Five great examples of co-created content

Authenticity is a word that seems to get thrown about a lot in the marketing world. According to a study by Authentic100, 78% of consumers don’t think brands are open and honest. This increasing cynicism towards brands, highlights a need to become more transparent and authentic.

One way brands are finding success with overcoming this challenge, is by teaming up with their audience to create content.75% of people feel user generated content makes a brand more authentic (the drum). Therefore, it’s a great thing to try in your marketing strategy.

In this blog I’ll be covering a few of my favourite marketing campaigns involving user-generated content. Use these ideas as a bit of inspiration for your next co-creation marketing campaign.

ASOS – #AsSeenOnMe

Back in 2014, ASOS launched a section on their website titled ‘As Seen on Me’. It links to images of their customers wearing clothes purchased from their website. Customers can upload photos directly to ASOS or by using the hashtag #AsSeenOnMe on Instagram.

As you’ll probably know fashion blogging is huge on social media. Thousands of users are posting their ‘outfits of the day’. ASOS have cashed in on this trend and have basically created a feed of adverts for their clothes for free!
Takeaway: Trendjack: Jump on social media trends and find a creative way to apply it to your brand.

Starbucks – White Cup Contest

You’ll probably be familiar with Starbucks white cup contest. Each year Starbucks invites its customers to decorate its coffee cups using the hashtag #WhiteCupContest. In return they can win a giftcard and their design to be printed on a reusable cup.

The result of the campaign? Loads of visually appealing social media posts which increased Starbucks organic reach and user generated product design!

Takeaway: Run a competition to encourage user-generated content

Cancer Research – No Makeup Selfie

Probably one of the most famous charity user-generated campaigns, Cancer Research no makeup selfie campaign raised more than £8 million in six days.  Incase you aren’t familiar with the campaign, users were encouraged to post selfies without makeup on, and then donate £5 to Cancer Research, and nominate others to do the ‘challenge’.

Takeaway: What you encourage your users to post doesn’t necessarily have to relate to your product. In this case, posting selfies without makeup on doesn’t relate to Cancer Research, yet was still hugely effective.

Loughborough University – #Lborofamily Golden Ticket campaign

Collaboration is at the heart of Loughborough University’s strategy. In 2016, the university sent out personalised golden tickets to all of the year’s new freshers. Many then took to social media to post pictures of them with their golden ticket using the hashtag #LboroFamily. This campaign drummed up excitement and helped the university expand their reach.

Takeaway: Creating something personalised for your audience will help to encourage engagement and user-generated content.


LEGO Ideas launched in 2015. The concept? Lego fans are invited to create an original LEGO build. Next, the fan has to gain support (similar to crowdfunding), if the creator gets 10,000 supporter then the LEGO board reviews the creation and decides whether to make it into a LEGO product to be sold around the world.

There are so many great things about this campaign. Firstly, it shows users being creative with their products. Secondly, to gain support for an idea, the user has to promote their idea (and LEGO) online which expands reach and brand awareness. Finally, having people vote on an idea, shows what LEGO users want to see in the shops.

Takeaway: Let your customers tell you what products they want to see.

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Talking co-creation, with industry expert Mark Baxter

mark baxter

Currently a managing partner at boutique growth consultancy Fika, Mark Baxter started his career at Procter & Gamble and has gone on to hold positions such as Head of Marketing & Strategy and Head of Global Strategic Category Marketing at Tesco. Having worked with a wealth of major international FMCG brands, he is an expert in the fields of commercial strategy, marketing, pricing, customer loyalty, digital and product launch.

On how co-creation means getting back to basics…
There is a push by customers for brands to be clearer (and more transparent). The market is shifting and consumers are demanding more from their products; it will be interesting to see how the established brands compete. Co-creation, simply put, is understanding who you are as a brand, creating products that you love and want to use, sticking to your principles and having conversations with your advocates. It’s a democratic approach to marketing and product development. It’s how brands originally evolved.

Locally sourced food product

On the consumer trends that are driving the co-creation shift…
Supermarkets are favouring private label and customers are favouring local brands – avoiding global markets and looking to protect local communities, farmers and tradesmen. There’s a regenerated appreciation for local and trust and transparency sit at the heart of that. Customers want to associate with likeminded people who will listen to them. The issue for brands is how to compete in this post scale economy, the balance between giving customers what they are seeking and making these options cost effective. In the past five years, large global brands have lost share to small brands and start-ups in 77% of categories. Consumers crave unique and authentic brands that share their personal preferences and are researching and seeking out products rather than responding to traditional advertising. This erosion is happening in almost every consumer category.

On Mergers and Acquisitions vs. Research and Development…
M&A has replaced R&D in many large FMCG companies and it will be interesting to see if these large brands are able to preserve the quality and authenticity of their acquisitions. (A principle isn’t a principle until it costs you money – particularly as many customers see propaganda replacing marketing.) The big question is whether its better (read easier and more profitable) to innovate or acquire. I think the balance is tipping, but the large FMCG companies are acquiring disrupter brands at a premium with the aim of competitive neutralisation. Going forward, those that develop this skill will obtain competitive advantage, which will drive growth and competitiveness. We’re not quite there yet but the time will come.

Supermarket shoppers

On the changing expectations of millennials and Gen Z…
They’re not loyal to brands, they’re loyal to principles and values – that’s why brands are hurting. They’re turning down high paid city and corporate jobs and are pursuing fulfilling careers. The opportunity is to tap into this, however if that isn’t your natural state as a brand, it can be perceived as disingenuous. Successful brands and companies need to become truly customer-centric, which means listening and having conversations. The challenge is how to to this at scale without diluting the ethos.

“The big question is whether it’s better (read easier
and more profitable) to innovate or acquire.”

Talking co-creation, with academic Yvonne Richardson

yvon richardson

Yvonne Richardson is a marketing consultant and senior lecturer on Fashion Marketing and Branding at
Nottingham Trent University, with a specialisation in consumer behaviour and innovation. Her multi-disciplinary background includes more than 20 years of experience in brand marketing and planning with senior positions held within prominent blue chip international companies within the beauty and healthcare industries.

On winning brand loyalty with Generation Z…
“More than their predecessors, this younger generation desires opportunities to interact with brands and wants brands to allow them to influence their products. They are the content creation generation. Thinking about what this generation want most – they want honesty, personalisation and involvement. Giving them an opportunity to get involved via co-creation, you meet their intrinsic needs to stamp their mark on brands, make a real difference and actually customise their experience. The upside of this for brands is that you get their attention and if done well, their loyalty.”


On the potential pitfalls of doing co-creation badly…
“I think there is a danger of co-creation being abused and brands jumping on the band-wagon. Co-creation is about letting in the right people for the right challenge. In the area of innovation for example, you need to target the right co-creators rather than taking a blanket approach. All consumers are not equal when it comes to innovation and tapping into the ideas of Mr and Mrs average may lack richness and originality. In the early stages of innovation, tapping into early adopter and innovators will be more effective in generating new and original ideas.”

On the ‘UGC bandwagon’…
“Another watch-out is brands jumping on the bandwagon and just curating user generated content (UGC) and hashtag campaigns to create buzz. Where these activities fall short is that they don’t truly satisfy millennials’ and Gen Z’s desire to actually create. This is a generation who are incredibly marketing savvy and hard to please. They want to know what’s in it for them, they want to feel special and get recognition. The message to brands here is exploit this generation at your peril!”


On the challenges of connecting to ‘Generation Me’…
“Today’s consumers are bombarded with more commercial messages than ever and have learned to filter these messages by using ad blockers, etc. Research suggests that these digital natives don’t like being advertised to explicitly; that they don’t like the pushy and inauthentic nature of a lot of traditional advertising. From a brand perspective one of the challenges this creates therefore is how to connect with this group and cut through the clutter. Another stereotype often levied at this ‘younger generation’ is that they are ‘generation me’, fuelled by social media and the numerous opportunities it creates for self-promotion and reflection. This is a generation that has grown up used to having their voices heard. Whilst not all millennial stereotypes hold up to closer examination, this generation really did grow up being told they were special and their opinions matter.”

“Thinking about what this generation want most –
they want honesty, personalisation and involvement.”

Democratising content: How to increase brand engagement by 28%

Photo related with User generated content

Bombarded by marketing messages, social media advertising and branded content, millennials and gen Z have become all but immune to the clamoring voices of brands that simply fail to genuinely connect. This generation doesn’t look to the same agency-created content that previous generations did. When making purchasing decisions, they instead turn to online individuals: consumers, reviewers, friends and strangers, consistently shunning the traditional outlets of advertising. What this generation is paying far closer attention to and values far more highly is user-generated content (UGC).

It should come as no surprise that millennials spend a substantial amount of their time online, with estimates suggesting nearly 22 hours per week. Of that total, about 30% of it is spent consuming UGC, meaning millennials are constantly surrounded by content that’s created directly by their peers – and they put an incredible amount of trust in it. In fact, millennials report UGC being 35% more memorable and 50% more trusted than other forms of media. For millennials, UGC is substantially more authentic than other information they may find on the internet and is a stronger indicator of the quality of a brand and its products. They have no interest in seeing ad after ad cluttering their newsfeeds; they want to see what their friends have posted and shared. In short, this is a generation that’s far more interested in what their peers have to say about a brand than the brands themselves.

Now, while this lack of trust and tendency to shut out ads may make brands feel as though they’re unable to connect, it simply means that the approach needs to be different. Rather than relying on disruptive and, often, unwanted ads that don’t just fail to gain traction but are pointedly shut out with ad blockers, brands should be attempting to get the consumers to participate in the brand and share authentic experiences in the form of creative, effective and authentic user-generated content that resonates with young audiences. A case in point is Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign which was trailblazing in its simplicity: pulling consumers into the brand by putting names on its iconic bottles and encouraging consumers to share their experiences and enjoyment with the bottles on Twitter and other social media platforms. The campaign garnered 998 million Twitter impressions and 235,000 tweets.

Increasingly, smart brands are using user-generated content to drive authenticity, meaning and resonance with their audiences. These brands are swapping direct control control for the ability to discover the conversations that really matter for their audiences, as well as the types of content that resonate. They can invite their customers to participate in and share their brand story, and in doing so, can develop a positive, more democratic and more forward-thinking image.

In April 2014, Starbucks also entered the UGC field when it launched the White Cup Contest. Encouraging customers to doodle on their cups and submit photos of their drawings, with the winning cup’s design later being released on limited edition Starbucks cups, the campaign generated 4,000 entries in just three weeks, and substantial buzz around the Starbucks brand.

UGC Toolkit

For brands and organisations, it is an inescapable fact that young audiences connect with user-generated content far more than they do traditional marketing messages, and if they want to properly connect to this burgeoning market, they’re going to have to learn how to capitalize on UGC to truly reach them. Read of our toolkit onto how to best use user-generated content in order to optimise its benefits and connect to millennials and generation Z.

  1. Identify your social spaces: there are a number of different social media platforms that work in different ways and house different audiences, so it’s important to select the ones that are right for your brand.
  2. Explain to your audience what you want: make sure to be very clear, succinct, and simple in what you’re looking for in order engage as many people as possible. UGC campaigns must be universal and accessible and not alienate people by asking too much of them, either creatively or intellectually.
  3. Leave space for audience to work: once you have related your goal to your audience, it’s critical to allow them their creative independence. Briefs should be broad and open to multiple formats.
  4. Provide recognition: whether it be with physical prizes and incentives or simple acknowledgments and accolades, praising and rewarding the audience is essential.
  5. Measure results: analyze your data, ensuring that your campaign was in line with your goals, establishing clear learnings and actions on how you may improve for your next campaign.

How to be in the 26% of brands that audiences actually care about

The broadcast model of advertising is dead. Audiences, especially younger audiences, do not trust mainstream media outlets, Government, politicians, banks or big business and if brands are not careful, they will also fall into this growing bucket of institutions that have lost touch with their audiences. Young people are becoming increasingly disenfranchised. This is hardly groundbreaking news, but recent global events seem to be making matters much worse. The banking crisis, Brexit and Trump getting elected all typify the disconnect between Gens Y & Z and the ‘establishment’. Add to this fake news and who could blame these young people for being suspicious of what they see on TV or read in a newspaper. Young people have a serious problem with traditional sources of information. The ways that information is shared has changed dramatically. Anyone can now be a publisher, a brand or media owner in their own right. Audiences don’t have to rely on news organizations for their news any more.

“Brands need to engage at a deeper level

with their audiences who are making purchasing

decisions based on what a brand stands for.”

The world has changed for brands and brand marketing too. Brands have long understood the need for an authentic connection with their audiences. But smart advertising alone is not enough to engage young people who are searching for meaning in their relationships. Brands need to engage at a deeper level with their audiences who are making purchasing decisions based on what a brand stands for. A popular and successful way to create an emotional connection is to align with passion points of the target. Using music or sport has been hugely successful. Cause is also now rapidly becoming a significant mobilizing agent for youth audiences who care about the world around them. Young people don’t just want to know that a brand has integrity. They want to be involved; they want to be part of the conversation and play an active role.


Creative agencies largely still believe that they have the best ideas. And why wouldn’t they? There are some incredible minds in the creative agency world, but there is also a great deal of ego. And there has to be. You have to come up with the best ideas in the world for the biggest brands in the world – and for the biggest fees in the world. Who owns the idea? What does that even mean? Why do the majority of brands insist on developing their marketing strategies in isolation from their audiences? Concepts are developed by creative teams, then in some cases, they then hit qualitative testing – which can either meet with approval or the idea gets killed. It’s the way it has been done for a long time. Creative agency groups have a significant chip in the game, with billing for global powerhouse brands numbering in the many millions. So its understandable that they should want to maintain the status quo. But the audience has already moved on.

There is more audience research & data than ever before – which should mean good news for audiences. However, a recent study by Havas found that “Some 60% of the content created by the world’s leading 1,500 brands is “just clutter” that has little impact on consumers’ livesThat failure means globally consumers would not care if 74% of brands disappeared, with that figure rising to 94% in UK”. If this research is to be believed, there is a fundamental change needed in the way brands operate, especially in the UK.


So how do brands break out of the old model, create an authentic connection with their audiences and start making content that isn’t just ‘clutter?’ Co-creation is where brands are brought together with the audiences in creative communities to generate insights & ideas that lead to content. It seems painfully obvious that brands who want to know what their audiences think and feel should involve them in the creative process, but remarkably few actually do. Brands have the opportunity to be a facilitator for new ideas, to become a platform for creative expression. Young people today want to be the architects of the brands and the causes they care most about. Empowering the audience gives a sense of shared ownership and sense of shared purpose that cannot be achieved through traditional approaches to marketing.


If you are a brand that is interested in co-creation, here are a few pointers to consider:


1.     Start by building a community. It’s important to find the right voices to contribute, so make sure you are talking to experts in community recruitment and management.

2.     Allow innovation to travel upstream. Don’t be afraid to let your audience explore new approaches to old problems – be brave.

3.     Be dynamic. Allow the ideas (not the old model) to drive the solution.

 There is a huge opportunity for creative agencies to harness the power of co-creation for their clients by getting involved now. It’s just the ideas may not always be born in the boardroom. If you are a brand that is looking to get closer to your audience, create content that has a much greater chance of landing successfully and all for a fraction of the price, then perhaps co-creation is for you.

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