This post first appeared on Forbes.
According to a 2017 study of 2,000 adults in the U.S., U.K. and Australia, 86% of consumers prioritize brand authenticity. Today’s consumers are savvier than ever and millennials in particular are skeptical of advertising with obvious and contrived product placement. According to the same study, consumers are three times more likely to say that consumer or user-generated content (UGC) is more authentic than content created by brands.
While aggressive “old school” product placement can feel like a sales pitch to today’s consumers, brands now have access to plentiful UGC that subtly communicates a brands’s mission and values, as well as the lifestyle enabled by the brand and/or its products. Every day, people upload 95 million images to Instagram alone. Brands that utilize this type of content have their finger on the pulse of their target demographics.
Forbes Agency Council member Analisa Goodin is the founder and CEO of Catch&Release, a venture-backed technology platform that enables brands to safely source and license UGC from anywhere on the internet for advertising and marketing campaigns. She says UGC is gaining speed as the preferred creative medium for creating compelling, high-impact visual stories that drive innovative brand awareness and push creative boundaries.
Goodin founded Catch&Release in 2014, after a decade working as an image researcher for various advertising agencies. “I was constantly frustrated with the limited, generic options of stock photos. I knew there just had to be more,” she said. Her vision to create a new economy for buying and selling the internet’s vast and expanding content has come to fruition with Catch&Release’s end-to-end platform that streamlines the process of sourcing and licensing content.
“Catch&Release is all about powering authentic storytelling by helping major brands access content made by the very consumers they're advertising to. The internet is full of incredible stories – diverse points of view that brands can leverage to humanize their message and the products they're selling,” she said.
In her experience, this kind of authentic storytelling yields powerful results. For example, Catch&Release recently partnered with an electronics company launching a mobile security platform. Instead of creating an ad explicitly showing how the platform’s security features work with graphics or actors, the company selected an ad utilizing real footage captured by real people protecting other people on camera. “This brilliant use of UGC puts the story first,” Goodin said.
Based on a third-party database average, this creative UGC ad substantially outperformed another ad that had the same “protection” message but featured the security product front-and-center. By featuring real-life moments in the lives of everyday people, brands are able to relate to their customers on a whole new level, driving greater affinity.
“UGC is intrinsic because it can be tailored so precisely to specific regions and demographics, enabling brands to further refine their message or value proposition,” Goodin said. “Leveraging UGC can add another layer of personalization to your campaigns that will help your brand cut through the noise.”
And since people are more likely to be exposed to UGC when they’re relaxed – scrolling through their social media feed or watching Netflix – Goodin says a brand’s selling message is much more likely to be “heard and digested.” The end result is a new kind of “obscured” product placement that comes across as natural, honest and nonthreatening.
Historically, marketing has always run on innovation. “The advertising industry has been built from decades of incredibly talented, resilient people thinking outside of the box,” Goodin said. She believes today’s dynamic marketing, including interactive “choose your own adventure” ads, continues to advance static product placement toward genuine human narrative. With UGC, brands give customers the chance to tell their own stories, which, Goodin says, “further integrates advertising into our daily lives.”