• UGC and Brand Marketing, Part 2

    Wrapping up the week, today I revisit a post from several weeks ago, "An Intersection of UGC and Brand Marketing?"

    In that post I mused about the opportunity for brand marketers to harness the recent enthusiasm many consumers have for creating video, as evidenced by the popularity of sites like YouTube. The idea I floated concerned how brands might somehow incent consumers to produce informative videos about their favorite products, which in turn could be showcased by the brands to help prospective buyers were in research mode. It seemed to me there might be a happy marriage in there somewhere.

    It turns out I may have had my head in the clouds on this one. Daphne Kwon, CEO of ExpoTV reached out to me to explain some of the realities that my idea would encounter. Daphne's in a good position to know, since ExpoTV runs a site offering users the opportunity to upload videos with their reviews/opinions about products. ExpoTV has aggregated over 200K of these "Videopinions" to date. ExpoTV isn't exactly the concept I had in mind to marry UGC and brands, but it's definitely in the same ballpark.


    Daphne raised two issues which she believes constrains brands from pursuing the user-generated reviews idea I envision. First is the specter that these reviews will be biased in some way. There are multiple dimensions to this. Will the brand maintain a completely open environment so that even negative reviews would be posted? If so, what are the implications? If not, and only positive videos are exposed, then the area wouldn't feel authentic or trustworthy. Also, would reviewers bias toward saying positive things simply to ingratiate themselves with the brand for ulterior reasons, such as getting noticed to be in a future ad or obtain funding for a private project?

    Further complicating this is Daphne's sense that when people upload videos they're doing so to be part of a community that is responsive and interactive. This has clearly been a big part of YouTube's success. So brands couldn't just offer a place to upload, but rather would need to hire staff to manage the area, interact with participants, figure out how the area should be policed or self-policed, etc. Daphne doesn't see brands biting all off all of this, as it's a lot of work and she doesn't see any corporate mandates for brands to actively participate in these kinds of community-building activities.

    Second and possibly more problematic is that there may be legal liability for brands to provide such platform, as the brands might be held responsible for the truthfulness and accuracy of the user-submitted videos. This liability would be broad, ranging from the relatively small (e.g. "The product didn't work as explained") to the very significant (e.g. "I used the product this way and was injured."). Clearly, in the litigious society in which we live, deep-pocketed corporations could be exposing themselves to all kinds of financial risks. Then of course there is the risk of negative PR, which alone could be quite damaging. Tying back to issues above, if there isn't a clear mandate to pursue these activities, no astute corporate soldier is going to risk his/her career diving into such precarious waters.

    Hearing these considerations makes me think that the optimal route for incenting user-created video reviews may just be the way ExpoTV is doing it. Provide a "well-lit" space with a mix of financial incentives and community recognition, and monetize traffic in a number of creative ways (affiliate deals, advertising, etc.). Importantly maintain a focus on the community-building tasks required for motivating active and continuous user participation.

    All of this serves as another reminder that with broadband - as with technology in general - just because something is possible, doesn't necessarily make it advisable.

    What do you think? Post a comment and let us all know!