The Next Phase in User Generated Content and Marketing

By Jason Norris, Head of Media

UGC (user-generated content) marketing has proven to be a boon for brands. As its name indicates, UGC means users actively participate in its creation/generation, whether for personal purposes, or to interact with a company, brand, sports team, artist, or entertainer, or what have you. Within the context of marketing, those users can be prospective customers who actively engage with a brand and its content. Sometimes they are compelled to share that content or captured experiences with others. Think of it as a digital form of word-of-mouth.

UGC marketing can no longer be discussed without ignoring another recent trend—how much people are growing to love AR (Augmented Reality). How can AR’s popularity be leveraged by brands to power user-generated content marketing?

AR—Engagement through Participation

We live in a world where AR is not a disruptor—it’s become ubiquitous and a part of our lives. On Snapchat alone, about 200 million people use AR daily through lenses, stickers, and other elements. For Facebook and Instagram, that number is triple (a lot of that is just fun faces and ways to take pictures, but it augments how people appear online).

Platforms have taken note and have evolved greater ways for users to get involved by mixing the virtual or mobile phone space with what you can do in real life. For example, Pokémon Go gets people to look for virtual characters in real places. Snap and Instagram have games that you can project onto your environment (like the surface of a table, for example).

Why do people love AR? AR bridges the gap between virtual and real while allowing users to create. That presents brands with a unique opportunity to generate tremendous engagement among these audiences.

The Brand Play in AR-Driven User Generated Content

Augmented reality is all about engagement through participation. Thus, marketers have used it to serve branded content that is relevant, timely—the type of content that users would want to engage with. For example, if someone likes watching football on their iPad, the amount of dwell time that a viewer would have with a clothing sports brand through a sticker or banner ad can only last seconds. Compare that to having the user figure out where to position his iPad in his room to have Patrick Mahomes appear in it. The amount of dwell time with that experience (sponsored by the team or league or apparel company) increases to minutes. Now think about any event: like a concert, a wedding, or even a 10-year-old’s birthday party. All those instances work well for AR to provide a potential customer with a fun, interactive experience while associating the brand with that experience.

Beside awareness, brands could use AR to facilitate shopping or drive acquisition through incentives like coupons or discounts. For example, if you are at a grocery store and direct your phone to scan the QR code on a cereal box, you could be prompted to open an animation that suddenly appears that gives you $2 off your next purchase. Likewise, if you are at a theater to watch the new Marvel movie, that theater could make your favorite superhero show up in the seat next to you via AR and encourage you to download their app and get large popcorn or something else.


The next step is amplification. The user has created and participated in your content, perhaps even modified it—now he wants to share it with everyone he knows. As soon as they share it, that’s where word-of-mouth comes in, and there are 200 times the number of people who see it on their phones. That is the power of multiplying the effect of word-of-mouth, where a user has a fun, creative experience that cause to go viral.

These are some of the scenarios that brands could expect as they seek to generate more user engagement. And that engagement will be caused by how much brands can get prospective customers to participate and have a say in branded experiences.