In his book Seven Basic Plots, Christopher Booker explains that seven archetypal themes recur in every kind of storytelling: Overcoming the monster, Rags to riches, Quest, Voyage, Return, Comedy, Tragedy and Rebirth. Storytelling in movies, TV series and TV commercials often followed these well worned tropes. But is that the only way to tell a story? This rationale is based on cleverness, but in real life, people are not necessarily moved by cleverness.
When it comes to online content, most of the times, people just want to take a break, relax and be entertained by short, quirky, amusing and often silly vignettes rather than delving into a complex narrative. That’s something we called “guilty pleasure.” That is why storytelling in consumer-generated content (UGC) reveals another way of telling a story. Besides the well-planned plot and the psychological tricks, UGC possesses some other secret “spices” that make the stories so authentic and real. Without any affectation, the good, the bad, the ugly and the quirkiness engages, moves and amuses the audience. So what are the spices or even the arbitrary little something that make a piece of consumer generated content great?
In this post, I will share the seven plots that recur across eYeka’s creative competitions and that make up great consumer-generated content.
1 – The Parody
A parody is an imitative work created to mock original work by means of satiric or ironic imitation. As it brings something people are familiar with, it connects with the audience and makes the statement louder and easier to understand. Usually, the creator will replace the original version with a twisted version, to deliver a different message or punchline at a specific moment or entirely change the tone of the story.
2 – The « Real Slice of Life »
It is genuinely built on a real “slice of life” and based on the human factor that people would want to challenge themselves and achieve, while being witnessed by others. It could be an authentic recording of one’s or a group’s achievement or simply a clip of something grand happening. The trick is… making it look like live so people can feel that they are part of it.
An example? This video by leonardo_dias, runner-up of the KIA- show us how a vibrant challenging spirit makes life fun contest. It shows « a real slice of life » of a young guy who lost one of his arms – learning to do break dance:
3 – The « Out-of-the-ordinary »
If everything is in perfect order then there won’t be any surprise. That’s why the “out-of-the-ordinary” is a particular poserful spice for consumer-generated content. It could be a quirky and unusual way to tell an ordinary story, or it could be something unexpected happening in the middle of an ordinary story, or it could be about placing something odd and abnormal into the story. Something « out-of-the-ordinary » is an essential element and the chief’s secret spice to make a story special and memorable.
4 – Some Confusion
Sometimes “chaos” creates beauty just like what “order” does, especially in our everyday mundane life. Confusion can flip things over: making the unfamiliar familiar, or turning the impossible possible, or even creating those “beautiful mistakes” that have unexpectedly happy ending. Actually some very entertaining and popular videos on YouTube started with confusions.
5 – Dream and Reality
Besides “confusion”, another interesting trigger for an engaging and intriguing story is “dream and reality”. In some stories, people cannot tell dream and reality apart, creating amazing illusions that entertain and amuse the audience. A lot of fictional stories start from a dream and end in reality, or vice versa. In this way, people feel fascinated about the dream part but still can relate to it when it goes back to the reality.
6 – Some Irrelevance
A perfect story is usually crafted from different parts that are correlated and have consequences on each other. Relevance seems the “golden standard” to create plots and parts in a well-structured story. You will find in some of the most entertaining, fun and engaging videos that there is something that seems oss with the setting, the characters or even the whole story. But sooner or later, you’ll find that the “irrelevant” becomes the hidden gem in the story that trigger thoughts and imaginations, or even reveal « the truth. » The irrelevant is another type of hidden spice that you often find in consumer generated content. And its magical power makes this type of content feel like no others!
7 – Everything has a point-of-view
Making animals or plants talk is not new, but giving animals, plants or random object a personality and letting them express their point-of-view like human beings is probably behind the most entertaining and popular UGC on the internet. When everything has a point-of-view, talks and behaves like human being, the world becomes a much more interesting place. A lot of quirky videos actually come from that standpoint, where even random object can talk, be sarcastic and mean, like human beings, and can judge and mock human beings or reveal some unspoken truth… a bit like the popular The Annoying Orange on YouTube.
With these 7 plots of UGC, we may only have caught a glimpse of the magic powering consumer-generated content, as the diversity, spontaneity and richness of them can hardly be segmented through a few patterns. The content generated by consumers are unpredictable but unexpectedly amazing. Many brands have managed to find some clues to talk to their audience by connecting with the creative individuals and the content they generated. For example, some of the videos that eYeka creators submitted in Coca-Cola Energizing Refreshment contest have proven their power to convince and move the audience by being top ranked in some markets in consumer testing.
Several creative ideas produced by eYeka members achieved top 10% of all-time best ads in sample markets such as Indonesia and the Philippines through the Millward Brown
Link™ score test (Coca-Cola Case Study)
While we have identified 7 common plots of UGC, you may be curious to think about what role your brand could play in these 7 plots. Would it be a hero, a facilitator or a carer? One thing is for sure, consumer-generated content has the power to surprise with grassroot creativity and has we have seen in our example with Coca-Cola, often delivers some surprising and unconventional returns.