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User generated love

March 31, 2008

Learning to Love You More is both a web site and a book comprised of work by the general public in response to assignments given by artists Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher.

The project and its assignments range from lighthearted (snap a flash photo under your bed) to thoughtful (feel the news) to painfully real and honest (spend time with a dying person), and the responses are so impressive and unexpected, that it’s just as amazing to look at them as it is to make your own.

An uncountable number of brands have also given the public a chance to express their creativity. It’s the age of user generated content and it seems everyone has utilized some type of contest or opportunity for people to make their own commercials.

At first glance, Learning to Love You More might be mistakenly lumped with those efforts. But here’s why it’s not:

For one, the assignments are purely self expressive. The content is not merely an interpretation of the brand from the user’s eyes – it is the brand. There is a book you can buy, but without the participants the product would be nothing. How many brands can say that about their content?

Furthermore, it creates an experience. It adds something to people’s lives. According to Lovemarks by Saatchi & Saatchi, that’s the level of communication brands need to aim for if they are going to compete in the future of branding (which they paradoxically dub “the future beyond brands.”)

Another example of a lovemark that has influenced users to generate content (and also that falls into the same self expressive/experiential realm as Learning to Love You More) is the “fan fiction” created by readers of Harry Potter. The readers are so emotionally tied with the brand that they create their own stories about the book’s characters. At one point it got so out of control that JK Rowling announced that her fans’ fiction was actually true and intended.

Instead of recognizing it as the ideal version of user generated content that it was, she ruined the experience and more importantly, the self expression of millions of fans.

As user generated content moves from the road of innovation to the beaten path, it needs to be thought about differently. It seems a litmus test for a truly experiential dialogue could be, if we took away the marketing, could the experience still exist?

If the answer is no, we’re still just making ads.

Posted by katie facada

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