10 Impressive User-Generated Content Campaigns to Inspire Your Brand in 2024

In today‘s digital landscape, consumers are increasingly tuning out traditional advertising in favor of authentic, relatable content. This is where user-generated content (UGC) comes in. UGC refers to any content—such as text, images, videos, reviews, etc.—that is created by a brand‘s customers or fans, rather than by the brand itself.

By showcasing real people using and engaging with their products and services, brands can boost credibility, foster community, and drive purchasing decisions more effectively than with branded content alone. Consider these statistics:

  • 90% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support (up from 86% in 2017) (Stackla, 2019)
  • 79% of people say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions (Stackla, 2023)
  • Ads that incorporate UGC have a 73% higher click-through rate compared to those without (Stackla, 2023)
  • Almost 80% of people say user-generated content has a high impact on their purchase behavior (Business Wire, 2022)

Clearly, UGC offers major benefits for brands—but creating a successful campaign takes some strategic planning. To give you inspiration for your own UGC initiatives, we‘ve rounded up 10 examples of brands that knocked it out of the park with creative, engaging campaigns across social media, web, and beyond.

1. Starbucks – #RedCupContest

Each holiday season, Starbucks launches its #RedCupContest, inviting customers to share photos of their decorated red holiday cups on Instagram for a chance to win a gift card. In 2020, the campaign generated over 40,000 submissions.

The #RedCupContest is effective for several reasons:

  • It creates excitement and buzz around a limited-edition product
  • The incentive of a prize motivates people to participate
  • It taps into consumers‘ creativity and gets them to engage more deeply with the brand
  • Starbucks is able to collect a huge amount of UGC to use in its holiday marketing

Starbucks Red Cup Contest

2. Apple – #ShotOniPhone

To showcase the impressive camera capabilities of its iPhones, Apple launched the #ShotOniPhone campaign, encouraging users to share their best iPhone photos on social media using the hashtag.

Apple selected some of the most stunning and creative images to feature on billboards, in commercials, and on its Instagram page—which now has over 27 million followers. The campaign was hugely successful in a few key ways:

  • Leveraging Apple‘s passionate fan community to generate authentic content
  • Demonstrating the quality of the iPhone camera through real-world examples
  • Producing unique, eye-catching visuals to use across marketing channels
  • Positioning the iPhone as a tool for creativity, not just functionality

Since the original #ShotOniPhone campaign, Apple has launched several variations around specific phone features, like #NightmodeChallenge and #ShotOniPhone Macro.

3. GoPro Awards

GoPro has built a thriving community of adventurers and filmmakers who use its cameras to capture incredible footage. The GoPro Awards program invites users to submit their best photos and videos for a chance to be featured across GoPro‘s channels and win cash prizes of up to $5,000.

GoPro Awards

This ongoing UGC campaign has been tremendously successful for GoPro, providing the brand with a constant stream of stunning, authentic visual content. In fact, GoPro Credits, which are awarded to users when their content is shared by GoPro, have been used by creators in over 150 countries, and over 500,000 submissions are made per year.

The GoPro Awards program works because it:

  • Incentivizes users to submit only their best content by offering desirable prizes
  • Gives passionate customers recognition and exposure, fostering loyalty
  • Showcases GoPro‘s products in exciting, real-world scenarios
  • Provides an enormous supply of UGC to fuel GoPro‘s marketing efforts

4. Aerie – #AerieREAL

Intimate apparel brand Aerie has built a massive community of loyal customers with its #AerieREAL campaign, celebrating body positivity and diversity. Aerie invites fans to share unretouched photos of themselves on social media using #AerieREAL for a chance to be featured across Aerie‘s channels and even appear in a Times Square billboard.

Since the campaign launched in 2014, the #AerieREAL hashtag has been used over 265,000 times on Instagram alone. The authentic, relatable content submitted by customers has helped Aerie differentiate itself from competitors like Victoria‘s Secret and achieve double-digit sales growth.

The success of #AerieREAL comes down to a few factors:

  • Promoting body acceptance and inclusivity, which resonates deeply with Aerie‘s target audience of young women
  • Encouraging customers to become part of a movement and community by sharing their own untouched photos
  • Featuring diverse, relatable bodies in marketing materials, rather than just professional models
  • Creating an emotional connection with the brand that goes beyond products alone

5. Adobe – #Adobe_Perspective

To showcase the creative possibilities of its software products, Adobe launched the #Adobe_Perspective contest on Instagram. Users were challenged to remix a default image using Adobe tools and share their creations for a chance to win prizes and be featured on Adobe‘s social channels.

Adobe Perspective Contest

The campaign was a huge hit, generating over 12,000 submissions and 145 million impressions across social platforms. By inviting users to put their own spin on a common image, Adobe inspired an outpouring of creativity while demonstrating the power and versatility of its products.

  • Tapped into users‘ desire to express themselves and have their work recognized
  • Allowed Adobe to collect a diverse array of content showcasing its software capabilities
  • Drove social engagement and reach by getting users to share the contest with friends
  • Showcased Adobe as a brand that empowers and celebrates creativity

6. Doritos – Legion of the Bold

To promote the launch of its Doritos Jacked chips, PepsiCo created an interactive YouTube campaign called "Legion of the Bold." The ambitious effort included a series of online challenges inviting fans to create and submit original content, such as music videos, spicy food dares, and bold fashion choices, for a chance to be included in a culminating Super Bowl ad.

The campaign generated over 2,000 user-submitted videos and 36 million views on YouTube. By gamifying the contest with increasingly difficult challenges and bigger prizes, Doritos was able to drive deep engagement and social sharing.

What made Legion of the Bold effective:

  • Leveraging the popularity of online challenges and contests to spark participation
  • Providing a clear journey and rewards to keep users engaged over time
  • Allowing fans to play an active role in shaping the brand‘s big Super Bowl moment
  • Creating a wealth of video content that was highly "snackable" and shareable

7. Marc Jacobs – #CastMeMarc

Fashion brand Marc Jacobs has periodically used UGC contests to find fresh faces for its ad campaigns, rather than professional models. In 2014, the brand launched #CastMeMarc, inviting fans to submit videos on Instagram explaining why they should be chosen.

The contest generated nearly 15,000 submissions and over 40,000 mentions of the hashtag. Marc Jacobs selected 30 finalists, who were flown to New York for live casting calls. Ultimately, nine winners were chosen to model in the Spring 2015 ad campaign.

Marc Jacobs CastMeMarc Campaign

  • Gave fans an exciting opportunity to engage directly with a luxury brand
  • Created authentic, buzzworthy content by getting "real people" involved in the casting process
  • Generated a wealth of video submissions that Marc Jacobs could repurpose
  • Produced an ad campaign that felt fresh, diverse, and relatable

8. Coca-Cola – Share a Coke

Coca-Cola‘s Share a Coke campaign, which launched in 2011, is one of the most iconic examples of user-generated content. The brand printed popular names and phrases on Coke bottle labels and encouraged customers to share photos of themselves with their personalized drinks on social media.

The campaign was a massive success, with over 500,000 photos shared within the first year. Coke has since expanded the initiative to include more names, song lyrics, and holiday phrases, keeping the concept fresh and engaging over time.

Why did Share a Coke work so well? A few reasons:

  • Personalization: Having your name on a Coke bottle feels special and shareable
  • Collectibility: Customers wanted to find and photograph all the different names/phrases
  • Sociability: The campaign encouraged people to "share a Coke"—and a photo—with friends and family
  • Nostalgia: Coke tapped into people‘s positive associations with the brand and childhood memories

9. Lay‘s – Do Us a Flavor

Since 2012, Lay‘s has run its popular "Do Us a Flavor" contest, inviting fans to dream up and submit their own unique potato chip flavors. Each year, Lay‘s chooses a handful of finalist flavors to produce and sell in stores, and customers vote on their favorites to determine a winner.

The Do Us a Flavor campaign has generated millions of flavor ideas from around the world and helped Lay‘s create some of its most buzzed-about products, like Cheesy Garlic Bread, Wasabi Ginger, and Crispy Taco.

The success of Do Us a Flavor comes down to a few key things:

  • Gamification: Customers are motivated to participate by the chance to win prizes and see their flavor creation on store shelves
  • Engagement: The voting process gets fans invested in the outcome and encourages social sharing/discussion
  • Innovation: UGC helps Lay‘s identify new flavor trends and create products people want to buy
  • Buzz: Unique, limited-edition flavors drive earned media and word of mouth

10. Airbnb – Airbnb Stories

Airbnb has always relied on user-generated content (in the form of listing photos and reviews) to power its platform. But a few years ago, the company took UGC to the next level with Airbnb Stories—a section of its website featuring inspiring, user-submitted travel stories and photos.

Anyone can submit a story to be considered for publication, and Airbnb pays contributors whose pieces are selected. The stories are organized by theme, like "Solo Travel" and "Family Vacations," making them easy for users to browse.

With Airbnb Stories, the company has been able to:

  • Showcase the diversity and personality of its host/guest community
  • Tap into the power of storytelling to inspire wanderlust and bookings
  • Provide valuable resources and inspiration for people planning trips
  • Drive organic search traffic with unique, high-quality content
  • Build an emotional connection with customers beyond transactions

Bonus: UGC Tips from Emplifi‘s Chief Strategy Officer

To get some additional insights into what makes a great UGC campaign, I spoke with Emplifi‘s Chief Strategy Officer, Kyle Wong. Here are three key pieces of advice he shared:

1. Make it easy for customers to participate

"The best UGC campaigns are simple, fun, and intuitive for customers to get involved in. Don‘t make people jump through too many hoops or follow a long list of rules. Make the ‘ask‘ crystal clear and the submission process seamless."

2. Amplify UGC across all your marketing channels

"Once you‘ve collected UGC from your campaign, don‘t just let it live on the initial platform. Showcase the best submissions across your website, emails, ads, and other channels. This not only extends the reach and impact of your campaign, but also demonstrates to participants that you value their content."

3. Focus on authenticity over perfection

"The magic of UGC is that it‘s real and relatable. Don‘t get hung up on finding the most polished or professional-looking content. Embrace the diversity and personality of your customers‘ submissions—that‘s what will resonate with other customers."

Why UGC Matters for Brands

In today‘s digital age, consumers are bombarded with more branded content than ever before. Cutting through the noise and capturing people‘s attention is a major challenge for marketers.

That‘s where UGC comes in. By featuring authentic, user-created content in their marketing efforts, brands can:

  • Build trust and credibility: UGC serves as social proof and helps consumers see the real-world value of a product or service
  • Foster loyalty and affinity: When brands celebrate their customers‘ content, it makes those customers feel valued and more connected to the brand
  • Drive conversions: UGC has been shown to deliver higher conversion rates and average order values compared to brand-created content
  • Stand out from competitors: UGC campaigns can help brands differentiate themselves and create buzz in a crowded marketplace

As the examples above illustrate, there are countless creative ways to incorporate UGC into your marketing mix. Whether you run a full-blown contest, encourage customers to share photos and reviews, or collect content from influencers, the key is to find an approach that aligns with your brand and resonates with your audience.

One trend we‘re seeing is brands using UGC to power their e-commerce experiences. Displaying customer photos and reviews on product pages has been shown to increase conversion rates by as much as 161% (Yotpo, 2021).

Brands are also getting more sophisticated with how they source and manage UGC at scale. Investing in a tool like Pixlee or Yotpo can help you streamline the process of collecting, curating, and getting permissions to use customer content.

Ultimately, user-generated content is all about celebrating your customers and giving them a platform to share their experiences with your brand. By putting your customers at the heart of your marketing efforts, you can build deeper relationships, earn more trust, and drive real business results.

So start brainstorming your next UGC campaign—your customers (and your bottom line) will thank you.