With the ever-accelerating growth of social media and user-generated content, traditional advertising methods just aren’t cutting it anymore — even for the kind of big reputation brands that are already household names. The truth is, we’re living in an increasingly experience-driven society, and that’s presenting a unique challenge for marketers. Think about it — would you be more likely to book a flight to Costa Rica because of the ad at the bus station with the catchy slogan, or because your college roommate started sharing pictures of her trip (complete with jungle adventures and dramatic mountain scenery)?
For brands that help consumers in their everyday lives, tapping into an “experience” to tell powerful stories is an even greater challenge. Lyft is one company that has done an excellent job of using content to capture new customers. Here, we’ll take a look at how Lyft can take its message one step further by capitalizing on the true potential of user-generated content (UGC) in a millennial age.
The Storytelling Approach
According to a recent article by Fast Company, “[w]hen we read a story, not only do the language parts of our brains light up, but the parts of the brain we would use if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading about become activated as well.” It certainly seems that Lyft took note of this particular nugget of research, because that’s just what it’s done through its latest ad asset: An animated short film by Academy Award-winner John Kahrs. In the 7-minute film, we follow the journey of a lonely widow in historic South Chicago who gains fulfillment through sharing her ride with other Chicagoans. When our widow finds herself stuck in a snow drift one wintery evening, it’s the riders whose lives she’s touched that show up to pull her out. Albeit none too subtly, Lyft uses this story to draw you, the consumer, into an emotional rapport. Thus engaged, you begin to see Lyft not as a company, but as an instrument of social unity and community togetherness.
Where UGC Comes In
Storytelling and UGC are closely intertwined. The primary difference being that UGC comes directly from the consumer rather than from some corporate think-tank. For Lyft in particular, this content is doubly important because the company has not just one target audience, but two. In order for the platform to be successful, Lyft must recruit both passengers and drivers. Since a positive rider experience speaks to a positive driver experience (and vice versa), both of these goals can be achieved simultaneously by implementing UGC across broader marketing efforts. To put it simply, that means taking your best user-generated images, stories, and testimonials, and extending their reach through concentrated marketing efforts.
Driving the Message Home
Since getting a ride doesn’t have the same intrinsic visual value as, for example, a pair of designer shoes, deriving the most value from UGC is a matter of identifying what’s really driving the brand. Here, Lyft’s slogan says volumes: “A ride whenever you need one.” It’s simple, honest, and it speaks to the kind of everyday people that the Lyft platform was designed to serve. With this in mind, we can easily discern three areas of UGC potential that can function together to better engage Lfyt customers:
- Everyday Experiences: Lyft is a service for the everyday person. The social worker commuting to her inner-city office, the best friends heading out for a night on the town, the worried soon-to-be father on his way to the hospital.
- Kindness and Inspiration: A kind word shared on a long drive? A ride just when it was needed the most? These kinds of meaningful experiences speak volumes. Take this testimonial from a former Lyft Driver, for example:
“Being a Lyft driver was definitely a positive experience for me. Aside from the obvious perks of making a little extra cash, I met some great people. The best night for me was when the founder of a pretty major startup got in my car. We got to talking, and his story really inspired me. But the best part was when he told me that he used to work as a cab driver. That’s a moment I’ll always remember, because I was feeling pretty down about my career prospects at the time. It motivated me to keep shooting for my dreams.”
- A Touch of Luxury: Many Lyft drivers have begun adding simple conveniences to their cars to improve the rider experience. Think gum, mints, water, snacks, charging cables, and hand sanitizer — just those little things that can make the everyday person feel like a VIP.
By capitalizing on these experiences through sharing and promoting UGC, Lyft has a unique opportunity to take its branding one giant leap further. Not just telling a story of social unity and community togetherness, but actually demonstrating how it’s connecting people all over the world with shared human experiences to create new stories. By applying these lessons to your own brand, you, too, can take advantage of the far-reaching potential of genuine content, driving engagement through the most powerful marketing mechanism of the social age.