Why brands are pushing consumers to become content creators?

In the last 2 to 3 years, several brands have started coming up with campaigns that motivate consumers to become content creators or take up content creation more seriously. BuzzInContent.com explores how this strategy benefits brands

Akansha Srivastava
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While influencer marketing is a ‘must-have’ strategy for any brand on earth, a new trend is being seen in the last two-three years, where many brands are persuading regular consumers to become content creators on their behalf. Instead of relying on already existing influencers to fulfil marketing goals, several brands have started creating campaigns that urge consumers to unleash their content creation skills to become creators or are motivating them to take up content creation more seriously. 

In the most recent example, Plum, the vegan and cruelty-free beauty and personal care brand, launched its content creator program the #PlumSquad. As part of the program, people have to visit Plum Squad website, fill out the form and submit entries. They will have to capture beauty content in any form – make-up vlogs, tutorials, skincare and haircare routines – via YouTube videos/Instagram reels. Shortlisted creators will then have to go through a selection process, aimed at identifying those with a passion for content creation and a knack for engaging audiences.

On the same lines, in 2021, Nivea India launched Nivea Soft Fresh Batch that helped college girls to become future content creators. In its third season, Myntra Fashion Superstar is already a hit. Through this IP Myntra gives an opportunity to fashion enthusiasts across the country to showcase their creative prowess. Earlier last year, Oppo’s campaign ‘Eyes for you’ pushed millennials to create superior quality content on-the-go.  

Therefore, the question arises as to how does asking consumers to become content creators work for brands? 

Time spent on smartphones has increased

One very important and basic factor for more and more brands to go down this route is the trend of increased time spent by Gen Z and millennials on smartphones. In a survey conducted by App Annie, a mobile data and analytics firm, the average hours spent on mobile per day for a user increased from 3.7 hours in 2019 to 4.7 hours in 2021. In total, India saw 655 billion hours spent on mobiles in 2021, a 37% increase since 2019. 

Raghav Bagai

Spending more time on smartphones leads to more people experimenting with cameras and creating content and brands don’t want to miss out on this growing trend.  “70% of consumers are now creating content or publishing their own words online. We can see brands re-evaluate their marketing strategies to leverage the power of consumers online. The shift from brand-driven communication to consumer-focused media has transcended. This new digital trend is also changing the way consumers interact with brands and in turn, changing the way brands communicate with consumers. There is no longer a black and white relationship between a brand and a consumer, but rather a dynamic relationship that is constantly shifting towards being more collaborative and interactive,” said Raghav Bagai, Co-founder, Sociowash.

Hamsini Shivakumar, Founder, Leapfrog Strategy Consulting, pointed out that becoming an Instagram influencer/vlogger/content creator is a ‘cool’ and ‘aspirational’ career choice for many young people. Brands are only becoming a part of this behavioural change in consumers and helping them fulfil their desire of becoming content creators. 

Decreasing trust in influencers giving rise to UGC and advocacy

Brands shifted to influencer marketing because consumers had started skipping ads. Now we are living in the times when consumers have even started skipping influencers-led brand campaigns. In such a scenario, brands again ought to think differently and understand what separates a cookie-cutter influencer campaign from a powerful point-of-view that brings in hard results is the content. This brings user-generated content and consumers acting as brand advocates into play: The only way brands can have a real influence on the consumers.

Ankit Agarwal

Ankit Agarwal, Founder, Do Your Thng, said that pure influencers, who shill for brands, are increasingly haemorrhaging trust, and their power is tanking. It’s become so commonplace to see an influencer casually drop a brand name or tag a post as sponsored that people scroll by it without thinking. Or worse yet, scoff at the fake enthusiasm.

“From the brand perspective, indicators like the number of likes on a sponsored post have lost meaning. They are automatic, valueless consumer behaviours. So, influencer marketing campaigns have become KPI and outcome-based. Marketers want harder engagements that indicate high desirability and buying signals from the consumer. Better yet, bring in actual traffic and customers. The appeal of pushing customers to become content creators is rooted in this ability,” he added. 

Bagai seconded this by saying, “Roping in real people to talk about the brand can act as a kick-starter for more authentic conversations around the brand. And this is where UGC come into the picture. It’s no secret that the world of marketing has transformed in the past few years and still continues to evolve rapidly. This is the time for brands to rethink their identity and put a face to their brand that the audience can readily connect with.”

The youth culture has also shifted from being celebrity-anchored (very 90s/2000s) to being influencer-anchored (2015 onwards). Young people (Gen Z/lower age cohort of millennials) are less influenced by celebrities and are more influenced by Prosumers (Prosumers are ‘professional’ or ‘expert’ consumers, who typically become Influencers on social media). 

Brands building their own set of skilled professional content creators

Hamsini Shivakumar

Shivakumar explained how brands can make the most out of these new age ‘Prosumers’, she said, “It could be smarter ROI thinking for brands to recruit a panel of influencers and build them up (lesser cost, new faces, less fatigue with audiences) than to pay for high-profile influencers who have built their own very large set of followers.  Also, these high-profile influencers have become more akin to celebrities than prosumers – hence, they can move easily from brand to brand.”

She also said that with influencer marketing increasingly being regulated – most recently by ASCI, the brand might as well recruit a panel of influencers and build them up.

Programs and contests to offer a platform for youngsters to become professional content creators give brands a vehicle to engage with youth who are involved and interested in their product categories (beauty, mobile phones, could also extend to travel, home décor etc).

Shivakumar said that it’s pretty much a win-win all the way through for brands and this trend will grow bigger and soon in some categories. “I foresee that an influencer/vlogger panel will become a MUST HAVE, MUST DO. It won’t be an option; it will become a category norm or category code.”  

Long-term branded content vision

If done with a long-term serious strategy in place and not like just another marketing gimmick, running an annual contest to select these influencer/vlogger panels can also become a branded content platform/property for brands in the future. “These then become a fixture in youth culture that everyone looks to enter and participate in. The entire process can also become a branded content feature in itself. After all, talent selection contests are a proven audience puller in the conventional media space,” stated Shivakumar. 

In a nutshell, Agarwal concluded that it is not about brands pushing consumers to become content creators. It’s about finding brand advocates to support and promote the brand to strengthen sales, loyalty, and ensure retention. 

“Brand advocates are everyday people who either aspire to own a brand or are already happy, loyal users of it. They want to genuinely support it. Their positive experience of the brand spurs them to spread the word digitally, which is why their content is exceptionally effective. Moreover, followers have unadulterated trust in it,” said Agarwal. 

Why brands are pushing consumers to become content creators