Branding in a Digitally Empowered World: The Role of User-generated Content

Heath, Ruby
Glynn, Mark
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Master of Business
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Auckland University of Technology

Technology developments have caused marketing theory to evolve, and traditional branding concepts to change. In previous marketing literature, offline marketing was predominantly the primary distributor of brand messages and advertising, through television, radio and print, and online was presumed to be the secondary. Now a days roles have reversed and within the new branding paradigm, online is founded to be primary and offline secondary.

Young adults are using technology and digital platforms in complex ways directed towards content creation (Ballano, Uribe & Ramos, 2014). These young adults are consuming and participating on the internet frequently and understanding reasons for their behaviour is something this research will look to address and understand.

The aims of this research are to explore and offer a more complete view and deeper understanding of how young adult users, in the New Zealand context, produce user generated content, and what role brands and brand-related materials play in the content creation process. Research Objective 1. To explore and offer a more complete view of how young adult users consume and produce user generated content. Research Question 1. How do young adults consume user generated content about brands online? Research Question 2. How do young adults produce user generated content about brands online? Research Objective 2. To explore and offer a deeper understanding on what the meanings and motivations are for young adults consuming and producing user generated content. Research Question 3. What are the motivations and meanings behind young adults consuming user generated content? Research Question 4. What are the motivations and meanings behind young adults creating user generated content?

The research methodology approach used to analyse the dataset is through qualitative research. A thematic analysis is chosen as the research methodology for this report, with building on emerging themes of how young adults consume and generate user generated content and how they are motivated to create and consume content. Selected for the sample are 15 young adults ranging in age from 18 to 35 years old.

For the data collection, participants are tasked with completing an online questionnaire through Qualtrics, recording their interactions with service branded websites and apps, and providing commentary on user generated content they create and consumer with brands over a 3-day period.

This study investigating user generated content and branding is important because they are two widely acknowledged concepts in marketing theory, yet a gap remains in literature that addresses how this new generation of users are creating user generated content online and on Apps, and the meanings behind their activities. Furthermore, looking at how this affects brands, in terms of the role brands and brand-related materials play in the content creation process, is valuable information to any marketing practitioner managing their online presence. Findings from the study can also inform marketers on what content young adults are generating and consuming, and from there can adjust strategies to suit.

Research findings presented in relation to Research Question 1 founded that consumption of user generated content was greatly carried out on social media and networking websites and apps. When users were consuming content on social streamed platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram it was founded that on Facebook, users spent time browsing feeds, communicating through Messenger, viewing friends’ posts, clearing notifications. On Instagram similar behaviour followed suit, with respondents scrolling their newsfeed, viewing accounts that they followed stories and observing the explore page. Furthermore, Snapchat was primarily used for personal communication through sending and receiving snaps with friends and family.

Findings from Research Question 2 explained when users were generating content in the form of a post, the content produced incorporated different brand elements. Included in generated posts were a mixed adaptation of the brand name, product image, logo, mention and tag. Brand name, product image and logo were elements quite frequently incorporated into generated posts.

Research Question 3 results explained the founded motivational theme for consuming content was solitary routine. Solitary routine was discovered a motivational factor driving users towards consuming content due to habitual tendencies and routine behaviour. Results concluded that users were consuming content due to the reason, it being repetitive routine and habit for them. Consuming content was found to be an addictive behaviour.

Multiple sources of motivation were founded in correlation to Research Question 4, with findings showcasing that young adults when creating content were driven by the themes – information use and reuse as a personal resource, self-identity and self-affirmation. Results suggested that users were motivated for the purpose of use and re-use of information to keep in touch with their followers when generating content. Furthermore, self-identity was a motivation for producing user generated content, upon the use of personal interests and self-expression. And lastly, self-affirmation was a factor for motivation when sharing content as respondents pursued validation, attention and engagement with posts.

User generated content , Digital marketing , Digital branding , Consuming content , Generating content
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