The Power of Authenticity
If you had asked me 5 years ago if I would ever eat charcoal, I surely would have said no. So why am I so excited now, walking down the street, spoon in hand, with a bowl of charcoal ice cream? It seems like every time I hop on YouTube or Instagram, I see someone using this solid black substance in the most unexpected of ways – mixing it in their water, their face masks, even brushing their teeth with it. So I just had to jump in and see what all the excitement was about. Hence, the ice cream. And then I realized, after spooning an ambitious amount into my mouth, I’d never actually seen an ad for any of the products I’d seen on social media. I just kept seeing real people online try them over and over again.
So why am I telling you this? Well first of all, because I love ice cream. But also because it’s important to recognize the power of authenticity. When a commercial tells you, “Buy this and you’ll have abs in minutes,” odds are you won’t believe it. But if you see a video your Facebook friend made and the product really does give them abs in minutes, suddenly you’ll feel more open-minded about trying it yourself. Christine Göös from AdWeek writes, “Brands can (and should) test ads that mimic what their audiences post to make the look and feel of the advertising fit in seamlessly with the content already being viewed regularly.” Listen to your customers on a social level and take advantage of the consumer data. By putting your customers – and their voices – at the forefront of your marketing, you will create an unbreakable bond between your brand and your consumers.
Chubbies Shorts is an online clothing store that has a very specific – and interesting – target market: young men in college fraternities. This brand is not afraid of adopting the voice of their consumer, writing things like, “Sky’s out. Thighs out.” In fact, Chubbies dedicates their entire Instagram account to sharing photos and videos of their consumers, and there is no shortage of content. Searching #chubbies will take you down a long scroll of 136,000 posts with beach-clad people sporting the shorts. In fact, several pillars of their business stand on the foundation of consumer-created content, from social media to email marketing. One of the “Chubfounders,” Rainer Castillo, stated that, “It’s really important to treat the customer like friends. We bring customers to the forefront.”
Another men’s clothing company has mastered the bond between their product and the consumer voice, but this company focuses on a different type of menswear. Tommy John has been one of the world’s most popular underwear brands for the last decade. In the last few years, the marketing research team found that thousands of women were buying their product despite being tailored for men. Erin Fujimoto, a co-founder, speculated that there was a gap in the industry, and knew this could be a giant opportunity for their company. Referring to one woman’s plea about the comfort of Tommy John clothing, Fujioto says, “The fact that this woman was saying she couldn’t find a pair of underwear that fit her better and was more comfortable in our men’s boxer briefs really stuck with me. Clearly there was a hole in the market for comfortable, functional underwear that was designed to solve the unique problems women face. I knew then that we had to design something for her.” In April 2018, Tommy John officially launched their new line for women. Although the women’s clothing market is densely saturated, Tom Patterson, the founder and CEO of Tommy John, recognized the consumer data was pointing to an opportunity. And being the chosen brand in an industry where the women’s market is three times the size of men’s is an impressive fact that beckons an otherwise risky business move.
There are many ways to include your own customers in your marketing strategy. Just see how GoPro incorporates their consumer’s POV into their everyday advertising. No matter the promotion you choose to help curate and collect user-generated content (UGC), it is important to remember the end goal: You want to either 1. Learn something new about your consumer or 2. Confirm that your values are aligned with theirs. It’s a win-win because the consumer get featured on your social, and you get fresh, authentic content to share with your followers.
To get you started, here are a few promotional ideas to gather content and consumer data:
- Start a contest asking consumers to share how they use your product, or a hashtag on Instagram where users can connect with each other and your brand to see how people are using it – or better yet, how they’re not using it.
- Elect super fans to become influencers for your brand, sharing content periodically in exchange for free swag and features on your marketing platforms.
- Get a search software that makes it easy to collect consumer-generated content. A site such as TINT will help you find popular photos/videos about your product, and assist in getting permission to use the content for your own marketing.
Careful integration of UGC will certainly build unbreakable trust, and if consumers feel like they’re a part of your brand, you will become a part of their brand. In turn, you will create – sound the angel chorus – lifelong, loyal customers. Listen to what your consumers are sharing with their friends, and you might be surprised what you hear.