10 Successful User-Generated Campaigns + How to Adapt Your Current Strategy

November 17, 2023

With user-generated content coming in all shapes and sizes nowadays, It's important that you and your brand recognize when you need to use it. It's one of the best methods to create an authentic buzz for your new campaign. Having said that, there have been plenty of failures in the past when using UGC. The last thing you want is for your brand new ad campaign to be perceived as weird or cringe, or even worse, to be turned into a meme by the younger generation. In this article, we'll take a dive into what a successful UGC ad campaign looks like and how you can adapt your current strategy. 


Without knowing it, Apple released one of the most iconic ad campaigns ever produced by a technology company. The "shot on iPhone" ad campaign is one of the most iconic series of printed ads, billboards, and TV commercials ever produced. They had beautiful images that captured the user's attention and were, as you probably guessed, shot on iPhone.  

Photo on the billboard by Zak Noyle

Initially highlighting the iPhone 6's capabilities in 2015, the brand created a simple hashtag (#shotoniphone) that attracted the attention of millions of iPhone users. This captured iPhone users around the world, not only from famous or notable people but from the average user as well. It was so popular they started the challenge again when launching the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max in 2022, challenging the users to capture macro-leveled photos, which would later be judged and awarded. With over 29 million shot-on-iPhone hashtags floating around on Instagram, it was a huge success.


How to adapt

This social media campaign is a great example of how you can leverage your audience and customer behaviour to great success. Although you may not get overnight stardom, you can start by making the consumer feel wanted and giving them a chance to showcase their own work. This way, you can foster your own sense of trust, authenticity, and, most importantly, community building, making it an unforgettable campaign.

Calvin Klein

Originating in the 1980s when Brooke Shields famously said, "Nothing comes between me and my Calvin's" the brand gave a subtle but much-needed revival to the tagline In February of 2014. Calvin Klein introduced a fill-in-the-blank ad campaign for their followers and wearers. The simple yet effective tagline was "I feel ___ in #MyCalvins." In over a month, the hashtag quickly generated over five hundred thousand hashtags and generated enough UGC for many years to come.


How to Adapt

Create simple but fun contests using your brand's products that also include the consumer's opinion about your brand. Then, try to create a clean tagline turned into a hashtag that customers can use when they post. 


Adobe is one of the most commonly used software services to date. They offer a wide range of tools to help online digital creators take their ideas and turn them into something real. Although Adobe can be great, its line of software comes with a big learning curve and can take years to master. That's when Adobe had a great idea. Being no newbie to the world of online marketing, Adobe created the Art Maker Series. This series invited digital creators to showcase their skills by posting a short video, thus showing millions of others how to use the software as well. To this day, across all their social media platforms, the company still uses user-suggested videos in product marketing to create various other endorsements. 

How to Adapt

You should always encourage your consumers to share their experience using your product, successful or not. These shared images and posts can give future customers an idea of what to expect when they purchase from you. 


A simple yet effective way to get your community to engage with you. A simple repost hashtag (#BMWrepost) was made to encourage drivers to show off their beloved BMWs. It doesn't get simpler than this: BMW gets completely free and transparent UGC from a loyal fan base, and the driver gets a chance to showcase their sweet ride to millions of users. 

How to Adapt

Always remember that people love to brag and show off their newly made purchases. By giving them an avenue to boast, you're bound to have some customers drop your hashtag.   


KFC aimed to boost demand for their new chicken sandwich by extending their campaign to the wider community in a memorable and entertaining manner. Leveraging their active TikTok fan base, they collaborated with content creators to feature the Internet's beloved granny, Lili Hayes, as the face of the campaign. With her wittiness and charm, Lili, portraying Colonel Sanders, showcased the scrumptious details of the sandwich in the debut TopView, reaching her 4.4 million followers and creating engaging TikToks.

How to Adapt

Remember, it's okay to hire influencers when making UGC, but there is one key thing to remember: don't force a character to play a role. As you can see, Lili was made for this ad campaign, and nobody could have done it better. Don't rush out and find the first influencer to take your money cause they will. Instead, take your time and find someone that fits the exact look you're going for; it'll make an enormous difference.

National Geographic 

In 2015, National Geographic garnered over 13,000 entries in a global photography competition focused on people, places, and nature. This initiative highlighted the brand's emphasis on creativity and its longstanding reliance on photography for promotions. The annual contest attracts leading photographers worldwide. Notably, National Geographic extended its impact with a photography contest for kids in National Geographic Kids and a separate event in National Geographic Traveler. 

For those eager to showcase their work and potentially be spotlighted on National Geographic platforms, they can follow @NatGeoYourShot and tag their photos with #YourShotPhotographer for the chance to be featured.

How to Adapt

The key takeaway when reviewing this ad campaign should be photography for free promotion and, more importantly, any form of UGC for free promotion. This is certainly something that will never change in the online space of social media. 


In 2014, Starbucks initiated the #WhiteCupContest, urging customers to artistically decorate their white cups. The winning designs became templates for future cup designs, fostering a sense of inspiration and allowing individuals to contribute unique art to ceramic ware. 

Buoyed by this success, Starbucks launched the #RedCupcontest challenge in 2016, receiving positive customer feedback and generating significant social media engagement on Twitter and Instagram. It only happens in the month of December and has generated a staggering amount of posts. The inclusive nature of these contests, directly tied to customers' favorite products, made the strategy highly appealing to those who adore the company.

How to Adapt

Running a photo contest between customers to spread the word about your new products is always a must, but what really makes this campaign unique is that it's only for a limited time. This gets your customers in your doors and ready to buy your limited-time products. Even adding a little reward if they share on social media can sweeten the deal.


Wayfair, the online furniture store, runs an engaging UGC campaign, encouraging customers to share their home setups with Wayfair products using the hashtag #Wayfairfinds. Wayfair then reposts the UGC, offering a link for users to shop the items featured in a real customer's home. This clever strategy seamlessly integrates customer testimonials and design inspiration, leveraging UGC to guide Instagram users to discover and purchase showcased products. 

How to Adapt

Get the power of customer trust by demonstrating real people successfully using your products, making it more compelling for them to visit your website and start shopping.


Doritos Legion of the Bold is a highly successful user-generated content initiative that encourages fans to create unique and humorous Doritos-themed content. Hosted on a dedicated website, users can craft Doritos recipes, memes, and even fictional Doritos products. The site features challenges, such as Doritos-inspired Thanksgiving recipes and social media wallpapers, with winners often receiving cash prizes. Doritos further amplifies the best user-generated content on its social media, garnering thousands of likes and comments.

How to Adapt

This is one of the most unique ways to create user-generated content, if not the most unique. It allows you to try something new and stand out from the competition. Also, by creating a dedicated place, such as a website, your brand will also have access to key stats such as downloads and user numbers. 


The LEGO Ideas initiative elevated user-generated content by involving fans in the creation of new LEGO products. Since 2015, enthusiasts have been encouraged to design their unique LEGO creations and share them on the LEGO website to gather public support and votes. If a design generates over ten thousand supporters, the LEGO board assesses it for potential production and global sale. This strategy not only fosters creativity among customers but also enhances brand awareness through online sharing.

How to Adapt

The voting component of the campaign provides LEGO with an opportunity to identify the products that customers desire to see on store shelves.

Putting the Final Pieces Together

Depending on the industry your brand focuses on, some examples may have stood out more than others. Utilizing UGC to your advantage can be tricky at the very beginning and looks so easy for some brands. The examples listed in this article above are meant to showcase how it worked for them and how you can integrate it into your UGC ad campaign. We showed everything from depths of the wilderness in National Geographic to the bag of Doritos you could be eating at this moment. Each campaign is uniquely different but absolutely nailed the power of UGC. We encourage you to try as many types of UGC ad campaigns as you can. 

If you have any additional thoughts or burning questions about UGC, marketing, or just about anything else, check out our other blogs here.