We’ve seen so many articles published recently by various experts attempting to predict the future of marketing and what the next decade looks like. Everyone has their own opinion, but there a two common themes, trust and personalisation.

In a world where legislation has made it harder than ever to capture and engage consumers at a personal level, and where trust (as ever) can only be earned not bought, how do we combine two of the biggest trends for 2020 and make them deliver long-term brand building and short-term results?

It’s no secret that 85% of consumers are more likely to buy on the recommendation of others, so what can brands do to facilitate that endorsement at a higher level, delivering scale, uplift and results.

That’s where User Generate Content can help. Techniques we’ve learned over the last 10 years, combined with the understanding of today’s limitations of the darling perennial trend of personalisation, present lots of opportunities for brands to achieve meaningful engagement.

Finding ways to configure experiences that are personal, without the user having to give up their personally identifiable information will be where the future of UGC lies. 

Using experiences to build trust can be achieved in many ways, customer service, reviews and endorsements from influencers you follow or friends and family you trust.

There’s documented evidence about the value of it, and how it can raise awareness, drive consideration and deliver the ultimate goal, sales.

Reason’s to put customer centric content at the heart of your strategy:

  • 85% of people trust online reviews as much as friends.
  • UGC receives uplift of more than 50%
  • 75% of people feel that UGC makes content more authentic 
  • 42% of marketing professionals say that UGC is ‘Invaluable’ 
  • UGC is 20% more influential on purchase than all other media types (IPSOS)
  • For Millennials, UGC is 35% more memorable that other media and 50% more trusted than other media. (IPSO)

This table highlights how much people trust the product information they receive from different sources. User generated content comes out on top. Further emphasising its importance.

Table showing trust in professional versus peer reviews

Activating others to build long and short-term success

With UGC having proven its worth, a new tech enabled decade presents an opportunity for more, much more.

Learnings from the last decade open up a wealth of opportunity for activating loyalists and customers you have delighted with your product or service. Here’s a look at some of the landmark moments from the last 10 (ok 11) years.

The birth of Snapchat

The birth of UGC on a mass scale came with the launch of Snapchat in 2011, followed by the introduction of branded filters and lenses in 2015.

Branded lenses, filters and geo filters set out to create ad formats that people didn’t just tolerate, but they wanted to feature in and play with. Snapchat described its ad offering as a ‘natural extension of a consumer’ with many brands scrambling to be the ‘first’ to use the tech. With national geo-filters starting at £40k and national lenses £100k, it was the maverick marketing manager who dipped into their budget pots, seeking innovative and unique ways to engage younger audiences.

In the U.K alone, Snapchatters engaged with Geofilters over 40 million times a day across multiple day parts, national events, moments, shared spaces and events. They delivered contextual relevance and created a way to be a part of a Snapper’s conversation.Snapchat Geo filters and lenses

Lenses created an ‘intimate moment’ between brand and consumer; they were playful and fun and helped tell a brand story that showcased a product, extended an event or a TV narrative.

The ability to engage and enrapture, at scale, inspired millions of people across the globe.

The Taco Bell Cinco de Mayo Snapchat lens (said to be the top campaign in the app’s history) was viewed 224 million times in one day.

Taco Bell Cinco de Mayo Snapchat

Whilst Snapchat has recently come under criticism, with claims of stunted growth and failure, there are still 14 million users in the UK alone that play with the channel, including me.

14 million UK Snapchat users

“Snapchat created ad formats that people don’t just tolerate, but that they wanted to play with and be in”.

Mary Meeker ‘State of the Internet' 2016.

Going beyond broadcast

The demise of TV has been driven by the rise of digital, but the superpower is where the two combine. Amplifying the opportunity of TV by inviting audiences to be a part of your campaign extends the impact and reach of activity.

Three’s desire to establish their position as the network built for the internet led to the creation of its virgin brand campaign ‘Pony’ to launch Sing it Kitty. Tapping into the internet craze of lip-synced music videos. The launch broadcast spot turned a shared moment between a young girl and her cute pet kitten into an epic emotional journey.

People were invited to star in their own lip-synced version of the ad so they could share it personally.

The main spot was viewed 5.7 million times and over 1.5 million people made their own version of the ad in just three weeks.

Old Spice: Using personalisation to engage the media

Let’s not lie, if it wasn’t for the ‘Old Spice man’s’ cameo role, the brand would probably have remained the ‘gift for Grandpas’ for many years to come.

In 2010, after deciding they wanted to appeal to a younger audience and as a result of a revamp of its marketing strategy, Old Spice turned to humour and sex by using a male sex symbol, targeting the 70% of women who purchase male toiletry products daily.

The content featured an attractive man telling the female audiences that their man could ‘smell like him’ if he used Old Spice. Within 30 days of the launch of the campaign, Old Spice received over 40 million views on YouTube, and a 107% increase in body wash sales.

How could ‘the man, your man could smell like’ have engagement with his fans on a personal level?

Viewers went from being enlightened to deeply engaged when Old Spice decided to interact with their fans in the form of questions for the Old Spice man. Thousands of questions were asked, and 180 video responses were created featuring the Old Spice man which would interact with users on a more intimate and personal level, urging fans and celebrities to post questions or comments on Twitter. 'The Response' campaign successfully engaged and attracted attention from their target segments and included exchanges with celebrities like Demi Moore, Ellen DeGeneres and even a marriage proposal!

"Dear Huffington Post, have I got news for you” 😂

The campaign effectively engaged consumers by blending ingredients from paid, owned and earned media. Excellent content and storytelling at its best.

Cadbury Age UK: Brand Codes

In 2019, Cadbury aligned itself with Age UK to help the 225,000 people in the UK that go at least a week without having spoken to someone.

The partnership encouraged kind gestures to help towards old age loneliness. By removing the words from Dairy Milk packaging, Cadbury wanted to demonstrate how a small gesture can sweeten the life of a lonely person. Cadbury’s limited-edition bar saw 30p from every sale donated to Age UK.

Dairy Milk Age UK

The activity was supported by a social media campaign where people were encouraged to ‘donate their words’ too. By checking in on an elderly neighbour, dropping in on an old relative, or getting involved with Age UK initiatives across the country.

YouGov data shows that almost half of Brits like brands that are willing to get involved in a social issue, and with Generation Y wanting to align themselves with brands who are ethically and environmentally conscious, there are many motivations for brands to consider their position, carefully.

Tourism Queensland

In 2009, a relatively unknown travel company set out to increase international awareness of Queensland’s Islands of the Great Barrier Reef. The “Best Job in the World” campaign offered the opportunity for a genuine six-month work opportunity, living on the Great Barrier Reef and reporting back to the world.

But how did you enter? By creating your own content, of course. Millions tapped into the campaign and the universal desire to win the ultimate job that sounded too good to be true.

The challenge was to create a compelling central idea that would resonate with people across the world, across varying cultures and backgrounds. People were asked to submit a one-minute video of themselves applying for what was arguably, ‘The Best Job in the World’.

The results

7.6 million visits to the website were achieved resulting in 51 million page views and 34,684, one-minute video job applications from 201 countries were submitted.

“The role of Island Caretaker is a six-month contract, based on luxurious Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef. It's a live-in position with flexible working hours and key responsibilities include exploring the islands of the Great Barrier Reef to discover what the area has to offer.”

Island Caretaker

Ice Bucket Challenge and No Make Up Selfie: Head to head charitable actions

Building on the viral video and selfie trend, the ‘No Make Up Selfie’ raised £8 million for cancer research in six days which enabled 10 new clinical trials to be started as a result. It reached 80 per cent of UK adults, achieved 221,400 Facebook fans and 8,000 Twitter followers.


The Ice Bucket Challenge raised $115 million in total. Helping scientists discover a new gene tied to ALS. In the feel-good story of 2014, there was some negativity over claims it prevented other charities benefiting from donations. 28 million people joined in the challenge generating 2.4 million videos on social media.

Ice Bucket Challenge

YouGov data shows that many Brits are motivated to donate to charity because they believe in the cause (52%) and have had personal experience of the charity (19%), showing that a brand can make consumers feel emotively about an issue can encourage engagement. Brands must ensure their activity isn’t seen as tokenistic, which can have a negative impact.

You don’t have to spend big to go bold

The simple act of inclusion is sometimes all it takes to activate an audience.

In May 2018 when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married, the BBC partnered with Seenit to celebrate the Royal Wedding, developing a campaign that invited 50 members of the general public to Windsor Castle. Those invited shared their experience of the Royal Wedding through the BBC’s social media channels, creating 270 videos over three days.

Royal Wedding 2019
(Photo credit our MD and budding photographer, Jon Butler)

By inviting influencers, advocates and loyal customers to events, sometimes is all it takes to achieve shared experience across their own networks. It needn’t cost the earth, unlike this wedding.

User generated content to power customer service

Status Labs’ 2019 Reputation Management Report shows that an enormous 78% of consumers trust peer reviews over advertising messages. Driving advocacy via customers is the single biggest impact you can have on your business, often at the lowest cost. There are multiple benefits to reviews and recommendations.

*85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations

*Peers are now considered to be as credible as experts

*Positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more

*15% of consumers don’t trust businesses who don’t have reviews

*77% of consumers think that reviews older than 3 months aren’t relevant

*97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking every day

*Reviews are the second most powerful ranking factor for Google’s local pack

The Deloitte Consumer Review shows that 81 per cent of people read reviews and check ratings. More than one in three consumers contribute to online forums or comment on other people’s blogs. A smaller proportion are genuine content creators with one in ten publishing a blog or managing their own website.

Table showing the attributes to digital content

And don’t forget, it’s not just your bottom line at stake, it’s your recruitment budget too. Businesses with a bad reputation on average spend 10% more on recruitment.

Harlem Shake: Engagement, on a group level

You may or may not remember the Harlem Shake in 2012 that swept the nation…BBI_Content_V1

The Harlem Shake hit our digital screens in 2012 as the birth child of Filthy Frank. FF had taken the "Harlem Shake" by Brooklyn-based Latino producer Baauer and played off the wild dubstep drop, 15 seconds into the song.

The Harlem Shake hit 1 billion views on 24 March 2013, only 40 days after its first upload. From the day the first video was uploaded, the videos were accumulating at an average of more than 20 million views a day. The time it took for Harlem Shake to hit 1 billion views is half the time "Gangnam Style" took to hit 1 billion views.

Even the Manchester City squad took part!

Manchester City Harlem Shake

The Harlem Shake was a viral phenomenon that created an opportunity to engage groups of friends, colleagues and customers in a fun act to get together, act daft and share your silliness on social.

Alibaba Singles Day: Inspiring retail trends, globally

Singles’ Day, or Double 11 as it’s also known, is a one-day shopping event so BIG it eclipses both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and leaves Amazon’s Prime Day trailing in the dust.

It was originally started as a playful ‘anti valentines’ campus celebration for single Chinese people before being adopted by Alibaba in 2009. It has now become a day when everyone buys themselves gifts. Last year, sales exceeded $30 billion within a few hours. By comparison, Black Friday pulled in $6.2 billion in online sales in the US last year.

The opportunities for User Generated Content surrounding Singles Day are HUGE. Whether it’s a social media give away, a simple registration form or a photo contest. Brands can capitalise on everyone’s personal indulgences, tenfold.

Bridget Jones' Diary

Single like Bridget? Time to buy yourself a present.

Summary of findings

Advancements in tech enable us to create content that drives a deeper emotional and personal connection, without the user giving too much away. Exciting technological developments will enable users to personalise their journey and experiences, carving a new path for customer engagement, at a much deeper level.

Our approach to content

At Big Brand Ideas, we believe in putting content at the heart of everything we do. It’s the future of customer engagement yet the art is knowing what works when and where for maximum impact. We call it Intelligent Engagement.

We don’t approach client challenges in silos, everyone gets excited about challenges, enabling us to spot opportunities and ways to solve those problems across the board.

Collaboration is a key part of our journey, we work in partnership with our brands, because together we are better.

If you are interested in partnering with us, we’d love you to get in touch.



User-generated content (UGC), alternatively known as user-created content (UCC), is any form of content, such as images, videos, text and audio, that have been posted by users on online platforms such as social media.

By Abi Owers

Engagement Director

Social Media Engagement Content Creation

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