Can User Generated Content Hurt Your Brand?

Folks in social media circles like to talk about the value using customers as brand ambassadors who advocate for the brand through social media. Of course, armed with a video camera and an internet connection, people don’t need to be asked by brands to be ambassadors. Remember Nick Haley’s iPod Touch ad? The really passionate ones just do it. When it comes out as good as Nick’s did, the brand can’t help but be happy. But what if your passionate customers create something that really doesn’t represent your brand in a helpful way. What if it’s so “cheesy” that it starts getting some serious YouTube traction. Is this kind of free advertising,”good” advertising?

Chris Abraham pointed this one out on his blog today. The person that made this video (and I assume composed the song) is clearly passionate about Hillary Clinton. I wonder if this is the kind of brand ambassador Hillary is looking for.

Is soon as the title of this post hit Twitter, I received a couple of comments suggesting that UGC won’t hurt your brand if you properly supervise it’s creation.  That’s great if you are in-charge, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.  There is no way to supervise or manage this.  You can only respond to it (or not).

So how does user generated content like this affect a brand. Is it helpful? Can it be detrimental? If it happens to you, how will you respond?



6 comments so far

  1. Chris Abraham on

    You can supervise real grassroot support. Can you? You have to prepackage what you want as well as you can, but at the end of the day, when you release your brand into the wilderness, it mutates and changes and evolved. Your sweet brand, after all, is merely a mind virus — a meme — to culture.

  2. Ryan Karpeles on

    Unfortunately this sounds like a cheesy children’s TV promo, but at least the support is there…

    When it comes to UGC in general, I don’t think you really have much control at all. People who believe in “supervising its creation” aren’t talking about authentic user generated content. They’re talking about a brand asking for people to get involved. There’s a major difference there.

    Net/net: when people create content about you, it shows they care. They might care because they love you, or they might care because they hate you. Either way, you’ve made it worth their while to put in the effort. For your organization’s sake, let’s hope it’s because they’re on your side.

    FWIW, I think UGC has a greater effect on polarizing brands. It can strengthen the great ones and further ruin the bad ones. But I think its potency is diluted if it references an average brand that doesn’t evoke a great deal of emotion. Just my two cents 😉

  3. Doug Meacham on

    Chris, I wrote a post a few weeks back where the main idea was that your “brand” is defined by the Customer Experience. That is it after all, isn’t it? Your brand is just a reflection of how you are perceived.

    Ryan, I would add that brands should be paying attention to the content being made about them.

    On reflection, the Hillary example is a bit different from a typical UGC situation in that a political race is a highly competitive, time-compressed, winner-takes-all event. It’s not like Avis and Hertz have nine months to fight it out and at the end of August, only one is left standing. In the political battle, momentum of one candidate can easily sweep up support from people who were previously undecided. Much of that momentum is driven by people’s perception of you based on what they see in the media. The maker of this video clearly support Hillary, but it’s “cheesy” (Chris’s word) enough that it could end up getting played endlessly on major media outlets who are focused on all things political.

  4. Jonathan Trenn on

    Hey Doug

    Actually I was the one that wrote it.

    I don’t think this will hurt Hillary because it comes across as UGC, not something from the campaign. But, unfortunately for her, it doesn’t help or inspire. It’s not done live either.

    The good part though is that a bunch of citizens did pay a role here.

    Beyond that I don’t know what to say. Now I have the damn song going through my head.

  5. Paul Hill on

    UGC is a good thing because it allows the unseen artist to shine. Since his goal is to make the content shine as well and the fact that he/she is a buyer of the product,possibly, it can only be a good thing for the brand and the public.

    log on to
    click on the GALLERY tab
    keyword: digital transition

  6. farhad on

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    Starbucks does not sell air Plv coffee and other food products is difficult. We Starbucks CEO Mr. Schulz announced Havvrd we Iranians and Farsi speaking with support Srasrjhan Shaphay enough Starbucks will replace the shell. (Competition), not Labyhay? Etc.

    Knowledge, experience, art, daring, quality, quantity, health, personnel and support the Iranian people and Farsi speakers worldwide attention and the possibility of God will give to us.

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