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Brands that dominate with user-generated content

Brands that dominate with user-generated content Ian Tenenbaum

The age of looking strictly to advertising agencies to ideate and create campaigns is over. Now, branding messages are becoming a creation of the consumers that use them: Eighty percent of online content in 2013 is user-generated. And with that number projected to only increase as more and more people get familiar with creating videos and sharing content, brands that look to creative consumers to shape their campaigns will come out far ahead of their competition.

Brands that dominate with user-generated content

In a recent survey, 64 percent of people were "highly likely" to purchase something that included their input. Combined with the 92 percent of people surveyed who said they rely on people they know when making purchasing decisions, it's easy to see that we are now in the age of the consumer. Over the last five years, there has been a 35 percent increase in user-generated content, and 70 percent of people stated that they feel most loyal to brands that listen to them.

We can now safely assume that the brands that listen to and interact with their consumers (or brand advocates) will be the ones seeing the most growth. And since brand advocates are likely to spend twice as much as regular consumers, a company would be foolish to not tap into them for the content used to market or create products.

Here are five collaborative campaigns that perfectly utilized user-generated content and brand advocates to achieve brand goals and ultimately generate sales.


Lay's potato chips recently made a splash in the world of crowdsourcing when it offered chip eaters a chance to create the newest Lay's flavor with the "Do Us A Flavor" campaign.

Consumers were asked by the brand to submit a flavor they would like to see Lay's create and, in turn, Lay's would reward the winning flavor creator either $1 million or 1 percent of the flavor's first year sales, whichever finished higher. The campaign succeeded beyond all expectation, with more than 3.8 million user submissions and unique flavor ideas like Cajun Squirrel and Chili and Chocolate. In the end, three finalists were chosen and one ultimate flavor was left standing with Cheesy Garlic Bread, beating its two contenders, Sriracha and Chicken & Waffles. This type of marketing is not only a great way to truly understand your consumers, but also you can expect a high percent of the 3.8 million participants to be picking up at least a bag or two of their selected flavor.

Mountain Dew

The Mountain Dew "Dewmocracy" campaign in 2009 also put flavor direction in the hands of consumers. To start the campaign, 50 diehard Mountain Dew drinkers tested seven experimental flavors and whittled the choices down to only three: Typhoon, WhiteOut, and Distortion. Mountain Dew even crowdsourced the marketing of the flavors by allowing 4,000 Mountain Dew fans to divide up into three "Flavor Nations" that would decide the flavor name, packaging, and even the ad agency that would create promotions for each. The 3 flavors hit shelves, and the rest was up to the general public. In the end, more than 2 million flavor votes were submitted and the winner was picked: WhiteOut, earning 44 percent of the total votes.

Where Lay's allowed users to create their own flavor ideas, Mountain Dew's "Dewmocracy" campaign showed that consumers could also be tapped to pick between varieties of preconceived flavor directions as opposed to creating something brand new.

Ben & Jerry's

Ben & Jerry's ice cream is delicious no matter what city you're in. However, the brand's latest crowdsourcing effort is attempting to put a distinct flavor to five different U.S. cities including San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, New York, and Washington, D.C. The campaign, which kicked off this June and will be complete at the end of the month, uses various factors to contribute ingredients to flavors that will be unique for each city.

Instead of simply asking city residents which ingredients they would want to see in their city's flavor, Ben & Jerry's is using seemingly random city factors to make the decision. In New York City, cabs headed uptown are votes for vanilla ice cream and those headed downtown are votes for peppermint. In San Francisco, tear-off flyers around the city present a chance for consumers to tally votes for either marshmallow or pretzel toppings. After the votes are finalized on June 30, the completely exclusive ice cream flavor will be served for one day only at community events in each city later this summer.

Samuel Adams

The powerful brewery Samuel Adams recently turned to Facebook to crowdsource a new flavor of their popular beer.

Brands that dominate with user-generated content

Users were asked to vote on different characteristics that the beer should have such as color, clarity, body, hops, and malt. The result is a "slightly hazy, medium bodied, amber ale with a spicy hop aroma, notes of toffee and a smooth, yet spicy finish," according to a press release by the brewery. B'Austin Ale, the name of the crowdsourced Sam Adams brew, was premiered at SXSW 2013 in Austin, Texas to much critical praise. Instead of bottling the beer and selling it year round though, Samuel Adams decided to keep the consumer interaction going by making the recipe and brewing method for the B'Austin Ale available to the public!


Coca-Cola has fully embraced user-generated content with several successful crowdsourcing campaigns in recent years. Most notable, however, was Coke's decision to give its marketing creative brief to consumers in North America, Asia, and Latin America instead of a high-powered ad agency, as is the norm. An incredible quantity of content was created with more than 3,600 submissions including animation, illustration, film, and print advertising. Out of those 3,600, 10 of the highest quality were chosen and shown to creative directors and other ad professionals from around the world with one winning ad eventually shown. Surprisingly, the winning ad, "Happiness is in the Air," was ranked in the top 10 percent of ads shown globally after its debut on Valentine's Day during "American Idol," proving that user-generated content can test very, very well.

And the best part: The only cost to Coca-Cola was a one-time cost to tap into the creative community and a prize for the first place winner!

User-generated content is quickly becoming the norm for brands that want to reach their consumers and brand advocates on a more personal level. And not only is it effective, but compared to other media it's incredibly efficient. And as we saw with Coca-Cola, it can test very well and compete with agency created campaigns. As more and more consumers are being given a voice and the tools to interact with brands, we will start to see more creative ways brands are taking notice. Marketers must realize that consumers are no longer satisfied with being just spoken to, but they want in on the conversation and to be more involved with their favorite brands.

Ian Tenenbaum is vice president of strategic relationships at Crowdtap.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Abstract illustration of social network around the world" image via Shutterstock.

Ian has over 10 years media experience and is currently the Vice President of Strategic Relationships for Crowdtap, a social media start up based in NYC that helps brands collaborate with their customers to build advocacy and gather insights.

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