Retail Gazette and Bazaarvoice gathered retail and brand marketeers together for breakfast and an in-depth discussion on what represents good marketing in 2023.
When asked at a recent Retail Gazette roundtable about the main factors stopping them doing what they wanted to do, the room full of retail and brand marketeers provided some classic responses.
“Time”, “budget”, “resource”, “approval”, “agreement from everyone”, and “stakeholders” were among the answers given at the end of an in-depth conversation about marketing in 2023, which took place over breakfast at Seacontainers, London on 31 January.
But while the event ended on those challenges, the previous two hours highlighted huge opportunities marketeers see in leveraging the power of their communities in the overall marketing mix. Indeed, it was agreed that tapping into user-generated content (UGC), and online content creators made for a prudent strategy in the face of the aforementioned obstacles.
The breakfast, which was co-hosted by e-commerce technology company Bazaarvoice, involved representatives from Charles Tyrwhitt, Colgate-Palmolive, Mars, MZ Skin, Specsavers, Ted Baker, The Lego Group, and Unilever.
“Let’s blow some s*** up”
Roundtable guests were all at a different stage of deploying UGC in their marketing, but there was a general recognition that embracing what customers are saying about a brand or retailer in campaigns leads to more authenticity in message.
Customer advocacy is a strong tool that any retailer would like to leverage as part of their marketing, with the voice of the shopper having persuasive and ‘real-life’ qualities that can strengthen a company’s appeal, guests remarked.
“We give our brand an identity, but the community gives it personality,” said one attendee.
“It’s important to consider all of this in the current economy. Creating community and tapping into it wherever possible is very important at this time when sales growth is hard won.”
Ed Hill, senior vice president for EMEA at Bazaarvoice, who was in attendance at the event, said: “Marketing is now a conversation, it’s no longer a broadcast.
“Authenticity comes with giving power to the people.”
Some guests suggested if they relinquished control of marketing to customers too much they were worried it could provide some legal difficulties. This was a particularly pertinent concern around environmental, social and governance (ESG)-related claims – and also in terms of making sure messaging was age appropriate.
This needs to be vetted, of course, but one roundtabler called for some more explosive marketing in a world that has become so focused on ESG and “purposeful” messaging. “Go blow some s*** up,” she argued, adding there is real opportunity for brands to get young people to changes things up in marketing and do things differently to before.
Henrietta Wilson, an account director at Bazaarvoice, who also took part in the debate, said: “Retailers and brands should consider that technology can play a role in translating core must-haves in UGC.
“For those worried about the potential pitfalls of opening up marketing to their communities, tech can follow brand guidelines and bring content into a usable format when needed.”
Content demand is high
Another reason marketeers are looking to their communities to support their work is the sheer demand for content facing them in 2023.
“Heading up content is a proper role in any organisation now,” argued one roundtabler, while another spoke of outsourcing this part of the business in the form of “agile freelance networks” due to high demand and the importance of diversity in messaging.
This year’s Adobe Digital Trends Report found that content and content workflow management is a key priority among senior executives in 2023. The survey of 9,000 executives, practitioners, and agency employees across different sectors found leading brands have prioritised investments in the speed, scale and efficiency of their content creation capabilities to build stronger customer relationships and succeed this year.
Some 89% of senior executives surveyed said demand for content has significantly increased. The study said despite insatiable appetite from customers – who now crave dynamic digital experiences across a growing range of channels – only a minority of brands rate themselves as “good” at creating and delivering content.
Some of these themes were discussed at the roundtable, with one retailer saying it is crucial to create “different content for each platform”.
With some of the best performing brands backing up their commerce offering with compelling content across own channels, multiple social media sites, and an ever-growing number of digital platforms, there has never been greater need for content.
One representative at the roundtable said her company was “in-housing community management” – a move that will create a team overseeing influencer activity and fostering relationships with creators. Another guest revealed they have a six-month timeline of marketing activity – which includes an accompanying content creation plan for each campaign on the calendar.
Brands doing it well and the changing market
Dollar Shave Club and Sephora were two businesses commended by guests for their UGC and general content strategies across multiple platforms.
Meanwhile, one guest said TikTok has “changed the rules” when it comes to marketing strategy, making it difficult to ignore the content creator community’s potential to engage consumers. TikTok’s success should prompt brands to stop behaving in the same way as they were before, they added.
One roundtabler said TikTok is “all about engagement”, while Instagram is for showcasing the aesthetics of a brand. TikTok certainly cannot be ignored as it will have 834.3 million monthly users worldwide in 2023, according to Insider Intelligence. By 2025, TikTok is expected to be approaching one billion users.
Activity on the site dwarves the number of minutes spent on many other social and general entertainment channels, with TikTok monthly active users more than those of Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snap combined. In commentary last year on TikTok’s rise in influence, Professor Scott Galloway from New York University Stern School of Business calculated that 9.6 trillion minutes were watched on Netflix in 2021 compared to 22.5 trillion minutes viewed on TikTok.
“This shows the power and proliferation of UGC versus traditional ‘produced’ or branded content in the modern world,” explained Hill.
“As budgets and return on investment come more into focus during these challenging economic times, the UGC route surely makes sense for organisations rather than ploughing investment into more expensive and potentially less productive branded campaigns.”
It was clear from the event businesses are thinking seriously about how they make the most of their communities and UGC. Structures being implemented differ per business, but market dynamics suggest 2023 will be a big year for content marketing with the voice of the consumer within brand messaging growing ever louder.