Consumer Advocacy and the Art of the Remix: What brands can learn from MTV’s VMAs

Proving that Klout is just as important as talent, MTV’s Video Music Awards embrace of social media has raised the bar in tactics that create pre-show buzz, on-air engagement and have the potential to create long-lasting awareness drivers. For brands grappling with what social media means for content, take note, there is much to learn from the VMAs.

Affinity and Awareness in the Hands of the Consumer

The Viewer’s Choice Award was a populist gesture to acknowledge that while we can’t please everyone, we’ll still let your voice be heard. It was an affinity move to placate to the masses without losing the ability to quality control what acts and artistic talent they wanted to support.

In the age of social media, however, we’re no longer calling and voting. Now, we’re using Twitter hashtags. The populist gesture is still there, what’s new is that not only is the Viewer’s Choice Award an affinity builder, it’s a built-in awareness driver.

A Fundamental Change in the Mechanics of Content

A decade ago content on MTV was defined by the music video and shaped by a broadcast model of driving mass awareness, with subsequent affinity to follow.

In the age of the social media, we often talk about the need to put content into the hands of the consumer — that when advocated and remixed by the consumer we create a more authentic bond around brands. The VMAs understand that they can only win by encouraging remix behavior, that’s why for every video they post they’ve instituted an animated GIF creator. While this may not seem like anything new, it’s the fact that it’s a quick, simple, user experience that capitalizes on pre-existing user behavior (See Tumblr) with their audience segment.

Creating the Long-Tail Alongside the Short-Term 

This brings us to think about the long-tail as much as the short bursts of marketing tactics. Especially when it comes to events, we’ve always looked to extend awareness and affinity beyond the initial event and campaign. Where this looks to be possible is in allowing the consumer creative freedom to remix the content as much as engage with it.

Again, in capitalizing on the pre-existing use-case behavior, the VMAs have created a social marketing tactic that’s sure to yield results, while the lifespan of the consumer created GIFs provides for the content to live beyond its initial life cycle. Therefore, it’s not just created by MTV, it’s in the domain of consumer, which by proxy, authenticates it to being a piece of culture — not just marketing.