How Companies Have Leveraged User-Generated Content in Marketing Campaigns

By Heather Ebert
The evolution of social media has led to a change in the consumer brand experience. No longer do people wait to tell friends about their latest favorite brand or product in person; instead, they share images and posts about their indulgences instantly on social media. This change in brand advocacy has resulted in a stockpile of user-generated content that brands can easily use in their own marketing efforts.

User-generated content, which is any digital content that is produced and shared by end users of an online service or website, is one of the hottest trends in marketing. Today, creative teams are hired to develop strategies to prompt consumer engagement with products via social media. The reasons? It’s cheaper, more authentic and creates bigger buzz for the brand.
The following is an overview of how Ciroc Vodka and Starbucks successfully launched campaigns that incorporated user-generated content.
Social media experts claim that Starbucks has fostered one of the most engaging online communities for its consumers. The company is applauded for not spamming followers with advertising messages, and its Facebook and Twitter pages are hailed as some of the greatest. Starbucks is also highly regarded for its many successful viral social media campaigns.
In the spring of 2014, Starbucks announced a social media campaign called the “White Cup Contest.” A company executive said that the campaign took advantage of how Starbucks’ customers were already engaging with the brand on social media. Customers were doodling on their white, “Tall,” “Grande” or “Venti” cups and posting pictures of their creations to social media.
The “White Cup Contest” encouraged customers to keep doodling and to use the hashtag #WhiteCupContest on Instagram and Twitter with their photos. This hashtag submitted a customer’s design for the chance to be printed on a Starbucks’ limited edition reusable cup. Starbucks then aggregated the submissions on its Pinterest profile, expanding the reach of the campaign even further. In total, Starbucks received more than 4,000 entries via the hashtag.
Ciroc Vodka
Ciroc Ultra Premium Vodka has become a household name in the years since hip-hop and brand mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs took on the role as lead brand manager for the five-time distilled spirit. Diddy and Blue Flame Agency, a marketing firm, have spearheaded dozens of campaigns to establish Ciroc as the premier vodka. For the last seven years, Ciroc has consecutively launched cause-related New Year’s campaigns to dissuade drinking and driving. The driving force behind the 2014 #CIROCTheNewYear campaign was user-generated content.
In an effort to curb drinking and driving, #CIROCTheNewYear called for at least 10,000 people to pledge to not drink and drive on New Year’s Day in 2014. If 10,000 pledges were made, Ciroc promised to release $1 million in free Uber rides at a value of $25 each at 12 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2014.
Pledges to not drink and drive were collected via Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #CIROCTheNewYear. The pledges were then posted to a marquee billboard in the middle of Times Square, which is considered prime real estate by marketers.
Without audience participation, this campaign would not have been successful. It was designed to engage people, and went even further to garner a massive collection of images and posts organized under a single hashtag on social media that Ciroc could use to advance the reach and effectiveness of its message. In addition, Ciroc probably saved some money. Sure, the billboard space in Times Square was costly, but the company did not have to pay for content to be used in ads for TV, social media or radio. Ciroc instead relied on its massive social media audience to create the content for the campaign, and it did so successfully.
Key Takeaways
These success stories in user-generated content marketing showcase a call-to-action for brands. This method proves to be cost effective, engaging and organic. There is no better way to connect with consumers than to use consumers as the subject matters themselves, and even more so, in a way that allows consumers to write the script that resonates with them most. This further demonstrates that social media platforms should no longer be considered a separate entity of marketing plans, but an essential part of marketing plans as a whole.