Water Your Grassroots to Grow in 2016 - Factory Media

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Water Your Grassroots to Grow in 2016

Emma Geary, Digital Account Director at Factory Media, explains how to harness UGC for brand credibility.


We’ve gone beyond: since the summer of 2013, when The Guardian’s style column flippantly remarked that, as a nation, we’d reached ‘peak beard’, every slow news day online has been characterised by wry claims that we’ve summited ‘peak peak’. It’s become peak intolerable. So thank god for digital shift, which tears through trends at such a rate that it evades peak pigeonholing. Take display advertising, for instance. ‘Peak banner’ arrived in 1999; we don’t need trend reports to tell us that standard units have been served beyond saturation point. 

That very same year, the subdomain .Blogspot.com was born. By 2003, we were speaking with one World Wide Web voice, in WordPress code and MySpace blurbs. Within the post-display web, the user is at once the creator and the curator: content is served on demand, not on page load, and personal relevance rules the day. Underscoring this is Marc Goldstein, the former President and CEO of Group M, North America, who asserted that ‘people hate advertising in general, but they love advertising in particular’. People hate advertising in general (‘urgh, this countdown is dire, I just want to watch my shows’) but they love advertising in particular (‘did you see that awesome new Nike commercial?!’) – this is because effective content acts as social currency, traded and shared within communities at a grassroots level.

The value of word of mouth marketing transcends CPM rate cards, and its value increases in direct correlation to ‘banner blindness’. We know that influencer marketing has been the calling card of media start-ups for the past five years, however we’ve only just seen its impact on companies’ bottom lines reflected finally in 2015. Let’s take as our case study the beauty industry: billions of ad dollars are invested in the pursuit of eternal youth, however in the post-display world standard format spend is only so effective, according to the trend noted by the industry’s honchos:

The brands that grew the most were also very low ad-and-promotion intensive brands, like Urban Decay and Kiehl’s. Urban Decay has no media. Kiehl’s has no media. Many of these brands have no media’ 

Jean-Paul Agon, Group Chairman and CEO, L’Oréal, Feb 15


‘The fastest growing brands such as M.A.C, Jo Malone, Créme de la Mer and Bobbi Brown are not advertised the traditional way.’

Fabrizio Freda, President and CEO, Estée Lauder, Jul 15



The 2016 incarnation of WOM will be rooted within Whatsapp – our smartphones hold our most intimate secrets and our closest contacts, so to enter this most prized of spaces, brands now have to act like people; never has there been a more literal interpretation of a brand’s ‘relationship with the consumer’. WOM is as old as speech and signage, and its power has never waned; it only ever evolves with the generations. It is this very power that lies at the heart of Agon and Freda’s insights – WOM nurtures ‘cult’ product status, cultivating cool with its halo of exclusivity, secrecy and magnetism. Organic endorsement from niche cultures consistently prove more influential than loading standard units into viewability wastelands.

At Factory Media, we speak to the grassroots of sports cultures in their own voice. When tasked by Mountain Dew to relaunch their brand in the UK, to stoke awareness and to invest credibly within UK skate culture, our title Sidewalk went straight to the heart of each scene. Going far beyond hashtag UGC, we challenged 24 skate stores – the local lynchpins – to create a flagship film that showcased their community in action, in order to win a cash prize for their store. Social enterprises that engage the grassroots create a genuine cult moment for brands, within an everyone-wins model of good feeling. Effectively, Factory commissioned video pitches from 24 unique creative agencies, by agreeing to promote the local stores and their emerging talent. This produced compelling and authentic content for our audience to get behind, a ‘five minutes of fame’ for local skaters, the respect of the community for funnelling investment back into the scene and the chance for Mountain Dew to ‘own’ the emotions that the campaign ignited, as the facilitator of a cool cultural moment.

Post-display advertising hands the brief over to the user and lets them tailor the message; within the Mountain Dew campaign, every contributor owned a stake. In our crowdsourced content culture, we’re all investors, dictating how we consume brand messaging on our terms alone. Authentic grassroots conversations foster community, earn loyalty and inspire cult followings in a way that truly thinks outside of the (250×300) box.


Words by Emma Geary, Digital Account Director.

Originally posted on the Content Marketing Association blog.


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