By Tamsin Oxford - September 17th, 2015

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Nat Geo harnessed the passion of amateur photographers for some stunning results

User generated content has taken off over the past few years, and has enormous potential to capture the hearts and minds of consumers. It’s engaging, it’s dynamic, and it is pervasive, crossing boundaries and countries and capturing imaginations through the ubiquity of social.

 Social media appears to have become one of the most powerful keys for unlocking the consumer door. According to Nielsen, 43% of people are more likely to purchase a new product when they have learned about it through social channels and 37% will be influenced by video sharing sites. When held alongside the word-of-mouth statistic, also from the same survey, that 77% of people will purchase if their friends or family recommend it, it is clear that user generated content (UGC) has enormous potential.

It has also been found to work most efficiently on Instagram. A recent study by L2, a digital think tank, found that 55% of consumers trust UGC over other forms of marketing and that brands are missing a trick when it comes to leveraging Instagram in marketing communications. Many brands, that is, except for National Geographic and Honda. Their recent #WanderlustContest campaign tapped into the power of photography and the imaginations of consumers. The competition received impressive coverage across an array of news sites and blogs and the prize was fantastic – a seven day Yosemite National Park photo expedition with a professional photographer. If National Geographic wanted to push their brand just that little bit deeper into the consumer consciousness, then this was a great way to do it.

The competition ran from June 08 2015 to July 06 2015 and saw hundreds of entries. A simple search on Google or Twitter sees the hashtag explode across the screen. The rules were kept very simple: entrants had to be from the United States and the District of Columbia and they had to have an Instagram account that was open to the public. After that it was simply a case of including the hashtag and taking the right shot.

National Geographic was exceptionally clever with this contest. The brand has been using photography as a publicity mainstay for some time now. The annual photography competition invites photographers from across the world to submit their images and these are published and publicized by some of the biggest names in the industry each year. They have also launched a children’s photography competition for National Geographic Kids and run another event in National Geographic Traveler.

These competitions are often populated by experts (except the kids) so the openness of #WanderlustContest was a stroke of genius. Now anyone with a camera and a connection could upload their moments of wonder. The winning shot caught three travelers standing on the edge of Mt. Yasur on the island of Tanna in Vanatu, in an image that is both haunting and captivating.

So was the competition a success? It depends on how the organization defines it, but if the ticks are on the boxes of publicity, awareness and brand development, then yes, National Geographic nailed it with this campaign. The list of entries is impressive and almost every image takes the viewer somewhere special, often somewhere they have never been. Every element of the campaign was tailored to tap into the mindset of the snapper and the result is an inspirational hub of incredible images and a brand that has taken UGC to another level. 

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