Authentic Brand Content, AI and the Future of Marketing

By Megan DeGruttola - February 14, 2018
8 mins read time
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At the end of last year, we released a Consumer Content Report examining the content that’s created and shared online, and what influences consumers’ purchasing decisions most.  Surveying 2,000 adults in the U.S., UK and Australia, the study uncovered that consumers overwhelmingly seek authenticity from brands and view user-generated content (UGC) as the most authentic and influential content they reference when making purchasing decisions.

We spoke with NVIDIA’s Manager of Social Technology and Insights, Logan Rosenstein, to get his real-world advice on what these survey results mean for today’s brands, and how they can use these insights it improve their consumer experiences.

Q: Our recent study revealed that the vast majority of consumers think authenticity is important when deciding which brands to support. Yet, 57 percent of people think less than half of brands create authentic content. How do you make sure the content you’re producing and the stories you’re telling resonate as authentic with audiences?

LR: The reason NVIDIA has been such a powerhouse in the industries and spaces we operate in is because we are passionate about what we do and we stay engaged with our customers. Yes, that sounds like a corny marketing pitch, but it’s the truth. Every marketing and social media manager, content creator and strategist works to create and curate content that they believe in. Our teams focused on GeForce gaming go home and play the games we co-market in their free time, we work with our community to build custom computers to show our love for our fans sharing gaming with future generations, our AI teams work with startups doing groundbreaking work to change the world in positive ways through our AI Inception program, and so much more.

Working with our community is the most important way to ensure that we are making content that is authentic and will resonate. Since we are not just marketers, but also gamers, developers, researchers and data scientists, we are in a unique position to connect and create. Where I frequently see brands falling into the trap of inauthentic content, it’s because they are a few steps removed from their community. If you are a member of the community, you can just be yourself to deliver authentic content because it’s much easier to say “that looks so cool! As a gamer, I would want to see that” than it is to say “what do they want to see?”

Q: When we asked consumers where brands were doing the best job at creating and posting the content they wanted to see, Facebook was the overwhelming choice across all age groups. However, core marketing channels like websites, ads and emails (particularly among Millennials) each received less than 23 percent of consumers’ confidence on average. How do you think marketers can best improve consumer experiences across these key digital channels?

LR: Content across all these channels need to work in concert. I routinely see different channels using content that clearly wasn’t developed with multi-channel consumption in mind. Forced repurposing of content used on multiple channels, pure sales marketing art assets connected to social/community focused content…. Even with the best intentions and internal collaboration, it’s often hard to get content strategies in place that have a fluid multi-channel approach.

This is pretty common in organizations that develop digital marketing content in a siloed structure; often due to the separation of responsibilities for email, web and social. But, it’s important to remember that this internal channel ownership separation doesn’t match the external content consumption behavior. While multiple teams or individuals make and use assets, the customer consumption from awareness to purchase is being experienced by one person at a time. When developing that marketing strategy, yes, you want to adjust the content to match the best practices for each platform you use. But it’s so often over or underdone, and without that fluid customer experience in mind. It’s really important to find that balance.

Think of the average user experience for someone in a consumer environment. This doesn’t apply to just gaming, but I’ll use that as an example since that’s one of NVIDIA’s major spaces. They watch their friends, favorite YouTuber or Twitch streamer play an upcoming game they are excited about. That video isn’t a sales pitch, it’s a story or an event. “Lets play this cool game!” This is oftentimes the starting point for a customer journey. (It isn’t tied to us yet, but it will be a few hops down the line.) They see posts on reddit about the game from other fans. They see their friends talking about it on social media. All of that can happen for days, weeks or months before they even attempt to interact with the brand. When they make the leap and start looking for the best PC gaming hardware to get in order to play that game, they then start to touch our content and brand online. (We obviously work to jump in earlier in this process through social and community marketing. But that doesn’t work for all potential customers.) By that point, their entire journey has been UGC, authentic and organic content. It becomes very important to maintain that content trend to help mitigate bounce due to content transition shock.

It isn’t just about your story, but also about continuing the story that consumer already started without you.

Q: Although there has been a lot of buzz around influencer marketing the last few years, our study showed that consumers actually view celebrity and influencer content as the least impactful source when making purchasing decisions. Are you surprised by this survey result, and how do you see celebrity or influencer marketing strategies taking shape in the future?

LR: This isn’t that surprising. Primarily because a significant amount of influencer marketing strategies I’ve seen companies execute select influencers based solely on an awareness KPI, and often miss a critical component to an authentic influencer strategy, community engagement. On that authenticity point earlier, consumers often feel that influencer promotions are disingenuous, and can break the multi-channel fluidity I spoke about earlier.

This is usually due to poor influencer selection for a few reasons:

  1. That influencer was selected due to potential reach only, and not due to campaign and community relevance or reputation in a certain space.
  2. That influencers communication style, or performance/delivery does not promote the product in a fluid and genuine way.
  3. And, related to 1 and 2, often times influencers are selected that were not true brand advocates prior to the activation; leading to them stumbling around the authenticity.

Influencer marketing typically works well when these 4 rules are followed:

  1. Select influencers that have reputations for honesty and integrity within their communities when it comes to product/brand endorsements or promotions.
  2. Identify true brand advocates. Working with influencers that are already genuine fans makes their content authentic by nature.
  3. Use a strategy and promote content that takes more of a community nurturing and engagement approach, compared to just blanket awareness.
  4. Pick an influencer that has the ability to weave that product into their production in a way that isn’t forced.

Due to the attention and experience needed in developing that influencer strategy, and managing that careful selection of who to work with, we see an influencer ecosystem that is overwhelmingly forced and loud. This continually degrades the public trust in influencer recommendations. So, the survey results were somewhat expected, and will likely continue in that downward trend.

Frankly, NVIDIA hasn’t been perfect in this either. We’ve worked with some influencers in the past that were not right for us; selecting certain gaming influencers almost solely based on their reach. The performance of those influencer campaigns were not where they should have been had we followed those rules. We contributed to the noise thereby unintentionally perpetuated the downward trend in influencer trust.

But we analyzed our mistakes, and have worked hard to up our game. We’ve been working with some quality and genuine influencers recently, like Dave “Dave2D” Lee, who’ve performed amazingly well, and hopefully we can do our part to restore the trust fans have in genuine and authentic content creators.

Q: Not only have the bulk of consumers stated that consumer-created content is the most authentic form of content, but they’re also able to distinguish user-generated content from brand-created content 70 percent of the time. Can you share how your brand has been able to tap into the authentic content your customers are creating online and the results you’ve been able to achieve as a result?

LR: UGC is a critical component to our marketing effectiveness; especially when it comes to consumer social media. We find content via several avenues, including Stackla, and work to help share and promote genuine UGC that is in alignment with our goals as an organization. Depending on the content, theme and strategy, it’s amplified to provide value to our community. As an example, one of our many ongoing UGC activities involves sharing pictures of cool custom PCs, called the #YIDIY (“Why I DIY”) modder spotlight. This program has been a great way to celebrate and share amazing visual content and personal stories with the community across multiple social and web channels.

'UGC is a critical component to our marketing effectiveness' - @LoganR_irl on #NVIDIA's online strategyClick To Tweet

We also integrate UGC into as many contests and giveaways as possible. Recently, we ran a promotion for gamers to share where they game for a chance to win a new laptop. These have really helped share some funny stories while promoting 10-Series laptops made by our partners, ultimately leading to purchases.

Q: As we approach 2018, what do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities facing marketers? How will your content strategy evolve?

LR: Volume. Both for incoming content for our brand and online noise we need to be able to penetrate through to reach our customers. I’ll save the latter part for another post, but to handle that incoming volume has and will continue to be a big focus of ours to tackle.

With every year, the sheer volume of content that is both produced by us and by our community grows at a staggering pace. Being able to work with all that content is a significant challenge for large global brands like NVIDIA. Our strategy has evolved to include a lot of workflow systems and processes built to help aggregate, identify, organize and repurpose all this content. The biggest help to all of this has been Artificial Intelligence. We have integrated, and continue to expand upon, a significant amount of AI into our workflow to help handle this content.

While the aggregation workflow has been relatively consistent over the last few years, AI really kicks in when it comes to processing all that content post-ingestion. It’s interweaved with our normal process to help us surface quality content and repurpose or reuse that content in a nimble way, while processing out the noise. We can apply computer vision models to tag ingested images based on its contents, auto filter out images that are NSFW (“Not Safe For Work” images with nudity, graphic violence, or other inappropriate content) and ultimately deliver the content to our marketing teams that are ready to handle rights management and engage with or republish.

(Image credit: NVIDIA)

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