9 Ways Big Brands Got Fans To Create UGC

Starbucks franchises across America were in upheaval this spring as customers lined up to try the blue-and-pink swirled Unicorn Frappucino. User generated content (UGC) flooded the internet as the hashtag #unicornfrappucino was used over 158,000 times on Instagram.

According to a recent study by TurnTo and Ipsos, 82% of 18–24 year olds and 80% of 25–29 year olds believe UGC adds authenticity to their shopping experiences and is overall more interesting than brand created content.

Here are some of the methods big companies used to generate UGC and build buzz.

Marc Jacobs #CastMeMarc

What student doesn’t love the idea of free designer clothes and people taking pictures of them? In 2014, fashion house Marc Jacobs created an online competition giving fans the chance to be a Marc by Marc Jacobs model. To enter users posted selfies on Instagram with the hashtag #castmemarc — which was used over 12,000 times in 24 hours, and today has more than 100,000 tagged images. Nine people were cast as models in the 2014 campaign, which ran again in 2015. In 2016 the brand asked beauty v-loggers to enter via an Instagram video describing how fashion and beauty inspire them, with winners becoming an official brand v-logger. People who didn’t enter still saw the brand messaging through their friends’ feeds, extending the marketing reach.

Virgin Holidays #SeizeTheHoliday

Virgin Holidays used billboards and TV commercials to encourage holiday-makers to upload hashtagged images. Their 2016 Seize The Holiday campaign displayed user-submitted images on digital billboards across the U.K. Virgin’s goal was to showcase real people enjoying real holidays, as opposed to models. The effort was so successful that the company saw a 260% increase in booking over the previous year, according to a report from content marketing platform Stackla

ASOS #AsSeenOnMe

Top of the crops ⭐️ @tiffanyborland #AsSeenOnMe 🔎 1085079

A post shared by ASOS (@asos) on

Fast-fashion brand ASOS cashes in a billion dollars in annual revenue from Millennials. They feature customer UGC with the hashtag #asseenonme on a dedicated web page. Every outfit pic the customer uploads is shoppable with a link. This type of fashionable UGC taps into the fact that people are taking image photos anyway — now they can expand their reach. At the end of 2016, ASOS had a conversion rate of around 6% according to Intersect Retail, who says the average retailer has a 3% conversion. They suggest ASOS’ image-centric approach keeps customers on site longer.

Baring It All With #AerieReal

Exhale. ✨✨✨ #vacation #selfcare #aimtrue #aerieswim #thecapehotel #cabo #aeriereal

A post shared by Kathryn Budig (@kathrynbudig) on

Today there’s a lot of press around authenticity and being your true self. Along those lines, intimate apparel brand Aerie, a sub-brand of American Eagle Outfitters, announced it will no longer Photoshop models. They also encouraged users to upload images of themselves with the hashtag #aeriereal as a way to create an empowering campaign for women — and usable UGC for the brand as they displayed the uploads on their website. For their 2016 campaign they used 40 real women to star in their commercials, picked from social media. Reuters reported that Aerie sales grew 32% in the first quarter of 2016, over double the 14.9 predicted growth.

FitGirlsGuide #JumpStartProgress

This female-focused diet and fitness brand has built its 5.5 million Instagram following by posting inspirational images and statements. The bulk of their social media uses follower posts, re-uploaded with details of their #jumpstartprogress ( a 28 day fitness challenge) or #fitgirlsguide. So far, #jumpstartprogress has been used almost 20,000 times. For brand fans, getting mentioned is a badge of honor, which encourages more to upload in the hope of a callout — a continual content loop for the company. “What struck me is that the girls in the photos didn’t look like Instagram models or body builders, they were everyday girls that looked like my college classmates or my mom’s friends – that was refreshing,” writes one Chicago blogger.

BeachBody #InsanityMaxZero

BeachBody, an online program for diet and fitness, is a brand built on a social following. BeachBody regularly asks followers to share meal posts and weight loss journeys, and then reuses the content. Often, the content includes detailed UGC captions that share personal stories of struggle and triumphs that leads to further reveals. Their #InsanityMaxZero campaign focused on the release of a new fitness plan, with users encouraged to post progress updates — over 358,000 fans have used that hashtag so far.

Warby Parker #hometryon

Trying on glasses with Reginald. #WarbyHomeTryOn

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Warby Parker offers trendy eyewear with prescription lenses at a low price-point, and with the option to try several pairs at home, ordering via their website. The brand has encouraged users to upload selfies with trial glasses to get feedback from friends, using the hashtag #warbyparkertryon. Over 20,000 customers have uploaded images.

Lay’s Do Us A Flavor Campaign

Guaranteed not to melt in your beach bag. Catch some rays with us. #LifeNeedsFlavor (📸: @alyssa.lenore)

Posted by Lay's on Sunday, July 16, 2017

Lay’s, the snack food company, launched a campaign in 2014 that become so popular the company has done it every year since — letting customers decide the flavor of a new product. The winner receives a $1 million prize. The company picked a shortlist of flavors, then asked the public to vote using specific hashtags. The entry with the most hashtag votes, won.

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