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Mobile, user-generated content unlock millennial marketing potential

Coca-Cola, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Urban Outfitters are among a growing number of brands tackling mobile and user-generated content to connect to marketing-averse millennials.

With more marketers leveraging mobile to hook millennials when they are sharing and accessing content with friends, user-generated content is generating significant buzz with brands in building brand affinity and loyalty. At the same time, these campaigns can have the reverse effect if millennials feel like they are being marketed to.

?Consumers, particularly millennials, have a tremendous appetite for creating and consuming user-generated content,? said Anna Kassoway, chief marketing officer at Crowdtap, New York.

?When marketers create engaging programs and partner with the consumers that love their brand, there is a huge opportunity to inspire authentic content creation and encourage sharing,? she said.

?Authentic content is the key to rising above the noise. While it can be challenging for brands to give up some messaging control, the upside can be powerful.?

Targeting fickle teens
New research from Crowdtap finds that millennials spend 30 percent of their media time interacting with user-generated content, representing 5.4 hours per day.

The amount of time that millennials spend with user-generated content also directly corresponds to how much consumers trust the content.

Millennials surveyed in the study said that they trusted user-generated content 50 percent more than print or TV media, per the Crowdtap research.

Consumer-created marketing
Millennial-focused Urban Outfitters leverages user-generated content to build an online community of Instagram images within a page on its Web site called ?Show Us Your UO.?

Via the section of the site, consumers can search through images of looks that they like and shop products. 

Pepsi took a different approach with a mobile video campaign in Britain as part of its global ?Live for Now? campaign. Consumers could upload videos of their most unbelievable moments on Vine with some of the submissions delivered on outdoor billboards in seven of Britain?s largest cities.

KFC also made a big push with user-generated content earlier this year for its #HowDoYouKFC campaign. The TV spots were shot with an iPhone to mimic how consumers shoot and upload their own photos on social media sites.

The fast food giant?s campaign includes 10 different spots that are meant to hit a nerve with millennials through teenage actors.

?We launched a #HowDoYouKFC video featuring motocross rider Bryce Hudson performing the world?s first backflip while eating chicken,? said Kevin Hochman, chief marketing officer of KFC, Louisville, KY.

?Our fans loved the video, and it quickly received more than a million views,? he said. ?When we saw it was a fan favorite, we quickly edited it and put it on TV. The fans spoke, we listened, and the moto ad ended up airing on FOX?s pre-game Super Bowl coverage. The video has now been viewed nearly 1.7 million times.?

Say cheese
One of the biggest ways that brands including Coca-Cola, Airheads and Ted Baker are using user-generated content is through selfies, which millennials are particularly well-suited for.

New research from Pew Research Center released last week found that 55 percent of millennials have posted a selfie ? more than any other generation. Twenty-four percent of Gen X consumers and nine percent of boomers said that they had posted a selfie.

Coca-Cola, for example, is building on its ?Ahh Effect? campaign that was launched last year to better connect with teens (see story). 

Coca-Cola?s new #ThisisAHH campaign encourages consumers to upload a 15-second mobile video showing their ?Ahh moment? to Instagram, Vine, Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr with the hashtag #ThisisAhh. 

The soda giant will then select some of the videos to be featured in a commercial. 

Perfetti Van Melle?s Airheads is similarly collecting selfies to create commercial content for the brand?s first mass marketing campaign.

Uploading a photo tagged with the hashtag #Airheadsneeded onto the campaign?s Tumblr microsite at, consumers have the chance to be featured in TV, online and mobile ads.

?If the content is meaningful enough to the consumer, there is no barrier to content creation,? said Kristin Hersant, vice president of marketing at Livefyre, San Francisco.

?It's only when the contest is too challenging that you see drop off,? she said. ?For example, more than 75,000 consumers were featured in the Greatness Awaits social hub that we built for Sony PlayStation at part of their PS4 launch. If consumers are passionate about a brand or topic, the content will come naturally.?

Cracking millennials
Brands have been quick to jump on the opportunities with user-generated content as a way to leverage the increasing amount of social conversations happening by millennials.

At the same time, the growing number of platforms available for marketers could turn off consumers ? particularly millennials ? who are not receptive to interacting with brands on the same platforms that they use to communicate to their friends.

To work around this, marketers need to keep user-generated campaigns with simple calls-to-actions to take advantage of brand affinity that a millennial may have with a brand in real-time.

?Although consumers love these types of programs, there is a higher effort involved in entering a user-generated-content program than there is in a simple sweepstakes or chance to win,? said Sara Kowal, vice president of product innovation at HelloWorld, Pleasant Ridge, MI.

?So, your more dedicated consumers will participate, but you may not have the broad reach of other types of campaigns,? she said. ?This is ok, [it] just needs to align with your goals.?

?For brands to stand out, they need to focus on something specific their consumers can relate to and make it easy to share the content/enter. Big, cool, unique prizes ? like being featured in a Coke commercial ? certainly help drive participation.? 

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York