By Alex Rich, Co-founder & CEO – Desygner
Technology has empowered brands and transformed how they communicate with customers. However, technology has also empowered how customers and end-users communicate with each other about brands, rendering them the power to influence how brands are perceived by their customers and larger audiences beyond its customer base. The explosive growth of user generated content through rapid digital transformation over recent years alone stands testimonial to the fact that content shall indeed remain the king.
User Generated Content (UGC) is technically any content such as images, videos, text that is not created by corporate branding or designing teams but by employees, patrons or loyal customers. UGC has become one of the most powerful mediums for marketing in recent times and has forever changed the customer interactions with brands. Today, brands are far more exposed to the user experiences. Customers hold the key to building a credible reputation of any brand leaving the brand managers with little to no-control. Customers now dictate how they want to be involved with brands and hence have free reins to either establish brand loyalty or to destroy a brand image beyond repair.
According to a study by state of user generated content 2022 report, 6 in 10 marketers report that their audience engages more with UGC in marketing and communications channels than branded content. In general, content that is generated by users, customers and employees is considered credible as it is not “doctored” by brands with shiny claims. Evidently, UGC presents great opportunities for business, however, not without risks!
With the rise of UGC, it is crucial for marketers to understand its dynamics, potential challenges and risks of brand management under the realms of the hyper-digital landscape.
- Infusing Authenticity and Quality in Brand Advocacy:
User generated content or employee generated content can be a powerful marketing tool if leveraged carefully. Today, every digital touch point is a branding exercise and every employee and user, arguably is a brand advocate. Brands can use it in ads, email campaigns, and other marketing materials to show the real-life use and build solid case studies for their products which could phenomenally affect brand perception ultimately making a positive impact on the business.
However, UGC is not generally well scripted and is often not compliant with brand guidelines. Brands risk losing credibility among its audience if there is lack of consistency or co-relations to what the company stands for. At the time when fake news is hitting the peaks, ensuring brand approved content will attest to the authenticity of the business. Easy-to-use marketing design tools that enable anyone with no-designing skills to create and share content that is consistently on-brand will not only build business credibility among its stakeholders but will also nurture an UGC ecosystem that can be leveraged in the favour of the brand. It is therefore clear that businesses must invest in design tools to engage with their employees and users that propel brand advocacy.
- Increased Business Proficiency and Productivity:
Consider the volume of employee generated content that is desiminiated both internally and externally through innumerable platforms. Managing and monitoring content that is regulated for brand guidelines is a nightmare for marketers and design teams and this is true for businesses of all sizes. Marketers are presented with the complex challenge to be able to control, authenticate and monitor for content compliance all the while looking for resource allocation that is both cost & time effective. The amount of time a graphic designer spends making routine, repeated design tweaks and modifications can be a significant productivity barrier for the branding team.
With design automation tools that allow anyone to design and create content that is pre-approved by marketing teams can remove marketing bottlenecks for businesses. A centralised Digital Asset Management (DAM) Systems for instance enables employees to work with pre-approved branding assets such as presentations, social media templates, sales brochures in record breaking time whether it is for pitching for new clients or sharing a customer win. This is a win-win situation to both cater to customer requirements and to reinstate professional brand image from brand manager´s perspective. Design automation solutions with centralised digital asset management can help businesses to control, monitor and manage UGC/EGC to improve business efficiency by reducing marketing bottleneck and to break organisational silos.
- Governance, legality & Compliance: One should be careful that all rights are secured when dealing with UGC, particularly in litigious markets. When content is shared across geographies, brands should pay attention and adhere to the regional compliance and sensitivities that are bound by local laws, rules and regulations. Not to forget the linguistic barriers when compromised can boomerang against a brand´s intention. This extends to the Employee & User Generated Content when shared among multiple stakeholders, customers across markets. For instance, businesses can get embroiled in legal complications with large penalties when stringent rules such as CCPA, GDPR, HIPAA, PCI, data privacy regulations and security frameworks are violated in the form of trademark infringement, false information and offensive content. It is the need of the hour for businesses to take control of how, what and where they want to streamline and monitor content that is rights protected and approved for brand guidelines so the power of UGC can be leveraged for its maximum potential. A centralised Digital Asset Management (DAM) system offers precisely this control organisations can leverage upon UGC. Advanced DAM systems equip designing teams with sophisticated features to create complex branding assets that can be locked for security and compliances whereas employees or franchisees can use the pre-approved assets to custom create content to suit specific business requirements such as sales deck, social media templates etc. without worrying about compliance.
Conclusion: User Generated Content is set to grow in an ecosystem that will enable anyone irrespective of designing skills to create and share authentic content. It is up-to businesses to steer this wave in their favour by empowering users and employers to have access to tools and assets that ensure brand management via UGC with due diligence on corporate branding, compliance and content governance that encompasses geographic and linguistic sensitivities. If done right, brand managers are potentially standing on the UCG goldmine that can reap tremendous benefits for the businesses.