Over the past decade, crowd-sourced marketing content has evolved from an unconventional approach for start-ups to become mainstream - particularly in Europe. Leading European brands, across a huge spectrum of industries, have been using crowd-sourced marketing content for digital production and visual design. More recently, North American firms are starting to see the benefits and it’s gaining acceptance.
My first experience with crowd-sourced marketing creative was for a packaging design project. I was working in Europe for a major consumer products company. I was leading the restage of a historic beverage brand. Rather than hire a big packaging design agency, we created a contest amongst the local graphic design community. We had over 800 entries submitted to the contest. The winning packaging design, selected by a panel of top graphic designers, was a street-artist who had never done any commercial art. His designs were amazing – and it started a new career.
Years later, as a CMO for a portfolio of leading consumer brands, I worked with Userfarm to create a digital and TV campaign for an iconic brand. We had numerous Userfarm filmmakers submit entries and the winning entry was outstanding. Many filmmakers brought new insights into our creative process. The winning entry created an emotional, authentic and compelling brand message – which received unprecedented positive consumer feedback for the brand.
Based in London, Jeffrey Lee is the CMO for Userfarm. He is also an award-winning author. “As a fiction and non-fiction author, I’m a story teller. There are a lot of great story tellers in the world and they don’t all work for ad agencies! We have over 120,000 filmmakers across 140 countries that are a part of the Userfarm community. We started in 2009 and we are a pioneer in the crowd-sourced marketing content industry.”
(Chief Outsiders is a disruptive alternative to traditional Marketing Consulting firms. In many ways, we share Userfarm’s marketing community spirit as thought leaders in our industry. With over 50 ex-Fortune 500 CMOs within the Chief Outsiders’ Tribe, across 40 industries, we offer leading-edge marketing best-practices to our clients. We see crowd-sourced marketing content, such as Userfarm, democratizing the marketing voice community. It’s the ‘Uber-ization’ of marketing content.)
Jeffrey Lee continues, “Userfarm’s reach has moved beyond start-up brands with limited budgets. Many of our clients now are iconic global brands with multi-million-dollar marketing production budgets. They choose to use Userfarm because our creative community can bring content that’s not conventional High Street or Madison Avenue. It’s authentic story telling without the filters of traditional brand-speak.”
Examples of how mainstream Userfarm has become are reflected in Userfarm’s diverse client roster which now includes Danone, Barilla, Ford, Disneyland, Playstation, Microsoft, Deutschebank, Samsung and Nestlé.
How does it work? Jeffrey continues, “Global Giant Nestlé recently conducted a Nespresso Userfarm project for vertical video. Userfarm facilitates the process. Nespresso received about 400 quality entries from over 40 countries. All the Nespresso brand team had to do was pick the top videos from an amazing shortlist.”
Why do filmmakers participate? With so many entries - so many also don’t win. Jeffrey explains, “Filmmakers want to create, work and become known in their industry. Userfarm provides them a forum to bring their genius to a worldwide audience.”
With their pick of top-agency Creative Directors and established production teams, why would a marketer for a major brand choose Userfarm? Jeffrey elaborates, “Advantages include authenticity, unfettered creativity and of course, lower budgets; to produce a 30-second video ad using a big or boutique agency may cost $250,000. Add-in creative development fees, talent fees and all the other costs, it can easily add up to $500,000 or more. That limits high-quality video marketing content to the very few. For as little as $50,000, or just 10% of the cost of a single agency produced film, Userfarm can bring your brand story to a worldwide audience with multiple quality films. Saving money is a big benefit. Less non-working budgets translates to more resources available for working budgets. More media translates to more brand impressions. That is certainly a big plus with Userfarm.”
Userfarm’s success has not gone unnoticed by big (and famous!) filmmakers either. In 2014, A-list actor and director, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (e.g., Inception, Looper, Snowden) and his brother Dan Gordon-Levitt, launched HitRecord, an on-line collaborative production company, offering video production, as well as music, writing, voice-acting, graphic design, photography and more.
The expansion of crowd-sourced marketing content is likely to grow into new markets and segments in the years ahead. It will take a few years for North American brand marketers to catch up to their European counterparts. As I look ahead to start 2017, I anticipate many more U.S. brand marketers will see the creative and budget benefits and make the leap. I have clients looking to do so. I’ll update you on the results.