In Conversation with Kathmandu: Why User-Generated Content is the Purest Form of Brand Advocacy

By Megan DeGruttola - April 3, 2019
4 mins read time
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New Zealand-based apparel company Kathmandu, whose gear adapts to and endures all types of weather conditions and terrains that customers face during their global adventures, knows the value of authenticity when it comes to their content strategy.

In our recent survey, Bridging the Gap: Consumer and Marketing Perspectives on Content in the Digital Age, we found that there are significant disconnects between the content marketers are delivering and the content that consumers actually find most influential.

According to the report, a whopping 90 percent of consumers say authenticity is most important when deciding which brands they like and support. However, even though 92 percent of marketers believe most or all of the content they create resonates as authentic with consumers, 51 percent of consumers say less than half of brands create content that resonates as authentic.

To better understand how leveraging authentic content across a brand’s content strategy successfully engages consumers in today’s digital era, we spoke to Jacinta Manivong, Brand Manager at Kathmandu.

Q: Our report found that consumers are 2.4x more likely to say user-generated content (UGC) is the most authentic compared to branded content, but marketers are 2.1x more likely to say brand-created content is most authentic. Were you surprised by this discrepancy? If so, why? What are your thoughts on the authenticity of UGC vs. branded content?

JM: It’s not a surprise if you think about the placement of the content. Social media had an initial objective of simply connecting and updating friends, family and acquaintances with similar interests. That meant content didn’t need to have a high production value to be engaging; it just had to be a real story. And that still rings true about content today. These days, consumers can easily detect whether content is truly authentic or just another ad.

Q: User-generated content has been found to be the most influential form of content to consumers. Why do you think UGC is so impactful?

JM: UGC is the purest form of brand advocacy and offers an emotional tie-in that most branded content lacks. For example, a person who is wearing a rain jacket on a trip to Tasmania is more likely to talk to the different kinds of adventures they’ve had in that jacket. They might not call out the features and benefits of the product (like a brief would request), but they’re appealing to people on a far more personable, authentic and trustworthy level.

Q: Speaking of the influence of UGC content, our report found that consumers find UGC 9.8x more impactful than influencer content. What are your thoughts on the diminishing value consumers say they’re finding from influencer content?

JM: These days, consumers are hyper-aware of the role that influencers play. Your average consumer knows that the more followers someone has, the more likely they’ve been paid to promote a product or service by a brand. Identifying someone as an influencer is no longer a difficult task.

I think the key motive for brand marketers should be to connect with an influencer who actively sets their own creative path. Most popular trends are derived from original, influential UGC images that influencers then recreate. It’s a balancing act between staying authentic and creating relevancy.

Q: Sixty-three percent of marketers feel pressure to constantly produce greater amounts of content at a faster pace, and traditional content sources and production methods are often costly and time-consuming. Does this resonate with you? What steps are you taking to create engaging content at scale?

JM: Definitely, content production is in great demand. To address part of this need, we’ve embraced our own community of content creators, whether they’re fans, influencers or staff members. In addition to scale, it gives our community a new perspective outside of our campaign ads and doesn’t require a polished, high-quality end result to be effective.

Take YouTube, where you’ll find a variety of high and low quality video content. You can watch anything from a blockbuster movie trailer to a handheld live-stream of a soccer match. It’s no longer a traditional format with stringent guidelines on production value, it’s just open to share engaging and compelling stories.

Q: We found that 51 percent of consumers are more willing to engage with brands that share their content. In what ways do you think this helps to deepen brands’ personal relationships with customers? How is your brand engaging with customers in this way?

JM: Reposting a customer’s content represents a shared understanding and connection to their story. At Kathmandu, we use our Instagram page as a way to build our community with that in mind. It’s a little easier for our brand as travel is such an in-demand topic — luckily, we’re inundated with images featuring incredible landscapes from around the world.

The distinctive factor for us is to showcase what makes their post unique. If we were to repost a user’s hiking image with one of our backpacks, we’ll share an interesting fact about the destination rather than highlighting the product. We put the spotlight on the consumer to help drive interaction within our community.

Q: Sixty-seven percent of consumers (and 73 percent of Gen Z) say that brands must deliver personalized experiences. What does meaningful personalization look like for your brand? Which channels are you prioritizing personalization for?

JM: We believe consumers wants are determined by a multitude of factors, including life stage, income and exchange rates, but also mood, trends, time of year, friend’s habits, neighbor’s habits, etc. There are a lot of possibilities for influence, and a lot of opportunity for us to capitalize on it.

At the moment, we tend to direct our focus to YouTube, Instagram and email marketing. We find them to be the channels where we can connect with our audience most intimately. A large part of this lies within the dynamic content which we pull in and post through Stackla.

Q: What other content marketing trends do you see evolving over the course of 2019?

JM: In the past, you might call a friend or a tradesman to help a burst pipe or a busted taillight, but consumers are now turning to social media to access solutions.

YouTube DIY videos are a prime example of this, and something we actively create content to address. One of our top-performing content campaigns was around product care and repair — specifically, how to care and wash for a down jacket.

So while not as ground-breaking as AI or VR, I believe there will be a rise in informative, educational content that delivers better insight and higher value to customers.

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