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.

Subscribe for the latest Bulbshare insights


Meet the co-creation pioneers

Budweiser advertisement

Meet the brands that are bringing customer voice into their operations to create products, services, content and campaigns that are more reflective of what their customers actually want. We’d like to introduce, the co-creation pioneers…

Heineken: The nightclub of the future

The Dutch beer company Heineken wanted to connect to its customers through a pioneering pop-up nightclub space that reflected the wants and needs of its audiences. Through a global insight project that connected to communities from 12 cities around the world, Heineken worked with 120 club-goers as a springboard for idea generation and design inspiration – and created an internally crowd-sourced design team out of young designers who uploaded their portfolios via social media.

The pop-up concept club travelled the world. It gained mass global coverage including 533 news pieces and four million online views, and resulted in a 40% sales increase for Heineken in best practice markets.

Heineken advertisement

DHL: Customer-led innovation

Through a series of insight workshops, parcel delivery giants DHL realised that its customers wanted the brand to rethink its supply chains, and that this would improve business performance. Understanding that innovation should be customer focused, the company built international innovation centres in Singapore and Germany where targeted customer groups could collaborate with DHL employees in order to share ideas and co-create solutions. From over 6,000 employee customer engagements taking place in DHL, numerous innovations and changes to process have been developed including AR glasses that have improved warehouse picking efficiency by 25%, robotics applications and a drone delivery project. Since launching the project, DHL’s entire approach to service development has become much more transparent, collaborative and customer-centric, and as a result more efficient, innovative and successful.

dhl advertisement

Starbucks: Crowdsourcing idea generation

The US coffee company Starbucks has been co-creating for nearly ten years now. With the tagline ‘Share. Vote. Discuss. See.’, My Starbucks Idea has crowdsourced over 190,000 product, service and in-store innovations since 2008 – with almost 300 being implemented by the brand. Without My Starbucks Idea, we wouldn’t have Cake Pops, Hazelnut Macchiato, and free Wi-Fi, to name but a few innovations generated by the initiative.

budweiser advertisement

GE: Co-creation for open innovation

Electrics company GE has launched its own open innovation platform called Fuse, in order to source ideas and co-create innovations in direct collaboration with not just its customers, but with other start-ups. Through the Fuse project, anybody can sign up to join a community of engineers, coders or developers and take part in incentivised challenges that drive idea generation and innovation. GE are pioneers of open innovation and a new approach to company culture that is much more about collaboration and transparency. Through Fuse they will often share information about the internal workings of their products with outside communities, but their ethos of co-creation prevents them from being nervous about this – preferring to see the positive side of enhanced innovation through the power of the community.

general electrics advertisement

LEGO: Customers at the heart of a brand

In recent years, co-creation has been a big part of the success of Danish toy company LEGO, with its IDEAS community that allows customers to co-create new designs. The website was set up for LEGO enthusiasts who can both create, vote and give feedback on new projects – with projects that receive over 10,000 votes going into a review phase by senior LEGO employees. If the product is approved, the creator will receive 1% of the net sales of that product.

Consumer insights are now a core part of a LEGO strategy that enables staff to make consumer-led decisions. The LEGO Friends play set was designed through the process of co-creation, and came from the insight that young girls prefer designs with bright colours and environments that have emotional connection. The company conducted 13 research studies over a four-year period, which involved their target market creating new products in collaboration with designers. The insight lead to one of the biggest commercial successes in LEGO history, with a new product range that attracted new customers that they had previously not been able to connect with.

lego advertisement

Budweiser: Project 12 Beer

Budweiser’s Project 12 Beer asked consumers to vote on their favourite concoction, from 12 flavours created by the brand’s team of in-house brewmasters, at numerous in-person local events such as music festivals – with brewmasters being on-hand to receive direct feedback from consumers. More than 25,000 consumers gave their opinions and the drink that garnered the most favourable attention was a golden amber lager called Black Crown. Such was the success of the project that Budweiser launched Project 12 again the following year, with beer flavours being designed and launched in collaboration with customers.

starbucks advertisement

Giffgaff: A brand built on collaboration

Giffgaff began with transparency, democracy and co-creation at its core. Allowing its customers to participate in both a proprietor network forum and a broader social media strategy to provide feedback on product features and support, it’s a brand that’s effectively run by its audience – with customer ideas leading directly to new product development and innovation, and the customer community even dictating pricing structures. The product and service development process not only includes customers, but rewards them for their contribution.

Gifgaf advertisement

Jameson: First Shot film competition

While Jameson’s First Shot isn’t a direct example of co-creation, it does show a brand that empowers communities to create content. Now in its sixth year, the First Shot competition asks film makers to take part in a short film contest, with the support of the brand – with winners getting the chance to work with professional Hollywood film crews and actors, and access to wider opportunities within the industry. The competition generates a wealth of user-generated content that is forever linked to Jameson and a great PR story around a brand that supports creative communities.

jameson first

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.

Purpose power: Why mission-led brands are growing 50% faster than their rivals

The players, the sceptics, and why brands looking to put meaning behind the messaging must collaborate with audiences and pick their purpose accordingly…  

Once upon a time, the only thing people expected from brands was products and services they loved: Clothes that fitted. Phones that worked. Food with nice packaging. Basically, stuff.

Not so anymore. In today’s unsettled times, young audiences invest in brands that have a conscience. Brands with morals. Brands that care. They expect brands to give a sh*t. They want brands to listen to what they care about. And care about it too. In short, in 2017 brands without a moral purpose are dead in the water.

Since the phenomenal success of Tom’s Shoes’ ‘Buy a Pair, Give a Pair’ campaign, marketing managers have cottoned on to the fact that ‘purpose’ is a whole new channel through which to engage. The result is that brands have become like super heroes: Nobly fighting injustices, standing up for what’s right and bravely protecting those in peril. ‘Doing good’ has become the new norm, and instilling a moral or social purpose into operations – investing in causes and shaping marketing campaigns around changing the world for the better – is big business.

But is it enough? In a new world where brands are like political parties – being judged just as much on their policies as their products – is jumping on a moral bandwagon still going to cut it? The progressive brands are those that properly engage with their audiences, discover the issues that affect their worlds, and take pertinent actions that really resonate.

The players

When it comes to moral purpose, everyone’s at it. Since Unilever CEO Paul Polman spoke out in 2011 about the importance of mission-led brands (“Winning alone is not enough, it’s about winning with purpose…”), the Anglo-Dutch consumer giant has been firmly committed to driving change. And it’s worked. Marketing Week reported that Unilever’s ‘Sustainable Living’ brands (including Ben & Jerry’s and Dove), grew 50% faster than the rest of its business last year – with these brands now accounting for 60% of total sales growth. Unilever has also released data to say 33% of adults would buy a product from a brand because they believe it is doing social or environmental good – equating to an opportunity of $817bn. Juicy!

And with a report by Mediacom telling us that 40% of consumers have either abandoned or never tried a brand because of its values or behaviours, it’s no wonder that all the major names are bidding to become players in this space. While retail giants like Tesco and M&S are tackling food waste, smaller fashion brands like Vitae and Roma Boots are supplying school uniforms to children in Africa and donating a pair of wellies to those in need for every pair sold (sound familiar?).

The sceptics

As ever, people are sceptical to the melee of moral messages. Do the marketeers at the heart of these social purpose campaigns have dollar signs in their eyes? Do brands really care? Or is it a fad, full of hollow sentiment, aimed at engaging millennials. According to a report by the Endelman Trust, 65% of young consumers think companies overstate their environmental credentials, while 45% are sceptical about the causes brands support.

It’s hardly a surprise that millennials and gen Z aren’t taken in – hook, line and sinker – by moral marketing. This sceptical, media-savvy, empowered and super-informed generation are the very people at the heart of pushing brands to be more ethical, so it stands to be reason they’d be the ones to also demand there is some integrity, authenticity and real action behind the messaging.

Co-created purpose 

According to a Fit for Purpose report by the London agency, Radley Yelder, which detailed 2016’s top 100 purpose-focused brands, 83% of mission-led organisations instil a strong sense of collaboration into their operations – either with competitors, employees or their customers.

When Tesco launched its food waste campaign, its chief executive Dave Lewis told Marketing Week how the company’s new ethical focus was principally driven by customer expectation. With customers at the heart of the purpose drive, it makes sense that brands should involve them in the purpose process – informing their campaigns with detailed insight, and allowing their audiences to co-create those campaigns with them. If a brand really wants to address the most relevant causes that resonate with its customers, it needs to understand what those causes are, how audiences feel about them, and the best ways to involve people in taking action. See our Purpose Power toolkit below for the best ways to engage your customers around the causes that have meaning for them.

Purpose power toolkit: 

Five ways to engage your customers by co-creating your brand mission…

  1. Back insight-driven causes. Ask your customers about the global issues that they really care about in order to inform your social purpose campaigns. Supporting causes that resonate with your audience will drive larger engagement.
  2. Co-create your campaigns. Involve your customer communities in the creation of your campaigns, with real people’s opinions and co-created content. Audience collaboration drives meaning and authenticity
  3. Take action. As more and more brands put social purpose at the heart of their marketing, millennials are becoming increasingly sceptical of empty promises. Messaging is not enough, brands must take tangible action to follow up on the slogans.
  4. Involve your community. Social purpose campaigns that give customer communities the opportunity to really get involved with the good work that is being done, are all the more powerful, tangible and authentic.
  5. Measure your results. Campaigns that are backed by real results drive more meaning with customers. A campaign should be designed so that the data relating to its beneficiaries can easily be captured and communicated. The number of people helped by a brand campaign is a powerful message.

Interaction. Not interruption: The death of traditional advertising?

Are advertisers getting desperate? It certainly seems so. The deluge of ‘wacky’, disruptive characters that have come to dominate modern advertising is beginning to point towards an industry that’s running out of ideas… 

In 2015, profit margins at the top 50

ad agencies were at their lowest

for seven years.

Aggressive disruption 

It seems you can’t move these days for eccentric ad characters screaming ‘look at me’ in increasingly ‘madcap’ ways. There’s a man sitting on top of a fibre glass hippo, who tells you – in self-aware deadpan – that he’s a man sitting on top of a fibre glass hippo (TopCashback). There’s the ridiculous American car rental guy at Enterprise. There’s the annoying ‘Love Mondays’ Matt Berry impersonator at Reed. And, of course, there’s the Welsh Pavarotti at Go Compare.

At a time when more and more brands are dramatically cutting what they perceive as ineffective ad spend, it seems that creatives are reverting to desperate tactics as they vie for audiences’ rapidly dwindling attention. The result is a sea of same. After the success of Go Compare and (meerkats), a formula has been established. How do I get cut though? It’s obvious, isn’t it? Invent a zany character. But as we’re bombarded (and bored) by more and more of these irritants, the question must be asked: Are we actually engaged by this shameless strategy of aggressive disruption? Or just annoyed? 

Ad blockers 

Millennials and gen Z are all but lost to TV advertisers. With 200 million people currently using ad-blockers (a figure that’s rising), trust in brands is at an all time low. Young audiences simply don’t want to be reached by advertisers – unless it’s on their terms – and being force-fed disruptive, patronising characters will surely only push them further away.  

With ITV’s ad revenue declining by eight per cent year-on-year in the last six months, and giants like Procter and Gamble cutting their ad spend by more than $1 billion since 2013, it seems that brands are struggling to cope with digital transformation, reviewing their ad and marketing budgets and asking themselves the question: Is our advertising just not working anymore? 

So, what’s the way forward? How do brands achieve cut-through in the modern era? Aside from a zebra in a fez, playing the mandolin while telling me I need to buy more car insurance. For many, the next phase of consumer communication lies in interaction, not interruption. More and more brands are building their own online communities in order to directly engage customer networks in the conversations that matter for them.

Digital revolution 

With Forrester telling us that 87% of companies agree online communities drive better customer engagements, it’s clear the tide is turning. Brands have lost faith in traditional advertising as a means by which to connect, engage, drive awareness and sales. Instead, they are reaching out to consumers on a far more conversational level: asking them what they think of their products and services and inviting them to collaborate on content. 

The last fifteen years have seen a digital revolution, facilitated by enhancements in tech – with people taking back the power from big institutions. Just as MySpace empowered musicians to market their own music in the early naughties – putting thousands out of work at the major record labels – other social media platforms are encouraging user-generated content and the rise of influencers, meaning ad agency messages are increasingly being ignored by younger audiences. 

With Nielsen telling us that a staggering 77% of modern consumers are more likely to buy through peer recommendations, the message is clear for brands: connect directly with consumers, collaborate on campaigns, drive word-of-mouth and user-generated content. 

In 2015, profit margins at the top 50 ad agencies were at their lowest for seven years. A clear indication that agencies must look towards new solutions if they’re to sidestep the fate of the record labels that failed to react to MySpace, these are nothing if not uncertain times for advertising. The industry might not be dead quite yet, but it’s certainly in need of a renaissance.

Toolkit: How to interact. Not interrupt… 

  • Build private communities and engage with your customers direct.
  • Collaborate with audiences on campaigns and content. 
  • Encourage two-way conversations, finding out what resonates with your audience and how they see your brand.
  • Utilise social reach, activating campaigns through your audiences’ own social channels.
  • Understand the power of influencers, picking the right ones to champion your brand. 

Subscribe for the latest Bulbshare insights