The most telling part of the session came at the end, out of an audience question that cut to the scariest part of the strategy: Since user-generated content depends on the x-factor of the audience itself, results could just as likely be negative as positive, so how do you manage it?
Chris Miller, divisional vice president of global brand strategy and innovation for Abbott, replied directly—“You can’t”—and likened the situation to herding cats. If you go into this believing that you can control it, he warned, then you’re in for a bad experience. If you enter into it with a mindset that’s more akin to hosting a good party, then you’re more likely to succeed.
Jamshed Wadia, head of digital and social media at Intel Asia Pacific and Japan, followed up with the thought that if you are trying to manage user-generated content then you are going against the grain of the whole approach. He underscored the point further, saying that you shouldn’t even use the word campaign when working with users. “That starts to sound like propaganda; really it should be a conversation.”
Wadia also pointed out that younger consumers are comfortable with brands that can take criticism and even talk about their weaknesses. So something positive can still arise from negative comments.
The panel’s agreed mandates for successfully incorporating user-generated content through social, video or other channels:
- You don’t have to embrace it but you cannot ignore it
- Just like ads, working with user-generated content demands planning
- Listen, listen, listen
- Be authentic, don’t fake it
- Stick to the core brand identity
- Adapt a Buddhist mindset
You can’t compromise on authenticity, stressed Sameer Desai, head of consumer healthcare, Asia, Middle East/Africa and Latin America at Mundipharma. Stick to your brand personality, he said, and “if you use celebrities, don’t ask them to do things that are out of character for them.”