This post originally appeared on Media Village
One of the most important words to a creative communications professional in 2018 is “authenticity.” There has been a dramatic shift in the way consumers want brands to interact with them via advertising and marketing -- not only do they want more personal engagement, but they’re also demanding experiences that feel organic and genuine.Today’s consumers are increasingly hostile to perfectly photoshopped models, cookie-cutter stock photos and conservative corporate messaging. They want to do business with brands that use real people to showcase their products. In other words, #IRL is becoming much more appealing to the average consumer -- something that should come as no surprise in the age of social media, when a huge proportion of the images and videos we see every day are produced by our peers and friends.
Advertising and marketing can showcase work done by diverse content creators who are capable of capturing “real life” in a way traditionally produced content or stock imagery simply can’t. This is called user-generated content (UGC) and it’s one of the most effective ways for brands to build trust (and in many cases, drastically reduce production costs). According to Cohn & Wolfe, “Sixty-three percent of global consumers would buy from a company they consider to be authentic, over and above competitors.”
Take a moment to consider the staggering amount of content that’s uploaded to the internet every day. No matter how talented a production team is, it can’t possibly compete with the ever-expanding universe of UGC that can be found online. It’s only a matter of discovering the perfect content for your campaign -- content that you sometimes can’t even imagine until you see it.
UGC also gives brands a way to appeal to consumers by accurately reflecting the society in which we live. Considering the fact that Millennials are poised to become the largest generation in 2019 (encompassing more than 73 million Americans), it’s all the more important for brands to remember that they’re the most diverse generation in U.S. history.
What’s more, Millennials are more inclined to support brands that embrace diversity than members of other generations. For example, a 2016 survey conducted by Barkley and FutureCast found that 60 percent of Millennials “like seeing ads that show diverse types of families,” a proportion that falls to 48 percent among Baby Boomers. As Millennials hit their prime earning and spending years, brands will have to make diversity a top priority.
While younger consumers want to see more diverse advertising because it reflects their lived experiences, they want better representation in a broader sense, as well. In the world of new media, the barriers to entry are continuing to crumble every day; all you need to be a photographer or videographer is that little device in your pocket. And after taking those pictures and capturing those films, you don’t need some fancy distribution channel to get your work out there. You just need Instagram or YouTube.
These radical transformations in the way we produce and consume media have permanently changed our perception. Millions of people who never would have been able to get any exposure a few decades ago now have access to billions of potential viewers online. We’re witnessing more than the democratization of media; it’s the democratization of creativity itself.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that consumers have less and less patience for traditional advertising that feels so detached from this new reality. That’s why your brand stands to benefit so much from UGC. By making independent content creators a core part of your communications platform, you’re conveying a simple but powerful message to your customers: We’re one of you.