In the past, celebrity endorsers ruled the marketing world. Their recognizable faces and voices, which came with huge price tags, backed every major ad campaign. But over the last few years that system has drastically changed. For a fraction of the cost, brands can get their messages out with an entirely different approach that is likely to be even more engaging: user-generated videos.
A 2015 IAB study showed that UGC is 35 percent more memorable than other media, and 50 percent more trusted. For brands accustomed to producing slick, highly produced commercials and campaigns, that approach may not resonate with consumers who primarily consume media on Facebook and YouTube. Those consumers seek out short clips showing something genuine, be it a sentimental moment or an adrenaline-fueled stunt.
What they don't want, however, is a staged production. Marketers who realize this are taking advantage of new solutions that connect brands with amateur viral video makers.
Brands can conquer viral video by changing their approach
A report from online video intelligence company Tubular Labs found that UGC accounts for 32 percent of the top videos on YouTube, while branded video makes up just 17 percent. Brands would be wise to invest in UGC and the amateurs who produce these videos, and a few already have.
For example, Google's Android cleverly utilized UGC, often referred to as 'found footage' in ad land, to put out a spot called "Friends Furever." The spot went on to become the most shared ad of 2015.
Smart brands understand that UGC is both plentiful and malleable. The traditional approach to UGC has been to encourage fans to create content for a specific campaign, which can be difficult and often nets mixed results. Brands are now discovering that it's a much surer bet to simply find existing UGC that either aligns naturally or can be molded to fit a brand's ethos.
So how can other brands capture this viral magic?
There are tools that can simplify the process of finding good, existing user-generated material that's already been cleared for use.
Jukin Media, for example, acts as a marketplace for viral content, letting companies license third-party videos from the people who shot them. The content, by nature, has a homemade feel to it and it appears regularly on the likes of CNN, NBC, ESPN and MTV in news, talk and late-night shows.
Instead of paying an agency millions to shoot a commercial with a movie star, brands are increasingly opting for the relatable and realistic videos that are the currency of social networks. After all, you can't predict what will go viral, but you can invest in engaging content that mirrors real life.