User Generated Content and Snuggies

Posted by Admin2_Bg on August 4th, 2010   

This post mostly pertains to user generated video/media content which is very different than other forms of user-generated content (Amazon.com, Urbanspoon, Foursquare tips) for a good read on that aspect go here.

The waters of user generated content are dangerous to say the least.  Most of the time the "winners" are selected based solely on their ability to hit the message that the controllers wanted to get out making their attempts sterile and corporate. They become filtered and no longer can be called user generated. I have a feeling this is where Domino Pizza's Show Us Your Pizza campaign will ultimately fall. Selecting user generated content based only on what is flattering is too transparent to be effective. (And never ever ever try to mask a lame campaign as user generated content…please see the All I Want For Xmas is a PSP failure that has pretty much entered urban legend territory…a hard to believe warning story.)

The real danger of user generated content (UGC) in this form is loss of control of the message completely. Back in 2006 GM hilariously failed at their attempt to market the Chevy Tahoe with UGC. GM offered up stock footage of the Tahoe doing things Tahoe's do: driving through glaciers, rivers, deserts, and trafficless urban streets. They also gave users music options and the ability to add text. "Go out and make us a commercial that looks exactly like one we would produce!" they screamed.

Instead they got this... 

And this...

And this...

Ouch.

Cheaptickets.com recently ran a UGC contest based on the idea that they are "too cheap to advertise." Users were tasked with creating a cheap commercial highlighting the cheap cheapiness of cheaptickets.com. Now there isn't as much orchestrated animosity toward cheaptickets.com as there is against oversized SUV's or other companies (could you imagine the FAIL if a place like Comcast asking for UGC to promote the effectiveness of their customer service?). So there probably wasn't as much of a backlash, but the winners do not come across as user generated. They are very well-done and effective as commercials go, but without knowing the background of the contest most people would assume they were just regular old commercials. Cheaptickets.com didn't user-generate…they outsourced.

Now on to what I see as a the makings of a successful UGC campaign: Snuggies and their new contest to direct their next commercial. So what makes Snuggie ready for success? Well they are aware of the cult following of their product and it is a following based more on a tongue-in-cheek/inside joke embrace. I have personally bought 2 Snuggies, but have given them away as gag gifts just to see the reaction of the receiver. Snuggies boom as a self-aware consumer joke has peaked no doubt, but they are still hanging on. They started off on a wave of ironic viral success (perhaps unintentionally) but they have accepted that reality. The reason I feel this campaign will succeed is because of the recognition on Snuggies part that they indeed are a joke with a short shelf-life. Who cares if people create a parody of the product, and make people who use them seem incompetent or incapable of simply using a backwards robe? Snuggie is in on the joke. Don't believe me look at their latest commercial. Case. Closed.

The key to fruitful UGC campaign is that you have to give up control but be ready for and able to withstand the potential backlash. If your brand can benefit from that kind of publicity then you may want to enter the UGC arena. If not, head for open waters.

4 Responses to “User Generated Content and Snuggies”

  1. What you don’t mention is that so many companies who ask for user-generated content seem to only do it so that they don’t have to pay an ad company. 10k to the winner! Cheap bastards.

  2. i feel like whoever is proposing the user generated content, can really have no control over saying what’s the best. Any control the company tries to have over the content, makes it weaker.

  3. @Emley, I agree. I think for some of the larger campaigns it is the ad company that pushes it and moderates the results. But they profit from it because it cuts back on their creative time on the project. UGC for smaller businesses can be tough because you need to have a large brand awareness in order to get enough interest.

  4. @Daniel, 100% agree. But that is the problem many companies don’t realize they have. The get locked into a “spin” mode and can’t break out and in their obsession to control they often do more damage than good. And this isn’t just a problem with UGC, creative professionals run into this problem a lot.