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  • Writer's pictureSimone Bonnett

Leveraging user-generated content: An Ocean Spray vs Sherwin-Williams analysis

Amidst the chaos of 2020, a 23-second video of a man drinking cranberry juice whilst skateboarding to work ignited the internet. Celebrities such as Jimmy Fallon, Dr Phil, Gordon Ramsey and Mick Fleetwood hopped on the trend making it even more popular.

This trend, dubbed the #DreamsChallenge, involved getting on a ride of your choice and drinking juice - specifically Ocean Spray’s cranberry flavour - while listening to Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 song Dreams.

It all began when Nathan Apodaca’s car broke down on his way to work. He hopped on his longboard with his favourite juice in hand and recorded a video of himself skateboarding while listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams. He posted the video to TikTok not expecting much to come out of it, but then 3 things did: 1. The video went massively viral; 2. Dreams returned to the Billboard charts for the first time since 1977; and 3. Supermarket shelves in the US were wiped clean of Ocean Spray juice.

So how did Ocean Spray react to their newfound fame?

Within the first week of the video going viral, Ocean Spray sent Nathan Apodaca a brand new truck filled with Ocean Spray products. Additionally, Ocean Spray’s CEO, Tom Hayes, joined in on the challenge by posting a video to TikTok and Instagram.

This was a great approach because it allowed them to join the conversation authentically instead of hijacking it. In an interview, Tom Hayes said that - “What I did do was immediately ask the team, where do we think we should go with this? Because we didn’t want to be inauthentic — take over the moment or try to take over the moment, which was extraordinarily tempting, because our product was prominently featured. So what we decided to do was, ‘how do we engage to amp up the positivity?'”

This was unlike the approach Sherwin-Williams took when they discovered that one of their employees - a college student named Tony Piloseno - was recording videos of himself mixing paint during his free time (out of pocket, not with company resources) and posting them on TikTok to his 1.2 million followers. Instead of embracing his creativity and using it to reach out to a new demographic, the company fired him citing “violation of several gross misconduct policies”.

Why should you use user-generated content?

According to Hootsuite, user-generated content (UGC) is any content created by people, rather than brands. And since 79 per cent of people say user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decisions, brands should work to incorporate it in their marketing strategy.

Before Tony Piloseno’s termination, Tony pitched an idea to the marketing department on how they could leverage social media to reach a younger audience. Sherwin-Williams rejected the idea because it wasn’t in line with their brand guidelines.

Now, like Sherwin-Williams, the idea of breaking tradition by adopting content created by people outside your marketing team might turn your hair grey. But letting go of centrally-controlled messaging and encouraging others to take the reins every once in a while gives your brand a positive image.

In a podcast interview, Tom Hayes said that before going viral, Ocean Spray’s social media strategy was more traditional. “If I were to put a picture on it, it might be that Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving,” he said. But now the company is “trying to move the brand to be a little more edgy, and to be a little more attractive to the younger consumer.”

Traditional marketing is brand focused. The story is fully controlled and told by the brand with the customer being the subject. But today’s market is radically different. Consumers have access to all the information they could possibly need right in the palm of their hand and they no longer rely on marketing alone to make an informed decision. What’s more, 51% of consumers say less than half of brands create authentic content.

So instead of creating content that your customers think is inauthentic, why not meet them wherever they happen to be and encourage them to start conversations about your brand?

How to get more user-generated content

A business’s greatest asset is an enthusiastic customer. You can encourage happy clients to share their experiences and start conversations about your brand on social networks by:

1. Creating a dedicated hashtag

#MyCalvins has 887,000 posts on Instagram, #ShareaCoke has 664,000 and #Builtforthewild has 309,000.

A dedicated hashtag is important because it builds familiarity and also directs all social media users to one source.

2. Running a contest

You can ask your customers to share their favourite experiences with your brand for a chance to win a prize or get a discount the next time they buy from you.

If you want to control the quality of posts related to your hashtag, you can set up guidelines such as the funniest caption or best photo wins.

3. Feature customers

Reposting content is a great way to fuel brand loyalty. When you repost your customers’ content, you’re showing them that you celebrate them. This is something that OceanSpray did with the Dreams Challenge. They encouraged people to tag them in their own versions of the challenge and featured some of them in their stories.

4. Give your customers a (good) reason to talk about your brand

There are many ways to get people talking about your brand. Aside from offering exceptional products and really good customer experiences, you could build an influencer marketing campaign, hold a giveaway or come up with a really creative marketing strategy.

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