For marketers targeting students getting a piece of the user-generated content realm seems like a logical move. Set up a videocamera invite some young whipper-snappers to get silly slap up some videos and let the viral stampede begin right? Um hello! Like that’s so 2006. Student-created content can build powerful brand loyalty but only when it’s authentic—meaning peer-approved hands-on and grounded by a strong concept. Three programs that empower the under-20 set without seeming too corporate:
1. Peer-to-Peer. Two things about women in college: They hate waking up and they love to dish. Johnson & Johnson capitalized on both of those factors to promote its new Clean & Clear Morning Burst with Shine Control face wash line. In February and March the company traveled to coffee shops and Barnes & Noble bookstore cafés near 12 colleges including Boston University University of Chicago Ball State University and University of Central Florida inviting coeds to jump into the Clean & Clear Morning Burst Café tour bus. There students were encouraged to record videos recounting their favorite morning wake-up stories. (Selling out friends and roommates was a recurring theme.)
Clips were posted at mymorningroutine.com (to date more than 593 have been posted) and each participant became eligible to be included in ads that are appearing on the Bolt MySpace Facebook and YouTube sites as well as on in-school media. The company hopes the funny personal stories and authentic peer-created messages will inspire strong viral buzz (videos with the highest numbers of views win cash prizes) and brand loyalty among college students and their friends (Agency: Mr. Youth New York City).
Jean Rauch senior promotion manager-skincare at Johnson & Johnson says the brand’s approach was designed to leverage the importance of best friends in the lives of college students. And she adds using real people—instead of actors—in the web ads “makes the voice of Clean & Clear resonate.”
2. Hands-on. Samsung Telecommunications America is in its second year as the title sponsor of Fresh Films an annual web-based filmmaking contest for teenagers. Last year 6 000 teenagers applied to be part of 10 teams that got to use Samsung mobile phones to cast direct shoot edit and produce their own 10-minute film—all within one week.
Finished films were hosted online where viewers cast more than 1.5 million votes to choose the best of the entries. The sponsorship also got Samsung in front of teenagers at viewing parties in 10 cities (Agency: Fuse Burlington VT). Viewers could vote via text messaging on their phones or—after they got home—at the web site. The company says the immersive filmmaking experience paired with grassroots screenings generated high peer approval which translated into strong viral buzz. One teen who emailed the company wrote that the program was right-on because he “got immediate feedback and learned from different mistakes.”
“This market is terribly savvy and they know when they’re being marketed to ” says Kim Titus a spokesperson for Samsung. “This is a way to really engage them with our products by fostering creativity.”
3. In-network. Macy’s is in the midst of a seven-month program aimed at tapping college women’s tight-knit friendship circles—and their artistic talents.
To promote the retailer’s American Rag clothing line brand ambassadors traveled to eight campuses including Northeastern University San Diego State University and University of Texas where they held American Ragparties at sororities and dormitories. Women are recruited to compete for a spot as a stylist for local in-store events and fashions shows (Agency: Mr. Youth).
Macy’s hopes that by engaging with existing social networks the company can leverage the power of peer influence to boost sales.
The campaign coincides with an online contest where students can create their own graphic for a hooded sweatshirt; the winning entry will be put into production for the clothing line’s fall collection.
“You’re seeing a lot of companies saying ‘Create some ads for us and we’ll slap it on YouTube ’” says Chrissy Shea marketing director for Macy’s merchandise group. “This was a way to get at the core of our consumer’s creativity… Utilizing the creative talent from students who are actually shopping the brand made the most sense to us.”
In the fall brand ambassadors will return to campus with a custom catalog featuring outfits worn and chosen by local student recruits and shot by a professional photographer. The mini-magazine will also feature the winning hoodie design.