Tuesday, February 19, 2008, 9:33 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
Lately I've been thinking a lot about where there may be potential points of intersection between user-generated video and brand marketing.
On the one hand, YouTube and others have demonstrated there's huge interest among amateur producers in creating and posting video content. Since the overwhelming majority of these producers do not make any meaningful money from these videos, their motivation is emotional. On the other hand, brands are grappling with things like how to break through the clutter, deepen consumer engagement, create more authenticity and build loyalty.
So it seems like there should be a natural point of intersection if brands could incent their passionate customers to create videos which not only sang the praises of their favorite products but actually provided valuable information sought by other prospective customers. Offering these videos would enable customers to show off their favorite products in action and also provide a valuable service to prospects. The concept is sort of like a video-based TripAdvisor, but not limited to travel.
Here's an example from a personal experience. Recently I've been in the market for a 50+ inch HDTV. If you've been in this mode recently you know the drill - lots of online research, reading users' comments, going to stores to see different models, etc. Even after doing all this, I still felt like I was missing something. I really wanted to see the intangibles - what distance seemed right, what's the right height for the stand, what were the ambient issues, how were accessories connected and so on.
In short, I was looking for actual owners to provide short, but informative videos showcasing how the TV actually worked out when brought into their homes. To be sure, there's no shortage of text comments to this effect. But the best I could find beyond text was a link at Amazon to "Share your own customer images." It seems like such a natural to me that online retailers, review sites and TV manufacturers should all provide a user-generated video platform for consumers to upload videos providing further information on their TVs.
What I'm describing is not another brand-sponsored UGC contest, but rather solid consumer-contributed product information. T-Mobile has something like this running with Current TV right now, but seems to really be the exception. I looked at the web sites of Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, Sharp, Philips and Mitsubishi and, although in some cases there are buying guides and FAQs, none of them seek to harness the enthusiasm of their actual customers by enabling video contributions.
Maybe I'm missing something, but I think this is a big untapped opportunity. I know companies like ViTrue and StashCast are pursuing opportunities like this, and then there are countless private label social network platforms like KickApps, Ning and others (TechCrunch has a good list here) that also enable some flavor of this. But I just haven't seen this concept clearly or pervasively implemented yet. If you have, please post a comment. I just have to believe that some smart brands - particularly those selling complex, expensive products that benefit from video-based information - are going to realize their passionate customers are incredible assets just waiting to be empowered to speak out through user-generated video.