How UGC helps brands blend in
When it comes to using and encouraging authentic content all year round, several brands have cracked the code. Homeware brand MADE.com’s Instagram feed is 99% UGC, re-sharing tagged photos with witty captions and trendy references. Their website even features a call to action that encourages Instagram tags which could result in a re-share on the site itself. Furniture items on the MADE.com website contain traditional listings with professional photography, but scroll further down, and you’ll find real-life examples of the item in-situ, using user generated photography.
Swedish fashion brand Monki does something similar, using tagged Instagram photographs for their online listings to give shoppers a more authentic look at their clothing items on real people. Their hashtag #monkistyle has a page on their website featuring UGC where consumers can shop in reverse, tracing back each clothing item to the sales page.
As consumers increasingly look for authenticity in their favourite brands, the move toward UGC as a core content type in a brand’s marketing strategy is certainly a step in the right direction.
How UGC helps brands stand out
Sometimes, it’s best for brands to introduce UGC to stand out in a memorable way. An early success story of a brand that actively went against the grain to make their voice heard was Coca Cola’s 2013 campaign, where Coke printed 150 popular names on its bottles and encouraged customers to ‘share a coke’ with their loved ones. The campaign was an overnight hit and people were quick to digitally toast each other in the form of social shares. It picked up 7 awards at the Cannes Lions festival and drove unprecedented sales results for the business.
Since 2017, the streaming giant Spotify visualises and feeds back users’ annual listening habits in a presentable way, prompting millions of listeners across the globe to share what they’ve had on repeat for the past year, from Taylor Swift’s greatest hits through to True Crime podcasts. Spotify also takes ‘Wrapped’ above-the-line, plastering the year’s most streamed artists – along with listening figures – across billboards and along the sides of buses. It’s a great example of a brand using data in a respectable way that doesn’t feel too invasive. And it pays off: in 2020, ‘Wrapped’ led to a 21% increase in Spotify’s mobile app downloads in the first week of December alone.
Where UGC can go wrong
Whilst well-planned calls to action for UGC can result in waves of gleaming customer content and feedback, dissatisfied customers or internet pranksters can dominate a campaign by getting involved for all the wrong reasons.
In May 2017, the official Walkers Twitter account offered fans the chance to win Champions League Final tickets if they uploaded a selfie with the hashtag #WalkersWave. In an automated video replying to those who submitted their selfies, Gary Lineker thanked the user for their submission, before holding the uploaded image to the camera and remarking: “Nice selfie.” However, Twitter users with mal-intent caught wind that there was little-to-no monitoring on the automated tweet mechanic and quickly started uploading images of the good, the bad and the very ugly – including notorious serial killers.
This slip-up resulted in a wave of poor publicity for the F&B giants and acted as a reminder to all to approach UGC with caution.
At the height of COP26, a new Instagram feature began to make the rounds – an ‘Add Yours’ sticker that read ‘We’ll plant 1 tree for every pet picture’ encouraged users to contribute their own photos to the Instagram Story trend, garnering over 4 million shares. Soon after this, the business behind the trend, Plant A Tree Co., came forward to claim responsibility in an Instagram post, explaining that they realised they would be unable to deliver their promise after the sticker went viral, but Instagram continued to allow it to be shared. Despite being a highly effective method of obtaining UGC, users have now become distrustful of the Plant A Tree business, resulting in a major backfire for the company and other similar movements.