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Your Branding Secret Weapon: User-Generated Content

Traditional advertising is a one-way street: Brands advertise to consumers instead of having a conversation with them. And that’s a problem.

Today, consumers aren’t interested in traditional advertising tactics; they want to lead the conversation and feel an authentic connection to brands. Building those relationships takes more than an ad; it requires engaging, one-to-one brand experiences. 

In fact, 65% of consumers said live events gave them a better understanding of a product or service than digital or TV ads, according to EventTrack.

Marketers realize that investing in experiential strategies pays big dividends for their businesses. In addition to getting better insights into their consumers, they’re learning that this interactive approach is a gold mine for user-generated content that amplifies their brands and drives loyalty.

When consumers share content created at your live event, it extends your activation beyond the footprint and allows your product to reach people who might never have seen it otherwise.

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And it’s worth noting that user-generated content is perceived by consumers to be more trustworthy and authentic than brand-created content. This builds brand awareness and consideration among a wider segment of consumers.

There are a lot of ways to create a brand experience that’s so incredible consumers can’t wait to let other people know. Here are a few steps you can take:

1. Think beyond the boomerang. Don't rely on a single photo engagement. Instead, the entire activation must be share-worthy and envy-inducing, with content creation built into multiple touchpoints throughout the experience.

For example, at South by Southwest, HBO recreated the fictional town of Sweetwater from “Westworld." The attraction garnered more than 100 million social impressions, according to HBO. While this experience likely cost millions, highly engaging, share-worthy activations can also be created on much smaller budgets.

2. Consider why consumers share. Consumers are selective when it comes to the content they share. For an activation to be deemed share-worthy, it must resonate emotionally, be eye-popping, and align with something the consumer is passionate about.

To boost interest in America’s national parks, the National Park Foundation created a multi-sensory pop-up experience called ParkTracks in downtown Seattle to demonstrate the power and serenity of visiting one of America's national parks. Guests were invited to listen to a symphony of natural sounds inside a peaceful park environment featuring live trees, grasses, a rock wall, and pine-scented air.

The pop-up provided a moment of serenity in a bustling big city. And experiences that prompt an emotional response, or just something that's fun to do or see, create moments that users want to share. 

The ParkTracks engagement garnered more than 300 million earned and social impressions, according to Event Marketer.

3. Let the consumer be the story. A consumer’s experience with your product is more powerful than any marketing message a brand can craft. For the most impact, give consumers the experiential tools to allow them to tell their story in their own voice.

The realization has prompted a change in more interactive entertainment, like the Museum of Ice Cream, Candytopia, VR World, or any of the other wildly popular experiential environments. Museums and other venues understand that interactive exhibits lead to more engagement from visitors, which can lead to more visitors.

The brands that resonate most powerfully in the future will be those that facilitate and foster the ability of people to connect with other people. Bringing people together to tell their stories creates the communities consumers long for and builds brand loyalty.

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