User-generated content (UGC) is a massively undervalued tactic for reaching new audiences, driving deeper engagement, establishing social proof, and much more.
As modern marketing shifts the spotlight to the consumer, UGC has exploded as a critical component of brand storytelling.
Compared to traditional advertising and even digital marketing, UGC costs next to nothing. There’s no production budget, no video shoots, no product photography — and even without these elements, brands are still reaching larger and larger audiences thanks to UGC.
We’re bringing you 10 real-world examples of brands leveraging UGC — sometimes on its own, sometimes as part of a bigger marketing campaign, and always to great effect.
Most Common Types of UGC
Depending on your previous experience with UGC, you probably already have certain types of content in mind. However, UGC is more than just glossy product photos in great lighting (though it certainly includes those!).
UGC can come in both expected and unexpected forms. Here are four content types you can mine for UGC.
Social Media Posts
UGC is everywhere on social media — especially on video-centric platforms like Instagram or TikTok where content creators and influencer marketing pros can reach large audiences.
Every positive social media post featuring your products is a good thing, but some posts will vastly outperform the rest. That’s because of virality: that intangible, hard-to-predict quality that causes some videos to spread like wildfire. It’s tough to predict virality (and even tougher to engineer it), but when your products go viral via UGC on social media networks, it can make a massive difference in your sales and revenue.
Reviews and Testimonials
Perhaps the original UGC format, customer reviews and testimonials have had a rough few years thanks to widespread fake reviews and review fraud. However, customer testimonials and reviews are making a more targeted comeback.
While many consumers have grown more wary of online testimonials, they still rely heavily on reviews that connect on a more personal level. Peer reviews and those from people they believe they can trust (such as influencers or creators with a reputation to uphold) can make a real difference.
Testimonials can be both formal (on websites) and informal (on social media or forums).
Video is an absolute powerhouse for UGC, including everything from video testimonials to product unboxings to “get ready with me” live streams and beyond. Even more than written testimonials (which could have been faked or embellished), video testimonials feel real. There’s living proof, right there on the screen, that the given product is working for someone.
Major hubs for UGC video include YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.
Gander is the simplest, fastest way to create and manage UGC, turning it into powerful conversion-oriented content. Learn how Gander’s shoppable videos boost engagement and sales.
Blog posts might not seem like the most obvious form of UGC, but they do play a role. Both dedicated customers and blog-writing influencers might create detailed content based on your products, showing off your eCommerce items to a broader audience of potential customers than you might otherwise reach.
Not only that, but blog posts on others’ sites play an SEO and content marketing role for your site via backlinks — which are links back to your site from someone else’s site. And, generally speaking, the more backlinks point to your site, the better your site ranks in search engine results pages (SERPs). Plus, the higher those sites’ authority, the more backlinks will help your site’s SEO.
Benefits of Using UGC in Your Marketing Campaigns
UGC may be having a moment right now, but it isn't just a trend.
Whether you’re creating intentional UGC ads or gathering UGC from your customer base, UGC (especially eCommerce UGC) will deliver tangible marketing benefits.
First, UGC registers as more authentic than other forms of content.
Consumers are absolutely inundated with marketing content from brands through professional marketing departments and marketing agencies. While that form of marketing does matter, it isn’t always perceived as authentic.
UGC is different because it comes from “regular people.” Consumers tend to trust content from their peers more than branded ads.
UGC content often lacks that branded polish, and that’s a good thing: the not-quite-professional backgrounds and average appearances of the people in UGC create a more real and relatable feel.
Any brand can say its products are transformative or innovative. But proving it is harder to do.
Showcasing user reviews, videos, and customer photos can build brand credibility via social proof — the idea that real people bought this product and liked it enough to show it off in a review.
This kind of social proof has a real psychological impact on purchasing decisions. A potential consumer might see UGC featuring your product and think, “If it was good enough for them, it will be good enough for me.”
UGC can also foster community and provoke interaction in a way that conventional advertising can’t. Consumers can interact directly with influencers and content creators (such as in Twitch, YouTube, Facebook live streams). They can’t interact with a billboard at all.
By engaging with creators like these, brands can create greater conversation and community around their products, ultimately boosting brand loyalty.
Additionally, when creators share UGC, they expose a brand to their audience. Some percentage of that audience is made up of consumers the brand wouldn’t otherwise reach, so there’s a direct expansion of reach and brand awareness connected to UGC.
But that’s not all. There’s also a potential snowball effect because UGC can be shared and even has the potential to go viral.
Now, your brand isn’t just reaching the creator’s or influencer’s audience. It’s reaching their fans’ social networks, plus the networks of anyone those fans are connected to, and so on — the effect is exponential.
Last, brands can use UGC as an incredibly cost-effective method of content creation. High-polish ad campaigns and professional product photography aren’t cheap. And while many brands will still want to invest in those avenues, UGC can fill in any gaps. It can also reduce overall spend on marketing material creation (because you may not need as much of the expensive stuff).
10 Excellent UGC Examples To Explore
We’ve shared five UGC ad examples that brands can try, but a full UGC campaign expands beyond ads.
Check out these 10 brands and how they leveraged UGC for real increases in engagement, conversion rates, and reach.
Away is a luggage company that sells suitcases, backpacks, and other travel accessories, and it uses UGC for all kinds of social media content. You’ll regularly see UGC on the company’s social media channels, whether it’s part of a broader campaign or not.
One recent UGC campaign, marked by the hashtag #TravelFarAndWide, encouraged customers to share photos and videos of themselves using Away products while traveling. It’s not a huge ask, given what the company’s products are used for, but it was highly effective. Audiences could see Away’s products being used in numerous contexts: business, luxury, exotic, and more.
But instead of seeing these travel scenarios played out over perfectly framed scenes and airbrushed models, audiences saw real people in real places. The campaign leveraged authenticity and social proof to grow engagement and reach — and it hardly cost a thing.
Allbirds is a sustainable footwear and apparel company that got its start as an online-only eCommerce vendor (though the company has since branched out into exclusive brick-and-mortar stores).
Its shoes and apparel are designed to be sustainable products people can wear every day, which was perhaps the inspiration behind the #AllbirdsEveryday campaign. This campaign encouraged Allbirds customers to share photos and videos of themselves wearing their Allbirds shoes in their everyday lives (tagged with the branded hashtag) to show how versatile they are.
The shoes have a style all their own, one that some consumers might struggle to picture in their wardrobe or their various social and professional roles. The #AllbirdsEveryday campaign helped demystify the product’s practicality, showing audiences that, yes, people really do wear those shoes in nearly every scenario.
Olipop is one of a handful of brands seeking to reinvent soda. Where the big companies still sell beverages laden with astounding amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners, Olipop is loaded with prebiotics and other health-conscious ingredients.
As a premium beverage seeking to compete with some of the biggest brands on the planet, Olipop faced some marketing challenges — and turned to UGC to meet them.
Take Olipop’s #OlipopMoments campaign. This UGC campaign encouraged Olipop customers to share photos and videos of themselves enjoying their favorite Olipop flavors — whenever and wherever. The campaign helped to create a sense of community, showing viewers that people like them were already saying “no” to Big Soda and drinking Olipop instead.
GoPro practically invented the retail category of action cameras and accessories. Because the company sells video cameras designed to capture exceptional activities on video, UGC is perhaps a more natural fit here than anywhere else.
Viral YouTube videos and social media posts filmed on GoPro devices have been selling GoPros for years. The company has enjoyed both natural UGC and UGC created in response to specific campaigns, like the #GoProAwards campaign.
In the campaign, GoPro encouraged customers to share their best, most “award-worthy” GoPro videos. These videos showcased both GoPro’s use cases (“I never thought about using one like that!”) and its capabilities (“I never realized it could do that!”).
5. Lululemon athletica
Lululemon athletica is an athletic apparel company that sells yoga pants, sports bras, and athleisure apparel.
Lululemon's #thesweatlife campaign asked customers to share photos and videos of themselves working out in Lululemon gear. Showing these products in their natural environment encouraged would-be customers to give Lululemon’s high-end products a try.
6. Calvin Klein
Calvin Klein is a well-known fashion company recognized at New York Fashion Week and your local discount apparel retailer. The brand is famous for its ultra-detailed high-fashion photography, often in black and white.
Calvin Klein's #MyCalvins campaign encouraged customers to share photos and videos of themselves wearing Calvin Klein products. Like we’ve seen with several other brands, the success of this campaign was in showing the products on regular people — not supermodels — making the brand more relatable.
The biggest chain of coffeehouses out there, Starbucks doesn’t need to spread the word that it exists. Instead, the company needs to remind people to come back again and again.
The more consumers build a connection or relationship with Starbucks, the better. And that’s part of the inspiration behind the #RedCupContest campaign. The company has produced seasonal red cups around the winter holidays for years. But recently, they’ve turned the cups into a marketing event of their own.
With the #RedCupContest, customers were prompted to share photos and videos of their Starbucks red cups on social media to celebrate the holiday season. This campaign served as a subtle trigger, reminding occasional Starbucks customers to make another visit. It may have also dovetailed with the big push for seasonal holiday drinks — all while spending nothing on TV ads.
Apple is best known for its iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks. For at least a decade now, the company has boasted about its iPhone cameras, using terms like “incredible” and “unprecedented” at nearly every keynote.
Most years, they show off a professional-quality video clip shot entirely using iPhone’s stock camera as a way to convince customers about its quality. But in recent years, they rolled out a #ShotOniPhone UGC campaign on social media that encourages people to share photos and videos they’ve taken with their iPhones.
Not only did the campaign show off the quality of the iPhone’s camera and post-processing capabilities, it also emphasized that even everyday users (not professional photographers) can take great photos and videos.
Aerie is a lingerie and apparel company that provides comfortable, functional products and avoids the overly stylized, overly sexualized advertising tropes of other lingerie brands.
Aerie includes models with diverse body types, skin tones, ages, and features (e.g., a model with freckles, tattoos, and sunspots that remain unedited).
The company launched the #AerieREAL campaign, a broader marketing strategy that includes UGC elements. The campaign encourages customers to share unedited photos and videos of themselves in Aerie products.
By pushing back against unrealistic and misleading advertising that runs rampant in the fashion industry, Aerie captures a portion of the market by showing them how well the products work for people like them. It’s relatability, social proof, and authenticity all in one.
LaCroix is a beverage company that sells essenced sparkling water. The company launched a UGC campaign called #LiveLaCroix that encouraged customers to share photos and videos of themselves enjoying LaCroix sparkling water.
For those who once only associated LaCroix with rich or image-conscious consumers, this campaign encouraged people to rethink their preconceptions about the brand. Instead, #LiveLaCroix focused on showing that the drink was for everyone — real people working toward balanced, healthy lifestyles.
Create Your Own Unique UGC Videos With Gander
From upstarts to the world’s biggest brands, many companies are leveraging UGC video content to show another side of their brand, make their products more approachable, and reach new audiences. And the 10 real-world examples we’ve shown you here are just some of the successful approaches we’ve seen.
To make this kind of magic happen, your brand needs a platform for creating, managing, and hosting your UGC and other shoppable video content.
Gander is that platform: It’s easy to use, versatile, and doesn’t affect your eCommerce store’s page load speeds.
Ready to see how Gander makes creating and managing UGC videos simple and easy? Request your demo today!