we’ve done, I’ve been very interested in the question of threshold, i.e., how much and what kind of content is a user really willing to contribute when entering to win something?

At the lowest threshold you have the traditional sweeps, which draws high response rates and asks nearly nothing of the user. We’re recommending sweeps less often as marketers come around to the idea that brand interaction is worth something. But there’s greater peril in setting the threshold too high: where we’ve asked users to contribute photo or video content, we’ve seen responses rates as much as 10 times lower than text-only entries.

The proliferation of YouTube aside, that’s not surprising. A flat majority of contest entries come through during the day, when users are at work (shocking, but true). Chances are, they don’t have access to their vacation photos or whatever else you’re demanding of them, and even more shockingly, they’re not coming back later.

Is the trade-off worth it? It depends on your goals. More youth-oriented brands with intensely loyal fan/customer bases should be able to use photo/video UGC very effectively, because they’re tapping into what their users are doing anyway, i.e., shooting video. The rest of us need to weigh the value of direct response vs. generating content and set expectations accordingly.
I believe the right threshold allows video but doesn’t require it; otherwise you’re potentially excluding your best UGC and your most loyal and creative brand evangelists. Let the written word prevail.

Clickz has a piece on this subject worth checking out, and see White Horse’s UGC promo for Nike 6.0 for an example of a recent UGC contest.


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