Winning Smart Car skinCar companies have had mixed results with using user-generated content (UGC) campaigns to promote new vehicles. Ford’s Fiesta Movement generated tons of positive buzz by seeding 100 social media “stars” with cameras and free compact cars. But who can forget the disaster that was Chevy’s “Make your own Tahoe commercial“?

When smart, the ultra-compact brand of Diamler AG, wanted to boost the presence of its smart fourtwo vehicle in the US, the company turned to UGC. And in the safe confines of online artist community deviantART, the campaign was able to flourish.

Campaign objective

Raise awareness of the smart fourtwo’s custom skins and design options with buyers aged 35+


Smart fourtwo buyers can choose from a variety of different paint jobs and skins to make their already unique car, well, even more unique. To tap into that creative streak, smart USA picked deviantART, an online community of artists with over 13 million members.

DeviantART members can post their artwork, buy items with virtual currency, and even create art online with a free digital drawing tool, making the community an ideal environment for smart USA’s Skinned Smartly contest. The contest gave members a plain fourtwo and told them to let their imaginations run wild. Prizes for the best designs were tangible – iPads, membership upgrades, and money – as opposed to just community “recognition.”

Skinned Smartly contest page

DeviantART encouraged participation and generated exposure to the Skinned Smartly campaign using three channels:

  • Dedicated contest page – DeviantART calls the contest pages “news articles,” and posts them in a special section on the site. The Skinned Smartly contest page generated 48,000+ page views over the course of the campaign.

Why a separate section and not the homepage? The company doesn’t want to bombard its community with branded content, and members have already been trained to find contests in the same place every time. “Contests are very popular. We even have members hosting contests themselves,” said Heather Wetzler, deviantART’s VP of sales. Other brands that have run contests include Sony, Toshiba and Mentos, among others.

  • Targeted emails – The deviantART community has its own messaging system. Smart USA wanted to target members over 35 in the US, so deviantART segmented its user base and sent 5.7 million messages, complete with a link back to the main contest page.
  • Banner ads – DeviantART created Skinned Smartly branded banners to run on its own site; the banners generated over 11 million impressions with smartUSA’s target audience. CTR was 4.1%

Stats – what was smartUSA’s ROI?

The campaign ran for the month of July and cost less than $200,000. Wetzler said smart USA’s focus was “increasing visibility” of the brand overall, as well as “increasing awareness” of the fact that buyers could customize their vehicles via the smart Expressions boutique.

That means most of the metrics pertain to engagement:

Total entries: 2,800+
Entry pageviews: 269,000+
Entries “favorited”: 3,400+
Entry comments: 5,000+

Skinned Smartly entries page

Still, as we’ve seen, there are ways for marketers to track traditional branding metrics like purchase intent and awareness with online ad campaigns – and not just rely on engagement metrics. Figuring out whether the contest drove those kinds of lifts for smart USA and the smart twofour, would be an even better way to track the effectiveness of the Skinned Smartly campaign.

Wetzler said deviantART actually has the tools available to offer those kinds of metrics. The company can poll a segment of users about a brand before and after a campaign runs, for example, but that those kinds of insights weren’t requested for this particular campaign.