What makes a brand unique? Certainly, as marketers, we spend an enormous amount of time and effort on positioning our brands against competition, crafting language and campaigns that help us to stand out to our most important audiences. While a brand’s products and services are perhaps the most critical component to its positioning, increasingly, brands must also develop a well-defined brand identity if they hope to succeed. Modern consumers want to buy from brands that share the same ideals, value-sets, and personalities as themselves, and can often see through overly-crafted, inauthentic messaging.
Still, developing an authentic brand identity that speaks to consumers is quite a challenge. Marketers must consider a variety of factors in how to represent themselves to desired segments, including through the use of custom fonts, unique logos and color palettes, and strategic advertising communications across emerging channels. More and more, brands are also recognizing the potential of user-generated, or “earned,” content as a way to not only engage consumers, but also to supplement creation of high-quality visuals needed to execute more personalized campaigns.
As a result of this proliferation of customer content, many marketers are left wondering: where does it fit into the broader brand identity? At Olapic, we believe that customers’ content can help brands strengthen their identities in three distinct ways:
Adding a Layer of Authenticity
In recent years, consumers have lost trust in brand communications, and are turning to one another for more honest, authentic product inspiration. According to our recent Global Consumer Report, respondents trust images of other consumers on social media 7x more than they trust advertising. For brands that have traditionally held onto control over brand messaging and communication, this should serve as a wake-up call. Something needs to change in order to regain a sense of authenticity with customers. The fact that consumers inherently control the message from their own content may give marketers anxiety, but it actually makes the content more reliable.
If brands can tap into their customers’ content, and serve as a contributing partner in the conversation, they have an opportunity to co-opt a layer of authenticity within their own messaging. Recently, Olapic partnered with Monotype and The Future Laboratory on a report detailing additional strategies for brands hoping to regain trust in their audiences.
Enhancing Customer Loyalty
Once brands regain trust with their customers, the next step is to drive ongoing loyalty. Consumers are loyal to brands that sync with their values, align with their personalities, and do right by them both before and after the point of purchase. For companies we’ve worked with, user-generated content serves as a very useful tool for brands to enhance loyalty in two distinct ways:
- Existing content leads prospective customers to feel an added sense of community within the brand. This increases the likelihood of purchase behavior and engagement.
- Loyal, digital consumers will also continue the cycle of content creation after the point of purchase, generating high-quality imagery that can be used to further promote the brand.
Informing Future Messaging and Product Development
Finally, consumers’ content also provides a window into product usage and customer lifestyles, which can inform brands on future development projects. By analyzing user content, many of the brands we work with can achieve a more honest, complete focus group at scale. As an illustration of this, we recently conducted research in the travel sector with our partner Kantar Added Value, identifying four unique motivations for travelers who share content online. While brands may believe they understand their audiences, consumer content can help not only fit into existing brand identity, but drive the future evolution of it entirely. This is perhaps the most exciting application of user content as it relates to brand identity, because it can lead all elements of brand representation, from new product development, to campaign messaging, to community development.
What is your brand’s identity? Where can user-generated content fit into it – now, and into the future?