On Brand- Aligning UGC with Your Goal

Sanika Rahul Savdekar's profile picture Sanika Rahul Savdekar | 07 Jul 2020

How can brands shape the UGC they advertise, and how does aligning UGC with brand ideas help?

A decade ago, brands ran expensive campaigns on social media to build brand influence. They spent millions on carefully planned content, focussing on traffic and not impact. As a result, an unfavourable response was received, with barely any return on investment.  

Kaplan and Haenlein (2009) define user-generated content, or UGC, as “the various forms of media content that are publicly available and created by end-users.” User Generated Content revolutionized the way brands looked at marketing solutions. It answered questions on the target demographic, quality of interactions, and the catalysts of engagement.  

Brands must be conscious that UGC only supports the campaign’s cornerstone: the idea. To make UGC content a success, brands must convey the their unique identity and product while appealing to its followers to boost brand visibility.

The Chanllenge

Branding in today digital age is indeed becoming increasingly complex due to consumers’ newly acquired power of influence. The success of consumer-created UGC is more than selling an idea- it is selling a lifestyle. When consumers look at influencers achieving goals with the product, they create the desire in themselves to make it a part of their daily lives. For brands, maintaining the authenticity while adhering to personal goals is difficult. 

For luxury brands, UGC content poses a greater challenge. Internet automatically implies mass access to information and mass appeal, both features that are difficultly compatible with luxury companies’ value and management practices.

Making a marketing campaign on-brand is a challenge for many, but some brands have done it exceptionally well. In this article, I talk about Calvin Klein’s #MyCalvins and Burberry’s Art of the Trench, and analyse what helped them keep the initiative true to the roots.

BURBERRY- Art of The Trench

In 2009, Burberry brought high-end fashion to the masses with its ground-breaking Art of the Trench campaign. To celebrate its iconic trench coat, the brand invited the public to upload pictures of people donning the retailer’s best-selling item. The company launched a micro site, and encouraged its customers to post personal photos with them in a Burberry Trench. Users were encouraged to comment, ‘like’ images and share the photos via social media and e-mail. Burberry curated the best submissions on the company’s microsite and Facebook page. From there, users could browse by category, and comment on or share the images with their friends.

Within a year, Burberry’s Facebook page had gained more than a million followers, unprecedented in those times. Burberry recorded a 50% growth in e-commerce sales every year following that. In 2014 the campaign was taken to international markets, particularly Asia. The reintroduction video has more than 1.4 million views, while the micro site shows nearly 25 million views to date.


Brooke Shields made the hashtag #MyCalvins popular when he whispered, “Nothing comes between me and my Calvin’s” in a 1980’s commercial.

Calvin Klein revived that tagline and took it to Instagram. Spread across social media, Calvin Klein advertised using the follower base of social media heavyweights like like Kendall Jenner, Justin Bieber, and Kendrick Lamar. Calvin Klein gave these celebrities a chance to explain to ordinary followers how a simple piece of clothing added value to their life. 

The company then extended the campaign to the general audience. They asked its fans to fill in the campaign line “I_____in #MyCalvins, with submissions of photos wearing Calvin Klein products through the #MyCalvins hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and their website – and the images were featured throughout their digital presence. Thousands of their fans and followers took photos and posted their briefs, making the campaign go viral. In just a few months, over 500,000 photos were tagged on Instagram.

What Did They Do Right?

Both Brands first adopted social media mechanisms by allowing users to create posts and the users themselves to react to them. What makes it stand out is that the truly creative input is given by the consumer itself, making Calvins synonymous with their favourite activity. They let third party approval strengthen brand image. This works in two ways - firstly, the user-generated content brings return traffic, increasing the retention rate of the MP, while also bringing in new users; secondly, loyal fans resonate with the brand and share this social currency within their networks.

Burberry and CK created a buzz around their products by running a simple contest- uploading their product in the ideal environment, complemented with the perfect Hashtag. When viewing the image galleries on their site, easy categorizing (age, gender, item) added to the experience. Clicking on the image led you to the product details and an opportunity to buy it.

Calvin Klein poured most of their social media efforts into millennial dominated social media, like Instagram and Snapchat, posting live and fresh content daily. They identified their target demographic as millennials and attached themselves to the social media with maximum millennial presence. Using the millennial themes of empowerment, sexuality, and pop culture, CK has kept their content specific with the site while keeping a similar theme running across them all. By doing this, they manage to keep their brand identity strong enough- even seeing the signature font instantly reminds the consumer of the brand. 

Burberry also capitalized on festivals and cultural events.  It launched festive campaigns and bespoke product assortments in China to celebrate Lunar New Year and Golden Week. The campaigns were supported by social media initiatives, and an exclusive WeChat messaging experience that resulted in the highest level of content engagement on the platform for a Burberry campaign to date. By launching the campaign earlier than holiday season, it reached highest audience interaction at the right time. 

Both campaigns connect well-known celebrities with typical consumers, making it appear that they’re “just like us”. Seeing users wear a signature trench coat or loungewear in their daily lives helped both brands add an element of relatability to their products. By allowing consumers to shop these ‘looks’, they have made the perfect lifestyle achievable.  

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is this: user-generated content shows your products in a good light and helps marketing appeal to the user while staying on-brand. Used correctly, the benefits are difficult to duplicate, and UGC remains one of the most effective marketing tools to have. The increasing digital population is a key reason for people to shift to influencer campaigns, and brands like Gucci, Mercedes Benz and Christian Louboutin are fast jumping on the train. If luxury companies keep their UGC on-brand, consumers will aspire and buy into to a higher life- a life with their products. 

Sanika Rahul Savdekar's profile picture

Sanika Rahul Savdekar

Digital Marketing Specialist at FavourUp. Sanika has previously worked with NGOs, formulating and implementing feasible solutions. The highlight of Sanika's career so far has been changing the lives of female students in Nuh, Mewat through SRFF's education program. She is currently studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the University of Warwick. While most of her experience is in marketing, content writing and data sustainability, she is incredibly passionate about spreading love through dance.

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