Highly Relevant, Low Production: The Right Way to Leverage UGC During the Pandemic

Are you noticing a considerable shift in the marketing content that you’ve seen lately? As many of us have had to quickly shift to a lifestyle of self-isolation, social distancing and working from home, we are also noticing a big change in the tone, messaging and visuals coming from some of our favorite brands.

As the world goes through this global pandemic together, it’s comforting to see empathetic messages on our screens breaking through the new normal of nonstop, heavy COVID-19 news.

How Brands Are Shifting Their Content: Maximizing UGC

The key to being empathetic is being relatable. What people need now more than ever is to know they’re not alone, that other people like them are out there, facing the same challenges, asking the same questions, and experiencing the same tough, boring, anxiety-packed and sometimes funny moments. How are brands capturing and capitalizing on this? We’re seeing them place their meticulously calculated, highly stylized, and professionally produced content on hold in favor of raw and relatable moments they are collecting straight from their audiences. And we are loving it.

Here are some examples of branded user-generated content (UGC) amid the pandemic that caught our attention, and why we think they work.

“Courage is Beautiful”

The Brand: Dove

The Campaign:  Dove is always reminding us to “be your beautiful self,” and since the recent developments of COVID-19, the company is expanding on that mantra with a new message of “courage is beautiful.” Its new 30-second video, features a montage of selfies of healthcare workers during their shifts. They all have visible marks and indents on their faces caused by their protective masks. Dove lets these images speak for themselves, simply adding a piano-heavy song in the background. The spot ends with a text overlap explaining Dove is donating to Direct Relief to help front-line healthcare workers in the U.S. Dove is airing this ad on television and posted it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Why We Love it: You’ve heard the cliché: A picture is worth a thousand words. But eight photos, all of which portray the authentic emotions and exhaustion of real people? We couldn’t put a worth on that. This is an example of how an extremely powerful message can be shared with simple UGC. This video shows there’s a face behind every mask, and they’re all exhibiting raw, relatable and simultaneous feelings of fear and courage—something many of us are also experiencing.  

“Here for You”

The Brand:  Walmart

The Campaign: Walmart recently shared a video to its Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube profiles that begins with the message: “To America, from our Associates.” It leverages footage from employees’ smartphones of them singing Michael Bolton’s “Lean on Me,” as well as UGC including photos of signs with encouraging messages for healthcare workers, restaurant workers preparing food to deliver with protective masks and gloves, and people practicing social distancing with air hugs and windows between them. The video ends with three simple words: “Here for You.”

Why We Love it:  This is a UGC triple-play: Walmart used photos, videos and music, all created by employees and consumers, highlighting both raw creativity and authenticity.

Like an Olympian”

The Brand:  Visa

The Campaign: After the 2020 Olympics were postponed, Visa had to pivot quick to maximize the commitments it had already made to work with athlete sponsors for ads. It leveraged these partnerships to help spread messaging about the importance of hand sanitizing and washing and staying home. In one example, posted on Visa’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, 11-year-old skateboarding Olympian Sky Brown records herself on her smartphone in her bedroom. Talking directly into the camera, she tells her audience that the trick she is about to do isn’t easy. She then does a kickflip, and after landing, she continues her sentence: “But this is” and then applies hand sanitizer to her hands. The video ends with the message “Sanitize your hands like an Olympian” and #StayHome.

Why We Love it: This is a great example of how brands can collaborate with influencers to generate UGC, especially during a crisis. Visa acted fast to virtually connect with and support its sponsored athletes while promoting a pertinent message.

Tips for Collecting and Sharing UGC

If your brand is ready to leverage UGC, consider these tips for using it for good during a time of crisis:

  1. Put out a specific ask: Encourage your followers to share selfies, photos, videos, and other content straight from their personal devices demonstrating how they or someone they know is doing good locally or nationally during the crisis.
  2. Tap into influencers and independent content creators that are helping serve the community during the crisis to utilize their experience, creativity, reach and messaging for a subtler approach to branded content.
  3. Focus on your audience’s needs. You should always strive for audience-first content, but now more than ever, this needs to ring true for everything you put out there. Now isn’t the time to be promoting your products or services, unless they can provide relevant value during this trying time. Are you offering a significant discount or voiding certain fees? Great. If not, think instead about how UGC can help your audience get some much-needed humor, advice, or even just an inspiring pick-me-up.

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