15 Standout Examples of UGC Marketing Campaigns

May 8, 2019

UGC marketing campaigns

Whose opinion do you trust more when it comes to trying something new? Your friends’, or a brand’s?

Most of us would instantly choose the former. Chances are if you see a great photo one of your friends took of that cool new café around the corner, you’d go there much more quickly than if the photo popped up as an Instagram ad.

That’s why user-generated content (UGC) is so effective. By sharing real content that your fans have created, you’re giving potential customers a sneak peek into the authentic way people feel about you, rather than just giving your brand’s perspective.

…but now that you’re all revved up and ready to go create an amazing UGC campaign of your own, you might be wondering where to start.

So, we’ve compiled a list of 11 creative UGC marketing campaigns to give you ample inspiration, and help you start reaping the benefits of UGC. Let’s dive in!

Download our marketing campaign handbook for travel and tourism marketers


1 | Explore Georgia, #ExploreGeorgiaPup

Last autumn, Explore Georgia decided to reach out to an underserved demographic in the destination marketing market: millennial pet owners. By creating the #ExploreGeorgiaPup campaign, they featured photos of dogs from locals and visitors on social media, and encouraged people to share their own pup photos. They even sourced travel tips to create pet-friendly travel guides for various locations!

Focusing on man’s best friend paid off. Throughout this campaign, they saw over 3,000 uses of the hashtag in under a year, which led over 14,000 visitors to their website. They also reached over 10,000 followers on their pet-friendly travel Pinterest board.

Why we loved it

Who doesn’t love a good dog photo? Instagram is full of accounts of adorable pets (chances are you follow some yourself). #ExploreGeorgiaPup was successful because it connected:

  1. A popular trending topic
  2. The right social network
  3. The interests of their target market

So, by sharing photos of their state’s furriest friends, Explore Georgia was guaranteed to generate lots of love.

2 | #TheUPSStoreCustomer


Although you might not think a B2B brand that focuses on shipping would have a particularly strong Instagram game, you’d be surprised. Using the hashtag #TheUPSStoreCustomer, The UPS Store shares photos taken by their customers to give behind-the-scenes examples of just how they’re helping small businesses every day.


Why we loved it

This campaign showed that, even if you’re not a traditionally “sexy” brand, it’s still possible to showcase your customers’ experience in a visual, relatable way. By a) spotlighting customers and b) using visuals, they’re able to tell their brand story in a way that feels authentic and charming.

3 | Starbucks’ #WhiteCupContest

It’s hardly possible to write a post about creative UGC campaigns without mentioning this giant. Starbucks uses a lot of user-generated content in their marketing, but the most noteworthy campaign is probably their White Cup Contest. In 2014, the coffee chain asked customers to draw on their white cups and create a new design that would then be turned into a limited-edition tumbler — generating almost 4,000 entries in three weeks.


Why we loved it

By crowdsourcing their new design, it made the worldwide coffee giant feel more down to earth, and turned fans into content creators. And of course, excited Starbucks customers couldn’t wait to get their hands on the new cups, and snap photos of it to social media.

Plus, many UGC campaigns remain solely online. By turning the winning design into a cup that could actually be purchased in-store, Starbucks pushed the limits of UGC and showed that it can exist beyond social media promotions.

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4 | Ripley’s Believe It Or Not #RipleysGo Contest

Remember when Pokémon Go was a big deal? The craze was in full swing last July, leading Ripley’s Believe It Or Not (a popular attraction featuring collections of oddities) to create a UGC campaign centered around the app. They asked visitors to take photos using the virtual reality portion of the app whenever they saw a Pokemon and post them to social media with the hashtag #RipleysGo. Participating gave visitors the chance to win $100 randomly, and whoever found the rarest Pokémon at the end of the content would win $5,000.


Why we loved it

Rather than getting frustrated by the number of visitors pulling out their phones while checking out their attractions, Ripley’s turned it into an opportunity. They generated photos of their attraction while also inspiring visitors to continue exploring and walking around their attractions for as long as possible.

It also showed how well they knew their audience. By focusing on Pokemon Go, which was largely played by teens and young adults, they focused on the same market who’d be both visiting their attractions and likely to post about it on social media–leaving Ripley’s with lots of publicity, social shares, and foot traffic.

Download our marketing campaign handbook for travel and tourism marketers


5 | Destination Canada’s Found in Canada Video


Last year, Destination Canada (the organization in charge of promoting tourism in Canada) launched a huge video campaign to target the U.S. travel market. But instead of going out and capturing their own footage of their vast country, they tapped into the user-generated content that already existed on social media.

Within a period of 2 weeks, they’d acquired rights to over 2,500 photos and videos from social media, and turned them into a series of short, fun, and exciting videos. Best of all: these videos went viral, reaching over 3 million views within a week.

Why we loved it

Destination Canada stretched user-generated content beyond its original medium — they took social media content off of social media, stitched it together, and transformed it into outstanding videos.

What’s more, these videos were bound to go viral from the get-go. Everyone whose photo or video was featured in this video can’t help but feel a sense of ownership over the final product — and are excited to share it with their networks, meaning that it’s getting distributed again and again.

6 | Marc Jacobs’ #CastMeMarc


It might seem strange to associate this high-end fashion giant with user-generated content, but in 2014, this brand jumped into UGC with both feet. The designer announced that he wanted to cast “real people” in his next campaign, and asked fans to post selfies with the hashtag #CastMeMarc for a chance to be their next model… and after just 24 hours, they’d already generated over 15,000 uses of the hashtag, and a whole lot of social chatter around their brand!


Why we loved it

Although you might not have quite as many followers as Marc Jacobs, you can still generate lots of interest by giving your audience access to something exclusive. In this case, the brand recognized that their followers were already taking tons of selfies and would jump at the chance to share one with Marc Jacobs. This was a great PR move and gave Marc Jacobs a great boost in awareness.

Download our marketing campaign handbook for travel and tourism marketers


7 | Mint’s #MyMintMoment

UGC doesn’t just have to be about big occasions. Mint, a personal finance app, asked users to share the “moments where their life and finances align” and celebrate them through photos tagged with #MyMintMoment, for a chance to win $1,000. The contest allowed users to showcase and celebrate occurrences as large as a university graduation and as small as the purchase of a new dress, all while relating it back to the satisfaction they feel when correctly managing finances with Mint.


Why we loved it

By looking at the small purchases that their customers were able to celebrate, Mint gave an authentic glimpse into the benefit of budgeting — and by extension the value of their product. Highlighting the real wins their customers had (large or small), showed potential customers how they could benefit from using Mint, in a tangible way.

8 | Warby Parker’s #WarbyHomeTryOn


One of the biggest problems with online shopping is not knowing how the product will look in real life. Warby Parker, an online glasses retailer, gets around this problem with their #WarbyHomeTryOn program. Here’s how it works:

  1. Customers select 5 pairs of glasses
  2. They receive them through the mail (including free shipping!)
  3. They try them on, and snap pictures…
  4. And get their friends to vote on social media which pair suits them best!

By asking their customers to share photos of themselves wearing their glasses, they’re able to generate tons of real-time publicity as well as showcasing the ability to try on and return them.

Why we loved it

Using user-generated content is a great way to break down objections that potential customers might have to purchasing your product. By showing real users trying on their glasses, Warby Parker creates a culture of transparency as well as educates their audience about their home try-on program. If you’re also in a business that customers need to see to believe, get them to share their experiences to show exactly how it works in real life.

Download our marketing campaign handbook for travel and tourism marketers


9 | “Finding Awesome” with Nelson & Kootenay Lakes Tourism

The destination marketing organization was finding it difficult to attract the very specific type of visitor they catered to through traditional marketing techniques. By powering a new microsite entitled #FindingAwesome with ample visual UGC, they were able to demonstrate just how locals and visitors (existing members of their target demographic) “found awesome” in the region every day.

To encourage participation, the region ran two social media contests, which each garnered over 1500 entries, and shared the top entries on their blog.


Why we loved it

Sometimes looking at what your customers are interested in, rather than just their demographics, is key to developing a great campaign. In targeting UGC by persona, Nelson & Kootenay was able to attract the specific customer who would be most interested in what they had to offer. To do the same, it’s crucial to create a campaign or a hashtag that speaks to them, rather than making it generic or product-based.

10 | Disney Parks’ #shareyourears Campaign

In celebration of Mickey’s 90th birthday, Disney Parks’ #shareyourears campaign promised to donate $5 for every photo posted with the hashtag in collaboration with Make a Wish. Disney Parks collected UGC from people posting in support of the initiative, and made these images into a video that was chock full of UGC featuring fans with their own versions of the iconic mickey ears. 

Why we loved it

This campaign was not only a great way to drive engagement and brand loyalty, but also to raise funds for a good cause. Due to the overwhelming support, they actually doubled their initial pledge of $1 million to $2 million to “grant even more wishes to transform lives,” says Adweek.

11 |Loews' #TravelForReal Campaign

When Loews Hotels ran their #TravelForReal campaign a few years ago, they used UGC to power an entire marketing campaign. They turned individual photos into ads and created a microsite to display guest photos. 

Why we loved it

You know your audience loves looking at travel photos on their social media feeds, so why not bring these photos offscreen to capture their attention? Think outside the box and use UGC in unexpected places, like on a billboard (which can reach 71% of consumers who drive by) or bus shelters (which also have an impressive reach, with 92% of consumers seeing one each week).

12 |Visit Indy Gets A 3X Click-Through Rate With UGC

Some travel and tourism brands create social ad campaigns that are completely UGC focussed. For example, Visit Indy only serves content in its social and display ads that incorporate user-generated content. Now that their social buy is entirely comprised of UGC videos, they’ve achieved a 3x higher click-through rate.


Why we loved it

Social media users are so accustomed to ads at this point that they often tune them out. UGC makes your ads more authentic and compelling, making them blend in more seamlessly with a travelers’ social feed. This strategy captures user attention in a way that traditional ads might not.

Download our marketing campaign handbook for travel and tourism marketers


13 |Dollywood Increases Ticket Sales With UGC

Dollywood updated its website to incorporate more social media photos, through CrowdRiff galleries. The new photo galleries on their website demonstrate the full range of experiences available, through the eyes of the visitors that enjoy them. Not only that, but the images also act as a catalyst for ticket sales. Dollywood uses CrowdRiff calls-to-action, which embed links over imagery that lead to the ticket sales page. Since then, the park has sold over $90,000 in tickets through the gallery CTAs! 

Why we loved it

Whether you link to another page with more information, a partner website, or a booking portal, CTAs can bump up your conversions or direct booking revenue. Plus, you can track which CTAs drive the most action, so you always know which specific visuals or types of images are most effective.

14 |Universal Orlando's #uoinstameet

Universal Orlando has successfully hosted several Instameets; their hashtag #uoinstameet has close to 1500 search results on Instagram. Since the park is usually extremely busy, it would be impossible for the photographers to capture these quality photos without the coordinated Instameet. 

Why we loved it

An “Instameet” - an event where select social media superstars come together at a specific time and location to network, shoot, and share content - is a great way to facilitate the creation of UGC, and generate social buzz for your brand.

15 |Kansas' #NoPlaceLikeKS

Kansas Tourism ran a #noplacelikeKS contest, where participants could submit their best photos for a chance to be featured in a national ad campaign. (See, we told you that visitors are always willing to give rights for a chance at photo-fame!) 

Why we loved it

Social media photo contests are a fun way to engage with your audience and build a stronger online community around your brand. By encouraging visitors to share more visuals with your hashtag, hosting a photo contest helps generate a huge amount of UGC that can be used in your marketing. Throughout the contest, you’ll also extend your brand’s reach to include participants’ audience and followers. 

Creating User Generated Content Campaigns That Work For You

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that the focus in UGC marketing campaigns should always be the people posting it. The most successful campaigns aren’t aimed at pushing a product, but instead about letting the authentic love people have for your brand shine through and inspire other potential customers too.

Your fans are already creating everything you need… now it’s time to go out there and find it!

Read our Guide to UGC for Travel and Tourism Brands, an eBook created in partnership with Skift. It’s full of actionable ideas, tips on getting rights to photos, and examples from global museum, airline, resort, and destination brands.

Download-Guide UGC-Travel and Tourism Brands

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