Laura Petrolino

Four Examples of User-Generated Content with Generational Appeal

By: Laura Petrolino | October 17, 2017 | 

Four User-Generated Content Examples with Generational Appeal

Four score and 20 years ago (OK, it was 2014), I wrote about the magic of user-generated content and what an important element it is in your content plan.

It’s safe to say since that time the power of UGC has only increased.

Not to mention the platforms and techniques available to display it, distribute it, and use it for promotion, community building, and lead generation and conversion.

So, when Paula Kiger and I banded together to participate in the Bridging the Gap campaign, a comparison of our different generational views on user-generated content was one of the top things on our list.

How Does Our Experience of the World Compare?

The Bridging the Gap Campaign brings Millennials and Baby Boomers together to learn about each other and compare world views.

Paula and I already know the other is awesome so we bent the rules.

We focused on our different views on an issue important to communications pros because our jobs are to understand and respond to how others think.

We were both drawn to the Bridging the Gap campaign as a way to take a more detailed look at differing perspectives from a generational viewpoint.

The truth is Paula is definitely more digitally savvy than I am, and I’m on the upper cusp of millennialhood, so our relationship might be an outlier in many ways.

But maybe that’s the point?

While different generations might have different life stages and experiences to direct their perceptions and decisions, in the end, the “gap” to bridge isn’t that big.

It’s sort of like one of those team building games where you try to figure out how to get to the other side of a river with only a small amount of supplies.

There are many different paths to take to get there, but everyone still ends up on the same side of the river.

User-Generated Content Has Generational Appeal

One thing is definitely true: no matter if you are nine or 90, user-generated content is a powerful influence on human behavior.

To give some structure to the pieces we chose, Paula and I picked one for each category described in this analysis by Kantar AddedValue: discovery, fun, status, and wellbeing.

Discovery: Sephora

I’ve been impressed with the way Sephora leverages user-generated content and builds community around their products for some time now.

One thing I love is how they integrate UGC into their sales pages.

If you go to any product page, not only will you see reviews, but you’ll also be able to scroll through actual photos of actual people who have used the products.

Four User-Generated Content Examples with Generational Appeal

To be able to see the product on someone, not just the edited glamour shots, allows me to decide based on reality.

It adds to my trust factor and encourages conversion from lurker to buyer.

Fun: Betabrand

Do you ever go into a store, or see the debut of the “new spring line” in a magazine and think to yourself:

Ugh, why don’t these designers ever make anything I really need.


Is that a brown sack? For $5,000? I could do better than that!

Well, with Betabrand, you can.

Betabrand is an online clothing store based completely on user-generated content.

You can play one of two roles, designer or fashion buyer.

As a designer, you submit your idea for people to vote on. 

If you receive enough votes, your idea is crowdfunded.

As a crowdfunding project, you play lead designer while the Betabrand team puts together an actual prototype of the design. 

Once it reaches its crowdfunding goal it becomes a fully available product and you just sit back and collect 10 percent of sales.

As a fashion buyer, you vote on the products you want to see pushed to crowdfunding stage. 

Once at crowdfunding stage, you can buy products at 30 percent off what they will retail for if they make it through.

You choose the fashions you want to see made readily available.

Oh, and guess who they use as models….that’s right….UGC.

Four User-Generated Content Examples with Generational Appeal

I love this entire concept because it democratizes the fashion industry.

And I have a  few design ideas I’ll probably submit in the future.

Status: Target

Do you remember when you got the acceptance letter to the school of your choice?

(I don’t, but work with me here).

If I remembered it, I’m sure I would remember being super excited.

I wasn’t sure what school I was going to choose at the time.

I do know it was a huge relief when the letters came in for my top choices.

It’s a big moment in every college-bound teenager’s life.

Which also makes it a big moment when it comes to A LOT of purchase decisions.

The Target genius Big Data operation makes sure they are there for ALL of your big life milestones.

They’re definitely not one to count themselves out of this one.

In their acceptance letter campaign, Target asked high school seniors to share videos reading acceptance letters from colleges. 

Then they compiled the best reactions into a commercial to showcase their commitment to education and increased donations to K-12 education.

And, if you happen to remember them when you do your college dorm shopping, all the better.

Wellbeing: Citizen Scientists 

A week ago, I listened to an episode of the Ted Radio Hour podcast (which I’m obsessed with) called “Citizen Scientist.”

It was all about how people, normal people—not researchers or scientists—change the world through crowdsourcing research, information, and wellness trends.

Guests included Joi Ito, Sharon Terry, and Tabetha Boyaijan:

Millennials vs. Baby Boomers and User-Generated Content

So where does that lead the battle of the generations?

Take a look at Paula’s post and make your own observations.

Olapic put together an interesting infographic at the beginning of the year which tried to answer this question.

And, at least from my side, these observations ring true.

And what about you? How do you relate to UGC?

Do you think there are generational differences in how we create, use, and engage with user-generated content?

About Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

  • paulakiger

    Where to begin? First of all, thank you for being my partner on this Bridging the Gap adventure. Secondly, not seeing your post until the moment it went live felt like opening a gift on Christmas morning. Even though we had talked about the structure, it is totally unique (and very you). I look forward to the possibility of more “intergenerational” experiments in the future!

    • Ahhh…you’re the best. Thank you so much. I’m so glad. And THIS WAS SO MUCH FUN. We definitely have to make this a thing!

    • “Intergenerational” makes the gap seem much wider that it likely is 😉 I do love the Bridge the Gap concept, and how Laura laid this out.

      We should develop an industry hot-stove/discussion format that speaks not only to how different generations navigate PR and marketing, but how to target those generational differences as well.

      • paulakiger

        I think there are so many possibilities there, Mike. There are so many blogs/books/podcasts etc etc etc out there specifically about millennials that really fail to grasp the WIDE variation of world views/lifestyles/etc. among that generation (just like with any generation, really). I look forward to the challenge of identifying unique features of generations while balancing the core principles of business/branding/communications.

  • OK, so Laura and Paula congrats on the Bridging the Gap adventure! Love it!

    Such a great post, Laura! Betabrand’s business idea is so cool.

    Generational differences for sure are, whether as groups (Millennials, Baby Boomers, Gen X) or as individuals. What I find more exciting is how we learn from each other (Millennials and Baby Boomers, Millennials and Gen X, Baby Boomers and Gen X, etc.). Because we do learn from each other and as a result we make UGC more fun, exciting, and creative.

    • So much yes to this. It’s our different perspectives which really make UGC fun and creative.

      And I haven’t bought anything from Betabrand yet, but I have several items on my wish list. Such a cool idea.

  • Aimee West

    What a fun adventure for the two of you! 🙂 As someone in the middle of you both. I agree with @corinamanea:disqus as we “learn from each other and as a result we make UGC more fun, exciting, and creative.” Plus we certainly are different but I think we are a lot alike in ways as well. We all enjoy sharing the cool things we have found online. This creating more UGC!

    That Betabrand looks pretty cool! @laura_petrolino:disqus

    • paulakiger

      It does!

      • Let’s all design clothes on Betabrand!! We could have our own clothing line!

        • paulakiger

          (remember the pet apparel too …. 😉 )

  • I have no idea what to do with the two of you. Also, I contest the idea that Laura is a Millennial. She’s more Gen X. You’ll have to redo this. Sorry.

    • paulakiger

      In all honestly, we struggled a bit with the definition, but we were so compelled by the prospect of working together that we kind of went with the “age is just a number” theory.

      • Sorry, I am. I’m the oldest millennial, (or rather, THE FIRST millennial) but I am one. It took me a while to deal with that fact as well.

        • You’re like Mattie—right on the cusp, but display more Gen X qualities than Millennial.

    • I wasn’t going to say anything…

  • Catherine

    Laura, I’m so glad you enjoyed connecting with Paula! Thank you so much for lending your unique voice to the Bridging the Gap campaign!