Unleashing user-generated content: A blueprint for authentic branding


Discover how e-commerce start-ups are harnessing user-generated content for trustworthy and relatable branding.

In today's digital era, traditional marketing strategies are rapidly losing ground. More and more businesses are shifting towards strategies that bring their customers front and centre. Enter user-generated content, or UGC – a powerful, yet often under-used tool that can significantly boost your brand's authenticity.

Why user-generated content is valuable for authentic branding

UGC, encompassing any content related to your brand that's voluntarily produced by your customers, wields enormous influence over the buying decisions of prospective customers. This could be anything from customer reviews and testimonials to blog posts, social media content, photos, or videos.

A survey by Stackla, a global user-generated content (UGC) marketing platform based in Australia, revealed that 79% of people say user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decisions, more than professional photos from companies. This can be attributed to the inherent relatability and trustworthiness that comes with UGC. Simply put, consumers trust other consumers. A customer photo or a review doesn't have the veneer of a professionally shot advert, making it feel more real, more authentic.

As Daniel Wellington, the founder of his eponymous watch brand, noted,

User-generated content provides customers a real view of the products and serves as a strong endorsement.

How to encourage customer reviews and their role in building authenticity

Customer reviews are often the first step in the UGC journey. They not only build trust but also give you valuable insights into what's working and what isn't. Encouraging customer reviews can be as simple as sending a follow-up email requesting a review or offering a small incentive, like a discount on their next purchase.

Companies like Amazon and Sephora have leveraged customer reviews to create a sense of community and authenticity around their brand. Sephora, in particular, has built a robust online community where customers can share reviews, photos, and even answer other customers' questions about products. This user-generated content not only helps to build trust and authenticity but also provides valuable insights to other customers and to the company itself. A UK-focused study by YouGov in 2021 confirmed that 87% of British consumers read reviews online before making a purchase.

Sharing customer photos: a new wave of authenticity

Customer photos or videos are even more compelling forms of UGC. They provide a visual confirmation of your product in a real-world setting, boosting the credibility of your brand. A classic example of this strategy is ASOS's #AsSeenOnMe campaign. Launched in 2016, the fashion brand encouraged its customers to share their outfits on Instagram using the hashtag, showcasing how diverse audiences were styling their products.

This not only created an authentic showcase for their products but also built a community around their brand. Moreover, it turned their customers into brand ambassadors, spreading the brand to a wider audience than they could have reached otherwise.

Harnessing UGC for marketing materials

In addition to building trust and authenticity, UGC can be repurposed for marketing materials. With the right permissions, customer photos, reviews, and testimonials can be transformed into compelling social media posts, email campaigns, or even featured on product pages.

One standout example is GoPro. The camera company leverages its customer-generated videos extensively in its marketing, offering a realistic demonstration of their product's capabilities. It makes their brand feel more accessible and grounded in reality, fostering a strong connection with their audience.

Case studies of successful UGC branding

UGC has been the backbone of numerous successful marketing campaigns. Coca-Cola's "Share a Coke" campaign in 2014, where bottles were personalised with popular names, led to a surge of UGC as customers shared pictures of their unique bottles online.

Airbnb has also harnessed UGC effectively. It launched a successful campaign called "Live There," based on user stories and photos. This campaign, with its focus on experiencing cities like locals, helped the company forge a stronger bond with its audience by emphasising authenticity and personal connections.

Another inspiring story comes from PrettyLittleThing, a Manchester-based fast fashion brand. They have actively encouraged customers to share their outfit photos on Instagram with the hashtag #PrettyLittleThing. The brand then curates these images and showcases them on their website, giving customers styling inspiration from real people and building a sense of community. This initiative demonstrates how harnessing UGC can create an engaging and authentic brand experience.

Final thoughts: the power of user-generated content

In a digital landscape often criticised for its lack of personal touch, UGC provides a way for brands to connect more deeply with their customers. It fosters trust, authenticity, and engagement, turning your customers from mere consumers into powerful brand advocates.

With all this in mind, isn't it time you took a second look at your customer's content? The next breakthrough in your branding strategy might come from them.

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