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Why UGC campaigns may be the answer to the biggest challenges CMOs face this year

Users generated content can help marketing leaders create authentic customer connections while reducing marketing spend.

6 min read

MarketingMarketing Strategy

UGC Content Marketing

CMOs are caught between a rock and a hard place. Because of the volatile economic climate and rising inflation costs, many are trimming their marketing spend. Meanwhile, customer expectations continue to grow as consumers expect brands to meet them wherever they are across their preferred apps and social channels. Essentially, marketing leaders are trying to optimize the resources they have while searching for creative ways to connect with their audiences without sabotaging their marketing budget.  

In fact, Gartner reports 75% of CMOs are being asked to “do more with less” this year and are feeling pressure to cut their martech investments. But, after surveying more than 150 CMOs, marketing VPs, and marketing directors earlier this year, Forrester found that more than a third are planning to reduce their OOH ad spend. Another 32% said they were cutting TV and video advertising and 31% reduced their audio advertising budget. In contrast, less than 15% of the marketing leaders surveyed by Forrester said they planned to cut their marketing technology budget or social media marketing spend. 

Today’s savvy marketers realize social media marketing is a nonnegotiable tactic, along with the tools required to implement and monitor digital ad campaigns. Even during economic downturns, CMOs know that social channels – and the martech used to connect with audiences across those channels – are not only integral to building long term customer relationships, but a necessity to compete against brands of all sizes. But still, how do you optimize your social media marketing efforts when your campaign budgets are shrinking? 

The answer may be as simple as user generated content (UGC) – and it’s all hiding in your most loyal customers’ photo app. 

What if your most cost-effective campaign tactic was also your most impactful? 
User generated content, or UGC, has two benefits. First, the cost to produce UGC is minimal since you’re relying on your best customers to create images and videos of your product or brand. In fact, it’s estimated that leaning into UGC content can save a company on average up to 72,000 dollars annually. How? Often, the ads create themselves with UGC – all you need is a review process, possibly some slight editing, and a platform that enables you to both source compelling UGC and then leverage it across your various marketing channels. 

The second major benefit of UGC is that consumers love it. According to a consumer survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Emplifi, more than 50% of consumers always or regularly research online pictures or videos of real people using the product before purchasing from a brand. And it’s not just pictures or videos they want: 56% of consumers said they would not buy from a brand without reading user ratings and reviews first. 

What’s more, 87% say that real-life user ratings and reviews have the biggest impact on purchasing decisions. Consumers trust UGC as a source of truth compared to flashy campaigns. A brand who puts their customers in the spotlight proves they are confident in their own products and in turn help influencer purchasing decisions among customers who may be on the fence. 

But will it scale? UGC’s hidden power is how usable it is
As marketers, we are obsessed with scale, and why shouldn’t we be? The aim is to recreate – and scale – the original results for bigger, broader audiences once we have figured out how to do something efficiently and effectively. UGC’s hidden power is in its ability to scale, enabling marketers to expand exposure across new platforms and extend its reach to new audience segments.  

Consumers crave real-life content. They want brands to be authentic and show their products used by people, not models. UGC has a greater impact on audiences because of its authenticity. It also works across platforms and channels: UGC is at home on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and any other social media platform. But it also can be used on a brand’s website, in email marketing campaigns, and on marketplace product pages. (Who doesn’t scroll down to see “customer images” before buying a new outfit on Amazon?) 

Even better, UGC has the potential to move beyond the campaign. Because of its authentic-nature, UGC is more compelling to consumers and has a greater chance of earning engagement with target audiences – in addition to increasing loyalty. 

After collecting both visual and text-based UGC through their online checkout process, Navy Hair Care leveraged the content in shoppable Instagram posts and saw a 73% engagement rate. The brand has a constant stream of new content now, garnering an average of 360 content assets from customers per week – content they’ve used on social platforms and to populate product pages, the brand’s homepage, and inspiration galleries on their website. This demonstrates how versatile UGC really is as it can be leveraged on an array of digital channels outside of just social media. 

When it comes to UGC, it’s a win-win-win scenario
The reality is that the most compelling content you can leverage, that has the best chance of making an authentic connection with your customers, is potentially the least expensive to create. By tapping into UGC marketers can scale content for campaigns like never before, ultimately creating a streamlined process that can be replicated for any campaign. It’s a win-win-win all around: for the marketing organization, your customers, and the CFO who requested you tighten your marketing spend. 

The thing about having to be extremely resourceful and do more with less is that you find out that the solution to your problem is sometimes more impactful than what you originally sought to create. This is what makes UGC so powerful. It enables an authentic connection with your customers while incurring minimal costs. For CMOs being asked to trim their marketing spend, it’s time to lean into UGC and discover all the ways it can be used to drive measurable results. Ultimately, once it starts working and generating more revenue, you may just get back the budget you had to cut.


Zarnaz Arlia is a  global marketing executive with a demonstrated history of driving growth and profitability in B2B marketing environments. Zarnaz  is responsible for all marketing functions at Emplifi, from vision and strategy to execution and has a strong track record of building global businesses and bringing new products to market with the ability to link business strategies to customer adoption. Prior to Emplifi, Zarnaz held senior marketing leadership roles at Sitecore, Adobe, Trifacta and Neustar. You can follow Zarnaz on Twitter or Linkedin.


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