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Why UGC is exploding in popularity among brands during Covid-19

As Covid-19 continues to impact most parts of the world, brands have been pushed to find alternative solutions to complex studio setups, huge budgets and high production value - all of the traditional expectations for an impactful advertising campaign. A strategy that’s found success is the clever utilisation of user-generated content (UGC) as it taps into a real desire for human connection, strengthens a community and, in this unprecedented time, has transformed what might have once been local content into global content.

In many ways, it’s unsurprising that UGC has exploded in popularity since Covid-19 and its ensuing lockdown. If anything, the pandemic has accelerated its growing dominance as content production limitations remain in place for companies, brands and agencies. In combination with the ubiquity of the smartphone and the “pics or it didn’t happen” mindset, anyone can become a content creator. In fact, reports from Statista found that the number of videos uploaded every 60 seconds grew by 40% between 2014 and 2019 alone.

UGC is particularly well-suited to times of crisis, as millions of people around the world are increasingly looking for inspiring, uplifting and directly relatable content that acknowledges and nods to the situation that we all find ourselves in. A powerful storytelling tool, UGC acts as the bridge between brands and their audience as it brings their community closer together and provides an increased sense of belonging and unity.

Since the lockdown, we have seen consumers not only engage with, but hunt for, content that inspires, informs and entertains. Consumers are looking for banana bread recipes, at-home workouts or ways to alleviate boredom and while they may have a genuine interest in food and drink or health and fitness, they’re driven by a much more human urge – the need to connect. This is where the real power of UGC comes into play as when it is done well, it not only mimics, but recreates these important moments of shared experiences that help make us all feel less alone.

Brands are eager to create that human connection and since the spread of Covid-19, Brave Bison’s licensing team has received 11 briefs looking specifically for Covid-19 content across the UK, US, France, Asia Pacific and Australia – mostly from brands wanting to show solidarity or respond to the current situation. There are a number of brands who have used UGC to bring their community even closer together at a time when hugs and high-fives are frowned upon instead of celebrated; one such brand is Oreo.

Oreo, the popular sandwich cookie known for its iconic tagline “twist, lick and dunk” tapped into its positive and playful brand identity when calling on users to ’#stayhomestayplayful’ in a cross-platform social campaign that appeared on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. ’#stayhomestayplayful’ reminded viewers that happiness can still be found in even the hardest of times and that sometimes all that’s needed to have fun while at home is some creativity. The campaign utilised footage from Brave Bison’s extensive UGC catalogue, Viral Vault. The campaign was a success racking up 7.7 million views across all platforms since the start of the lockdown.

The impact of Covid-19 is also a global one. Covid-19 is not limited to a single city, country or continent. We are all going through various stages of lockdowns, sheltering-in-place or self-isolation together and Covid-19 has become a point of discussion that transcends language, culture or demographics. Whether you’re in Britain or in Brazil, we are all facing the same fight and that truly does make the world feel like a smaller and much more interconnected place. In that way, local content has become globalised.

KFC’s latest campaign announcing its return to delivery platform, Deliveroo is one that uses UGC to create content that is instantly relatable and understandable, regardless of language and location. The ad features UGC from the company’s ’#RateMyKFC’ social media campaign that challenged the audience to recreate its celebrated 11 herbs and spices fried chicken recipe before letting consumers know that “we’ve missed you too” and that the chain can “take it from here”.

Moreover, UGC has a real impact on a brand’s bottom line. Given that Nielsen has found that 92% of consumers trust organic UGC more than they trust traditional advertising, it’s clear that it is here to stay and is becoming increasingly important to today’s consumers. But what impact does this have on the future of production? Could this mean a shift in priorities from polished TV ads towards more human-centric stories created and told by real people?

The community-driven nature of UGC lends itself naturally to social media; and people are looking to engage with content that means something to them, now more than ever before. Since the lockdown, we have seen this type of content transcend media formats as it plays a key role in both linear and social channels. We are also finding that the most effective publishers are ones that pivot towards UGC in a fresh and innovative way that best meets the needs of people at this time, and we are seeing this play out with brands too as they look to publishers like Brave Bison to provide access to content that is relatable, informative and entertaining.

Fran Hale, sales director at Brave Bison with contributions from Ben Sinden, managing director, publishing.

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