User Generated Content

User generated content

In my last post I wrote about the Engagement Ladder, the top rung of which is user-generated content, I’ve been thinking more about this form of content and looking for some positive examples, here’s what I’ve come up with.

User generated content can be a great loyalty builder for brands, but there are some things to consider before you launch your campaign.

Is your brand ready? You’ll be giving up some control of your brand, if your marketing, legal, risk teams aren’t ready for that reality you’ll need to do more work internally.

Is your brand positively viewed? If you open up your brand for user input while your brand is in a crisis the blowback will be swift. Starbucks famously started a Christmas campaign in 2012 with the hashtag #SpreadTheCheer, a nice idea, and large screens were installed to display the messages in stores. Unfortunately the company was in the middle of a crisis around paying tax in the UK and the tweets focussed on that rather than the festive season.

Does your brand have a tribe? You need a group of your customers/clients to be engaged enough to want to build content for your brand, otherwise there’ll be no response.

Can you create a fair process? You need to respect the rights of the content creators, which may include offering fair payment, and you need to be clear on what you are promising to do with the work created.

There are three ways to elicit content from your customer groups.

Open Call

Publish a request for customers to submit content, sometimes this is done as part of a competition. It sounds generous, giving all customers a chance to contribute, and it can work, but your brand needs to be positively regarded and you need to be clear about what you’re planning to do with the work. One example of a celebrity crowdsourcing a design did generate a concept book cover, but also generated plenty of criticism from the designer community. The more open your make the call and selection process the more likely you are to get the backlash. However this may still be a good option for a shorter or local campaign. There are a number of companies using hashtag based selection on Instagram to share themed posts (#ThankYouAmsterdam for example), and the results are positive for both parties.

Selective Approach

Research who of your customers is already creating great content, or look for social media influencers whose work matches your brand. Invite them to contribute content.

Spotify are using some of their subscribers’ lists in ads, building on their existing fanbase, I’m sure they’ve researched the lists and contacted the subscriber before building the ad.

Existing Community

Your brand already has a group of committed fans, who are independently building content.

One of the best examples out there, demonstrating the loyalty and ingenuity of customers, is IKEA Hackers. Although at one point IKEA tried to close the site.  The site showcases ways that IKEA products have been repurposed; cabinets become a  bed base, vases become a bathroom wall, and a folding desk saves space. A smarter approach might have been to engage the IKEA Hackers and look for ways to support their activities to enhance the IKEA brand.

Lego have successfully built a community of super loyal fans,  their brand is based on the human needs of playing/building together and the pride of creation so their online platform Lego Ideas ties into the brand and gives their fans a chance to develop new lego sets – the best of which go into production.  They also support the robot building lego league, although it was not started by the company.

One of my favourite example of a personality doing this is the wonderful, Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o who uses #FanArtFriday on her Instagram account, the images are beautiful and reflect her career. She’s genuinely excited to share them.

user generated content

Three things to think about before you start;

  • company readiness
  • process including legal rights and payments
  • your commitment to using the final work.

Spotify and Lego show us that user-generated content can work for a company, but it takes brand commitment and a tribe.

Image:  Artist   |   M McIntyre   |   CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Ad Blocking


We’ve all become very used to having access to a massive amount of content – news, videos, blogs, images – for free via the internet.

The consequence has been that a number of those content providers have lost advertiser revenue, which in the long term jeopardises our access to “free” content. Ad blockers were a recurring topic at the Web Summit last year and as one content provider said “we thought we had a deal”, meaning that we all understood that the free content came with ads.

I should insert a personal disclaimer here; I use an ad blocker. I didn’t for a long time but I got frustrated with the increasingly intrusive ads, particularly fly-over ads, large header ads forcing me to scroll (esp on my tiny laptop) and the video autoplays that make me jump out of my skin if I have the sound on.

Turn off your adblocker – please

Content providers are starting to fight back, asking you to turn off your adblocker.

Forbes now invites you to turn off the adblocker to access their “ad-light” experience, which is for 30 days and still includes a lot of ads.


The Atlantic is more specific, asking you to disable it or take up a print (with digital options) subscription.


The Guardian asks you to become a supporter, pushing the case for independent journalism; “your financial contribution will support our independence and our award-winning journalism”.


TED has come to a somewhat different solution, you’ll still get an ad if you use ad-blocker, but it’ll be for a TED product.


Other Ways Publishers Fight Back


Some companies have asked visitors to whitelist their site, but a quick check with the non-technical people in my circle indicates they have no idea how to do this, and there’s some data reported that fewer than 1% of people take this option.

Native advertising 

Native advertising refers to content that matches the website or platform that it’s on, it often has an indication somewhere on it that the content is sponsored. Because this looks so much like content from the site it most often survives the adblocker’s filters.

Acceptable Ads Program

You can “pay to play“, one of the most commonly used adblockers will program their filters to allow non-intrusive ads to survive the adblock filters.

We’re all addicted to free content, subscribing only to the most loved publishers if at all. Since it costs money to create content it’s not unreasonable for those content platforms to look for revenue by subscription or by ads. As long as we retain the expectation of free content we can expect content creators to continue trying to serve us ads, while we – annoyed by the volume of ads – continue trying to block them. The days of free content may soon be over.

Image: Stone Wall  |  Rich  |  CC BY-2.0

Gaming NPS

recommendI was asked in a survey recently “How likely would you be to recommend this tool to your colleagues?”

At first glance it seems like a fair enough question, and one we’re all used to seeing since NPS (Net Promoter Score) became ubiquitous. But here’s the problem; the tool in question was an internal HR tool. I have no choice but to use it. Whether I would recommend it or not is therefore irrelevant.

It’s not the first time I’ve questioned the use or implementation of NPS. And I’m not alone.

What is NPS?

NPS or Net Promoter Score is a single number that represents how likely a customer is to recommend your product/service/company to their friends, family or colleagues.

People are divided into detractors, passives and promoters based on their score. The number of promoters (those who gave a score of 9 or 10) minus the number of detractors (those who scored between 0 – 6) gives you your net promoter score. So the score can be negative.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 22.49.59It seems that the distribution of responses falls on a bimodal distribution with people scoring either strongly supporting or strongly detracting, with 65% of all scores being either 0, 9, or 10.

What’s Wrong with NPS?

It’s culturally insensitive; I used to see survey data from training courses, we used a 10 point scale and noticed that Dutch people tend to score any survey question on quality 1-2 points lower than their US colleagues. Once famously taking points of because the food was too good! It was incredibly unlikely to ever get a 10 from a Dutch participant. I’m sure this has implications on NPS scores.

Limited use in B2B; because the decision cycle is more complex, with multiple stakeholders and influencers an NPS based on the scores of just the person known to the survey sender is not a useful measure.

It can be gamed; on a  holiday last year I was asked to give a company feedback, and advised that only scores of 9 or 10 would count as positive. As it happens I was happy to score a 9 without the guilt trip, but how accurate are surveys when they come with scoring instructions?

It’s not actionable; it can be really hard to understand what to improved when the NPS score is calculated across a team or across an audience as a whole. NPS Monitoring blog gives a nice hypothetical example about how breaking out an audience according to time spent with the product might help understand what approach to take to improve user experience (and therefore NPS).

Some of the issues above are around implementation; if frontline people don’t benefit indvidually from NPS then the risk of gaming NPS drops for example.

Is it Useful?


NPS can be useful either as a single figure that allows a manager to see a changing trend of customer reaction, or compare businesses or markets across a large company – preferably using trend data rather than absolutes to limit any cultural biases.

If set up properly it can also be used to diagnose areas for attention by drilling into the reactions of specific groups or analysing where a respondent is in the product purchase cycle.

But it should never be used to asses a compulsory tool.

Image; Thumbs Up | MyEyeSees | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Mashies – the winners

So Mashable announced the winners of the Mashies, but didn’t provide any links to the entrants’ content. I’ve started collecting links that at least show something of the campaign, I’ll add more as I find them – feel free to tweet me or leave a comment to suggest a link.

Best Public Service Announcement

Winner: BBDO New York and AT&T for It Can Wait Integrated Campaign

360i for #MAMMING

BBDO New York and Autism Speaks for Lifetime of Difference

Big Block Live for Save the Children – The Most Important “Sexy” Model Video Ever

Purpose for Scenes from Everytown: 4:08 pm

Best Use of Vine

Winner: Target for #unPOPtheBox

Deep Focus and Tombstone for Bites of Fright

GE for #6SecondScience

MRY and Visa for Everywhere You Want to Be Olympics Campaign

We Are Social and Evian for Amazing Baby Rescue Me

Best Use of Instagram

Winner: Wieden+Kennedy New York and Heineken for Crack the US Open

Causebrands and Cotopaxi for Questival

Havas Worldwide Chicago for Havas Chi Internship Draft

Razorfish and Mercedes-Benz for Take the Wheel

VH1 for Love & Instagram: #CheckYoSelfie

Best Viral Video

Winner: Don’t Panic London/UNIT9 and Save the Children UK for Most Shocking Second a Day

CP+B and A.1 for A.1 New Friend Requests

Creative Artists Agency and Chipotle for The Scarecrow

Deep Focus and Lay’s® for Lay’s® Do Us A Flavor

Leo Burnett Toronto and Always for Always, Like a Girl

Best Facebook Campaign

Winner: Wenderfalck and MTV for Match Machine

Attention and Dunkin’ Donuts for Global Donut Day

Colenso BBDO and Burger King for Motel Burger King

MRY and Listerine for Power to Your Mouth

McCann-Starcom and Coca-Cola Italia for #DilloConUnaCanzone & Coca-Cola Summer Festival

Best Use of Snapchat

Winner: Rethink for Memory Project

Association of Surfing Professionals for ASP Surf + Snap: Digital Autographs

GrubHub Inc. for GrubHub Snapchat

Huge and Audi for Audi Takes Snapchat by Storm on Super Bowl Sunday

Wieden + Kennedy New York and Heineken for Snapwho?

Best Branded Twitter Account

Winner: BTC Revolutions and Applebee’s for How Do You Like Them #FanApples

Cavalry and Smith and Forge for @SmithandForge: 19th Century Perspective

Delta Air Lines for Delta Presents: Prepare for Laughter

Guitar Center for Guitar Center Twitter

Publicis Kaplan Thaler and ZzzQuil for ZzzQuil Twitter

Best Interactive Ad Execution

Winner: Interlude and Sony for Like a Rolling Stone – Interactive Music Video

CP+B and Domino’s for Domino’s Live

Digitas and Motorola for Moto X Interactive Print

Rapt Media and Ogilvy for Philips Designed to Play

Razorfish Germany and Audi for The Perfect Day

Best YouTube Brand Channel

Winner: Great Works and Absolut for Absolut Drinks In Motion

Fullscreen and GE for GE Reports

PBS Digital Studios

Razorfish London and Unilever for All Things Hair

Weber Shandwick and Milk Processor Education Program for Chocolate Milk: From the Gridiron to IRONMAN

Best Twitter Campaign

Winner: DDB New Zealand and SKY New Zealand for Bring Down the King

Edelman Digital and Samsung Mobile US for Samsung Keeps the #PowerOn for Galaxy Owners at SXSW 2014

HCL Technologies for #CoolestInterviewEver

NBC and Telescope Inc. for #VoiceSave for NBC’s “The Voice”

We Are Social and Adidas for Brazuca

Best Social Media Campaign

Winner: BBDO Colenso and Burger King for Motel King

BBDO New York and AT&T for @SummerBreak

Deep Focus and Tombstone for Tombstone Bites of Fright

iProspect and Chevy for Chevy and the American Cancer Society Paint Social Media Purple

Zocalo Group and Nestle Coffee-mate for Stirring Up Love “Outside the Cup”

Best Real-Time Marketing

Winner: Allen & Gerritsen and Dietz & Watson for Laser Ham

DDB New Zealand and SKY New Zealand for Bring Down the King

Grow, Wieden+Kennedy, and Google Creative Partnerships for Nike Phenomenal Shot

MRY and Listerine for Listerine “Power to Your Mouth”

Taylor Strategy and Taco Bell for Taco Bell President’s Reddit AMA during Taco Bell Breakfast Launch

Best Interactive Audio

Winner: BBDO Colenso and Pedigree for KPFM

Edelman Digital for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Kevin Spacey Reveal

Epiphany and Amplifon for Amplifon: Sounds of Street View

Best Branded App

Winner: for Virtual Try-On App

2Mobile and Caixa Insurance for #transitoaovivo

Comedy Central with Isobar for Comedy Central App

Web Reservation International – for Hostelworld iPad App

WWE for The WWE App

Best Branded Facebook Page

Winner: USA Network for Chrisley Knows Best

Cookie Jar for Airtel Buzz

Iris for Team Messi

Publicis Kaplan Thaler for ZzzQuil

Resource for Sherwin-Williams

Best Native Advertising Campaign

Winner: Creative Arts Agency and Chipotle for The Scarecrow

Causebrands and Cotopaxi for Cotopaxi Questival

Kik Interactive and Funny or Die for Funny or Die Promoted Chats

M&C Saatchi for GOWEST (Become Cyber Spy for Equality)

Razorfish and Mercedes-Benz for Take the Wheel

Best Product Placement

Winner: Causebrands and Cotopaxi for Cotopaxi Questival

The Integer Group for Pringles Flavor Slam at Walmart

REVOLT Media and TV LLC for FIAT 500 REVOLT Nation

WhoSay and Canon for #BringIt

Weber Shandwick and Unilever for All Things Hair

Best International Digital Campaign

Winner: DDB New Zealand for Bring Down the King

HCL Technologies for #CoolestInterviewEver

M&C Saatchi for GOWEST (Become a Cyber Spy for Equality)

Razorfish London for All Things Hair

Rethink for Luge

Best Branded Game

Winner: The Integer Group for Pringles Flavor Slam at Walmart

Colenso BBDO for V Robbers

Creative Artists Agency for The Scarecrow

TBWA/Paris for The Most Serious Game Ever

Wieden+Kennedy and Coca-Cola for AHH

Best Use of Tumblr

Winner: Erwin Penland for Denny’s Tumblr Account

Firstborn for Keds Bravehearts

Iris Worldwide for Rimmel London – Retro Glam

McGarryBowen with Kraft for Miracle Whip Tumblr

WGSN for WGSN on Tumblr

Hotel Wifi; a charge fiasco

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 23.04.00In the last 10 days or so I’ve stayed at 5 different establishments each with a different wifi service.

I needed internet to access email messages, research plans for each day, and my current writing projects. My mobile phone would let me do all that, but it’s not a comfortable tool for writing and there is a daily data limit when roaming under my current contract.

Boutique Hotel

The first was a boutique hotel in central London. Wifi was free throughout the hotel, but password protected. The room rate was high, and every luxury is included so it’s not surprising that wifi was also included.

Central London

I then moved to a more budget friendly option, still in central London – walking distance from the district line. Wifi was considered an additional service and charged at 10 pounds per day. And that’s 24 hours of availability, not 24 hours of use. Plus it was for a single device – I was carrying three devices that could use a wifi network. But the staff are obviously sick of discussing the wifi charges, the concierge gave me an extra login when I needed to send a quick email related to my booking.

Tourist City, Business Hotel

I left London and went to a tourist city, staying in a hotel geared to business people. The charge there was 15 pounds per day. But free in the public areas – for one hour.

It made me regret my booking. I’ve done some research and come up with half a dozen hotels in the town with free wifi for a range of room rates – often lower than I paid.  I complained via twitter and was told “it’s hotel policy”.
Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 19.21.37Fair enough, now that I know I won’t book there on my next trip.


I stayed at an airbnb place for two nights, where wifi was free. I’ve stayed at Airbnb places in several cities now, wifi has been included for no extra charge at all places. I realise there is a different level of complexity providing wifi to 100 rooms rather than one, but it does show that there is an expectation for wifi that airbnb hosts are meeting.


For my last night in the UK I stayed at the Yotel at Gatwick airport; wifi free. The room rate is less than half that of the Central London or Tourist City hotels. The room is very basic, in fact they call them cabins. There’s another hotel, a more upmarket version of the same concept called Bloc Hotel at Gatwick, which also provides free wifi – and boasts of its speed.

So the places at the top and bottom ends of the price range include wifi; they know their guests need it and they’ve responded to that demand. Two and a half years ago I predicted that there would be a growing demand, for wifi, in that I was right. I wouldn’t have guessed that the customer demand would take so long to shift the policies of mid-level hotels.

There are of course plenty of other options for wifi; cafes, bookshops -even McDonalds in London provides free wifi. I used it even though I wasn’t a customer (probably not their intention!).

But if McDonald’s will provide free wifi for the price of a hamburger what is the issue for those mid-level hotels? Given the growth and growth and growth of internet access via mobile relative to desktop why aren’t hotels changing their policies? Why am I asked to pay a 10% surcharge for what should be a standard feature? After all they don’t charge me based on water used or TV watched.

It’s going to be a selection criteria from now on. I bet that decision saves me money.

What’s your take on wifi in hotels?


Image; Wifi / themaninblue / CC BY-ND 2.0

Marketing 101; CiTea sells coffee

If you open a tea specialist in a coffee city how do you let people know that you sell coffee without straying from your chosen specialty? Like this:
CiTea is a new cafe in Amsterdam which specialises in tea, offering forty two different types of tea and the chance to smell the leaves before you choose. They also offer delicious things to go with your tea, and advice on preparing tea. Plus wifi.

But this is a coffee city, and every time I’ve walked past I’ve been in the mood for coffee, and I’m probably not alone.

This cute sign lets potential customers know there is coffee – but it’s a side show, Tea is the main act.

How can you communicate your “extras” without undermining your main offering?

Designed to tell the company story

Luxottica, known for its product design, has just updated its website to reflect online design trends – and give its products a stylish showcase.

Luxottica’s site last week – showing the home page and the brand page.

The site served the purpose of communicating company performance but did little to inspire interest in design or products. Given that they design eye-wear for some of the world’s great fashion brands it was a disappointing experience.

Luxottica’s site now – showing the home page and the brand page.

The difference is huge; Luxottica has re-used a lot of existing content to create a rich experience for the user packed with images and video. The navigation is simplified,  brands are highlighted, and the company’s charitable foundation “OneSight” is featured.

But the changes go deeper than just visual, they include;

  • responsive design, meaning this site will look good on all devices
  • shareable content, every page includes the “share” option under an icon
  • pulling in content from social media channels
  • icons used to identify functions across the site
  • “infinite” scroll, combined with persistent left hand navigation
  • increased storytelling, instead of writing text about the company or the brand stories have been collated from across the company to give the visitor a understanding of the whole company.

This website design is on trend, covering a number of the 7 digital design trends I wrote about last year.

There are a few “minus points”; the media gallery includes just 5 images which seems very thin when the rest of the site is so rich, the videos are sometimes very long,  and the content in the individual brand pages is rather uneven (very rich for Oliver People and very thin for Chanel) which I understand is due to some brands being owned while others are licencing agreements.

But the framework is there to deliver great visual content, and tell the brand story to all stakeholders. The team behind the site should be congratulated, it’s a great step in the right direction – now looks like it’s from a design company.

(Disclaimer; I know the project manager behind this, she’s fantastic – she also used to work for me)

Pointing South

HSBC posterThere’s so much wrong with this poster.

It’s an ad for HSBC I spotted in the airbridge at Athens airport. It shows a terracotta warrior, most definitely from China, wearing Havaianas, famously Brazilian. The slogan says “South-South trade will be norm not novelty”.

Well we can get the grammar out of the way, norm and novelty need articles in this sentence structure so it should read “South-South trade will be the norm, not a novelty”.

But the thing that struck me most forcefully, and prompted me to rummage for my camera on the way down the airbridge was the implication that China is South. It’s not, it is entirely in the northern hemisphere, and Beijing is further north than Athens.

Maybe HSBC wanted to reference the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China), but that makes no sense – of the four Brazil is the only nation that is in the southern hemisphere and even then small parts of the north part of the country are above the equator.

Maybe they meant that trade between the southern hemisphere nations will become normal – except it already is. Unsurprisingly nations tend to trade with their nearby countries so Australia is big trading partner for New Zealand, and Chile is a major trading partner for Brazil. (According to the US State department site). And if it’s China’s role HSBC were seeking to advertise – they’re already a big trading partner for Australia, Brazil, South Africa and New Zealand. In other words; it’s already normal, not a novelty.

In any event the sign is part of the bank’s “in the future….” branding; maybe in the future HSBC will use an atlas before they write the copy for their campaigns.

What story do you tell?

Every business has a line in their mission/vision statements about the importance of their customers. Almost every company makes their commitment to customers explicit in their external communications – including their advertising. Huge amounts are spent training staff on communicating with customers and handling difficult enquiries. In service industries complaints are taken seriously and teams are dedicated to resolve them.

But all that good work can be undone if the company’s internal messaging is not consistent, in just seconds if that internal messaging is visible in a public area.

I took the image above in a hotel lobby, I’ll be reading a sales subtext into everything every staff member says from now on.

Why no Wifi?

I took an overnight trip to London last month, I stayed in a nice hotel, not far from Trafalgar Square. A hotel that uses “classic luxury” as a descriptor. They wanted to charge me to use their wifi, in fact on check out they tried to charge me for 3 minutes internet time.

Opposite the hotel was a Costa Cafe, with good coffee, nice staff and free wifi. So I wandered across the road, ordered a large latte and used wifi there.

So why couldn’t the hotel provide free wifi? I pondered this as I sipped my coffee. To start with I was a bit annoyed and was working up to a good rant, but on reflection it makes sense.

The cafe has a lot of competition, several other cafes in walking distance and a bookstore with wifi. So if providing wifi attract more customers, or encourage customers to stay longer – and order a second cup, it’s well worth the costs. It’s a matter of beating the competition.

Hotels with a large proportion of business travels have customers who are less price sensitive since it’s often their company paying, and not funded from their own pocket. The extra charges for wifi will be picked up by expenses.

I predict a change; free wifi is becoming an expectation in any public space and I know one Asian-based businessman who includes it as criteria in selecting a hotel. No free wifi, no booking.