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How Trek Bikes Is Using User-Generated Content To Power Its #GoByBike Campaign & COVID-19 Recovery

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Trek Bicycle, like most brands, had to quickly hit the pause button and adjust their messaging to meet the new immediate needs of their customers. And user-generated content (UGC) helped them successfully do just that.

Trek Bicycle was founded in Waterloo, WI in 1976 with a mission to build the best quality bikes in the world. Fast forward to 2020, Trek Bikes now operates in over 20 markets around the globe with over 100 stores in the U.S. alone.

In the time since its founding, Trek Bikes has identified many important company goals and missions. One of their goals for 2020 was built around the idea that bicycles are an extremely simple solution to some of the world’s most complex problems — ranging from personal health to the health of the planet.

Focusing on big global challenges like climate change, obesity, personal fitness and road and urban congestion, the idea for their #GoByBike campaign was born.

Putting UGC at the Heart of the #GoByBike Campaign

“This campaign was not supposed to be about Trek,” Haley Gustafson, Trek Bicycle’s Social Media Manager, explained in a recent webinar. “The main goal of the campaign was collective action — using bicycles to combat the challenge of climate change.”

The core of the campaign calls for people to replace a car trip with a bike trip. “So instead of someone driving their car to the grocery store, they’re going to pick up a bicycle and #GoByBike.”

While researching other successful marketing campaigns that aimed to influence people’s behaviors — like REI’s #OptOutside campaign and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge — Trek’s team found the common denominator was user-generated content. As Ms. Gustafson said, “We realized that people are more likely to implement a behavior if they see other people — especially people like themselves — participating and taking that action.”

“We saw this huge opportunity to encourage people to post about them choosing to #GoByBike. We wanted to show that on a global scale and Stackla was the perfect way to do it.”Haley Gustafson, Social Media Manager at Trek Bicycle

Choosing Stackla

“When we were shopping around for a UGC platform,” Ms. Gustafson shared, “it was really important to us — and especially our legal team — that there were robust rights management capabilities.”

Trek’s team needed an easy way to send rights requests that included their own terms and conditions while also being able to seamlessly track which content rights had been requested and which had already been approved by content creators. Stackla’s comprehensive rights management functionality was exactly what they were looking for.

“Working with our legal team, we drafted a set of terms and conditions and decided Stackla’s rights via registration was the best form of rights request for us,” Ms. Gustafson said. “All we had to do was set up the link with our terms and conditions and draft a simple rights request message. Now, whenever I find a piece of content we’d like to use for #GoByBike, all I have to do is select the rights via registration and follow the prompts within Stackla to easily send, track and manage every piece of content we want approved.”

Getting started with Stackla was also fast and easy for the Trek Bikes team. As Ms. Gustafson shared, “Within two weeks of purchasing Stackla, we had two onboarding calls with our dedicated customer success manager and quickly had everything we needed to get up and running.

From time of purchase to being fully set up and ready to start requesting content rights was about three weeks.

Although setting up Stackla was easy, the coronavirus soon threw a wrench in Trek’s 2020 Earth Day launch plans for their #GoByBike campaign. “We had it all set up by Earth Day to launch in mid April. And that’s of course when the coronavirus pandemic hit.”

COVID-19 Expands the Purpose of Trek’s #GoByBike Campaign

“When COVID hit, we decided that we would put the #GoByBike campaign on hold until it felt like a more appropriate time to launch,” said Ms. Gustafson. “It was all about shifting our messaging to what our audiences needed to hear.”

Unexpectedly, they discovered the middle of the COVID-19 crisis was exactly the right moment for this campaign. “We recognized where our customers were at in their experience with COVID. They were turning to bicycles for new and expanded uses.”

As it turned out, the shutdown’s impact on the environment and the public’s new wariness of public transportation increased people’s interest in bicycles as a primary way of exercise and transportation.

“What we saw was a two-fold effect of COVID,” Ms. Gustafson explained. “First, the level of carbon dioxide dropped dramatically because people weren’t driving nearly as much, which made the public more aware of the effects of driving and commuting on our environment.”

“Second, COVID-19 caused a bike boom to take place in the U.S. and across the world. People worried public transportation might not be safe. Suddenly, they would rather take their bike to work or to the grocery store instead of getting on a crowded train or bus. Plus, people were at home and needed some form of physical activity, so they turned to their bicycles to do that.”

Realizing that the challenges COVID-19 presented reinforced and expanded the goals of their #GoByBike campaign, Trek Bikes decided to update their campaign tagline to “There’s never been a better time to ride” and launch it on May 18, 2020.

“During and following COVID, we want to share the message that it is ok to get out and ride your bike. In fact, it’s a good alternative to taking public transportation or driving your car, which impacts climate change.”

The campaign was a simple three-step process: choose to take your bike somewhere instead of your car, take a picture of you traveling on your bike and then post that photo to Instagram using the hashtag #GoByBike.

Trek’s global audience immediately responded to the campaign with enthusiasm, sharing a wide variety of biking activities and destinations. People started sharing photos of them riding their bikes to school, commuting to work, picking up takeout or simply riding for exercise.

It’s been awesome to see so many people become aware of the campaign and be willing to share their participation with us and with others.

And this trend continued as lockdowns began lifting around the world. Ms. Gustafson said, “As we saw countries starting to open up, there was this really neat phenomenon of people running their daily errands by bike. We saw people riding their bikes to the bank or to the grocery store or taking their kids out by bike so they could get out of the house and get some exercise. The topic of #GoByBike was more relevant than ever before.”

As the #GoByBike content flowed in, Trek’s team put it to good use throughout all of their key marketing channels. “We used the UGC we collected through Stackla on our Trek Bikes website, which is displayed in over 20 markets and in a variety of languages. We’re also featuring it across in-stream posts on various social platforms, as well as in Instagram Stories with a simple swipe up call to action.”

They’ve also started utilizing their Stackla-powered UGC for #GoByBike ads on Facebook and Instagram, as well as in their email marketing campaign.

“Once a week, we’ve been sending a simple #GoByBike email to existing Trek consumers to make them aware of the campaign and to show them the variety of people that are participating and how they are choosing to #GoByBike,” Ms. Gustafson said. “The UGC is just perfect to convey this message.”

Real Results

Only seven weeks into the #GoByBike campaign, the results were already speaking for themselves.

“So far we have reached about 36 million people globally, seen 17,000 uses of the hashtag #GoByBike and received the rights to over 2,000 pieces of UGC from Instagram alone,” Ms. Gustafson said.

It was amazing to see that in the midst of a global pandemic, people were becoming aware that bicycles are actually a great solution to some of the problems we were facing prior to COVID but also during COVID.

What’s Next? 

As Ms.Gustafson reminded us, “This is still just the start of the campaign. We’re going to continue using user-generated content to fuel the #GoByeBike movement.”

Armed with a rich library of rights approved images that continues to grow everyday, Trek Bikes is preparing to expand where they leverage that compelling content — even planning to take it offline.  “We print quarterly magazines and our upcoming quarterly is going to be highlighting a variety of really neat #GoByBike stories using the UGC images we’ve curated through Stackla.”

But of course, in today’s digital-first world, eCommerce is increasingly a top priority. Ms.Gustafson explained, “With our renewed focus on eCommerce, we’re also looking forward to featuring UGC throughout our product and ‘you may also like’ webpages, as well as in more of our digital ads to provide a more robust online consumer shopping experience.”

“As things begin to return to normal, Trek will continue to look forward, adapting our messaging to meet consumers’ needs. We realize there are countless opportunities for us to leverage user-generated content outside of the #GoByBike campaign. We’re really thankful that we have pursued UGC as a part of our ongoing marketing strategy.”

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