Consumer Generated Media, Customer Video Reviews, and Brand Marketing Strategies

Consumer Generated Media, Customer Video Reviews, and Brand Marketing Strategies

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I interviewed Pete Blackshaw, author of the book about consumer-generated media titled, “Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000”. We discussed how online video is one of the most persuasive forms of consumer generated media today, and how there are “obvious opportunities” for businesses to take advantage of consumer generated media with their own video marketing strategy.

A colleague of mine in the retail industry originally referred me to Pete, and I read his book cover to cover. Even though it was originally published back in 2008, I was pleased to read so much coverage in there about online video and it’s declared huge impact on consumer-generated media, or CGM. I then checked out his website at, which also features many shocking customer service stories and the CGM “justice” handed down onto to seemingly unaware (and uncaring) companies. I recommend checking out Pete’s Ad Age video interview to get a good idea about what the book is about and why it matters in today’s consumer-driven world.

What is “Consumer Generated Media?”

Consumer generated media” is a term Pete Blackshaw says he coined way back in 2002, meant to describe the content that consumers create and share amongst themselves. Here’s an excerpt of from how Pete described it in a 2005 article appearing on ClickZ:

Consumer Generated Media (CGM) is the fastest-growing media, where consumers create and share among themselves. It’s trusted and TiVo-resistant. It presents long-lasting sources of influence. Listening to and leveraging such media may well be the most important source of competitive advantage for companies and brands.

Unlike paid media, CGM is created by consumers. It’s often inspired by relevant product or service experiences and is frequently archived online for readers’ convenience and other consumers or key marketplace influencers. Examples of CGM include blog entries, consumer email feedback, message board posts, forum comments, personal Web sites, and personal email.

CGM can be influenced, but not controlled, by marketers. Don’t let the viral, guerilla, buzz, or street marketing folks suggest otherwise.”

Now, that was back in 2005. Pretty insightful, and sounds like a lot of what we’ve been hearing repeated by self-proclaimed social media experts of today (And also keep in mind that Pete wrote this back in 2005, well before the ubiquity of online video.)

We may think of CGM as somewhat akin to the term “user-generated content” (UGC). However what’s distinctive with CGM is the emphasis on consumerism. CGM involves a relationship between customers and businesses, where an investment is made by consumers to “buy into” what a brand (i.e., business) is offering.

Consumer Generated Media + Online Video = CGM Squared

Me: Describe the work you’ve been doing today involving online video since your book came out back in 2008

Pete: I’m in the business of monitoring online conversation and interpreting that conversation to help companies understand how they should proceed with digital or social media plans. Online video plays a huge part in that. It’s one of the fastest growing sources of content online, and it’s clearly at the heart of the whole CGM or social media movement.  In fact, online video is one of the most persuasive forms of CGM, in so far as it’s critically important.

As I’m sure you already know, we have a lot of techniques for measuring online video and CGM – analyzing the data, traffic, and tracking social elements around the video – all of it really counts.  And in the case of certain types of ad models, video does create “amplification;” it does create an echo effect and so it’s just like a lot of really important dimensions to how CGM and online video combine to affect (the consumer conversation).

Me: What do you see as the natural relationship today with CGM and online video?

Pete: I think what consumer generated media is kind of first person testimonials typically informed by relevant experience with products or brands archived online.  And what’s so powerful about video is it’s really moving things from text based to sight sound and motion.

Now I got my marketing training at Procter and Gamble; and one of the first things I learned about why TV ads where so effective is if they had those sight, sound, and motion elements. They had the dramatic effect where you could visualize the benefits.  They touched the emotion more than text. To some extent, that’s also happening with online video as well.  It’s also often why when brands get themselves in trouble, often times it’s because of a video that someone puts online that says, “Hey this product isn’t working!” Now that gets a lot of viral traction.

Similarly sometimes consumers will post (videos) that really reflect their brand love. We’ve seen a lot of that with iPad and iPod testimonials; and we’ll probably see a lot more of that with new gifts over the holiday season.  Again, it’s those videos that get a lot of traction (with other consumers).  They just connect with consumers in more impactful ways than regular text can. Video + consumer generated multimedia (or “CGM squared” as I like to refer to it), is really higher impact.  It’s the consumer generated video that’s really touching consumers in powerful and viral ways.

Me: Are companies doing enough with consumer-generated media and video  for their own marketing and business activities, and if not why not?

Pete: Companies are not doing near as enough with CGM  In fact, I have always been blown away that companies are even missing the real obvious opportunities with CGM.  Like, I’m amazed at how many major companies don’t have very simple videos explaining how to use products. Maybe it’s because we have all been a little bit too anal on the ROI analysis, because I think sometimes we only veer towards those things that we can prove (directly) drives ROI.

But for some of the more intuitive and obvious things, it’s like, oh my gosh you’re in the business of selling products.  Why wouldn’t you put a video on your website explaining how to use the product? So there are a lot of no-brainer things that brands are kind of leaving on the table that would really help to build their franchise.

Other areas that I think would really be low-hanging fruit with video are high opportunity areas like FAQ’s.  FAQ’s are really popular.  People want to know, how do I use the products?  How do I apply?  How do I customize the products?  Video is an ideal way to show all of that to customers. I think if brands could convert their text-based FAQ’s to video-based FAQ’s, they would be in a great position with consumers.  They’d not only have more compelling context, but it would probably also provide more social currency to consumers that might want to share it in other places. You might see those videos leave a digital trail on Facebook page or linked to on Twitter. I think video provides a more meaningful currency for consumers to share. And even if they don’t share it in and of itself, it actually has a higher degree of persuasiveness and impact.

So I think brands should be experimenting with video like crazy. It’s so unlike my earlier days when I was at Proctor and Gamble, where if you did a video, the agency came back and said a hundred thousand bucks per pop and another fifty grand per iteration.  The ballgame has really changed.  The cost structure has radically disintegrated, and I think that’s what YouTube has really taught us.  That’s what empowered me to go out and start So brands today really don’t have an excuse not to start to experiment aggressively in this area.  Whether they’re whipping out their Flip camera or doing something a little more quasi-professional, the cost structure game is completely changed; and for that reason I would say go at it.  Don’t worry about failure. Do the really obvious things and then grow as you go.

Me: In your book, you wrote a lot about the impact and growth of online video with CGM. Can you describe how it impacted your own career when you first started out?

Pete: With all I’ve done since, it’s important to go all the way back to my first startup – – when I was raising money in my effort to kind of build buzz and drive awareness or convince the investors that I had the ware with all being an effective marketer.  I actually created a special website called StartupTV, and this was back in 1999 – years before YouTube. What I did was at every stage in the development of my start up I filmed a 2-3 minute video and then we posted I think upwards of twenty different episodes.  Even when I was raising money or suffering disappointments or when we launched our first kick off or launch party, every piece of it was documented in Startup TV.  So it was doing Web video that gave me a lot of inspiration, and from that some really, really big ideas. Then of course, when YouTube came around, that really gave everybody the wherewithal to do all sorts of creative things.

Then later on I created a website called and the whole idea there was, could we create another cooking site?  Not just a foodie type of cooking site but one where we match personal stories. Go to the site you’ll see a lot of videos of me, my mom, my sister you know talking about recipes in the context of family stories. So for me personally, this whole notion of using video as context to really unfold a personal or family narrative is really, really big and I think that’s what really makes it super meaningful.

I think I’ve also connected to this notion that videos are becoming really popular as a “how-to’s,” or “show me’s” – basically, as instructional guides. If you look at the data from you know platforms like YouTube and instructional video sites, they are doing a lot in the context of “how-to, show me,” – all that is really, really sticky.

About Consumer Generated Media Expert, Pete Blackshaw

Pete Blackshaw is Executive VP of Nielsen Digital Strategic Services, helping brands develop data-grounded online strategies in a host of key areas: online content, reputation management, brand advocacy, and customer satisfaction. He is also the author of Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000, and coined the term “consumer- generated media” (CGM). He received one of three “Industry Achievement” awards at Ad-Tech San Francisco, honoring “those who have given long-term dedication and consistent outstanding service to online marketing.” Pete is also the co-founder of the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), and presently sits on its board and co-chairs its ethics. committee Pete also a recently elected board member of the National Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB). He is also on the board of directors of EXPO, a consumer-generated video site which shares and licenses consumer reviews of retail merchandise.



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