User-Generated content: When Brands use YOU to make their commercials.

Have you noticed that more and more brands ask you to play a big part in their marketing strategies? From the surveys rating your last vacation at their resort, to online product reviews, to social media feedback on the design of their future products; you are engaged in a daily basis and recruited to become a dedicated promoter and reliable buyer.

Welcome to the “Participatory Marketing”!


Having its roots in the Intrinsic Motivation Theory, which states that people have always been driven by “a desire to join, share, take part, connect, and engage, and find that experience rewarding”; it is strongly applied by brands today because technology and social media makes it easier every day.


In her book “Marketing in the Participation Age” Daina Middleton develops the 5 essential rules to a successful participatory marketing campaign:

  • “Embrace test-and-learn values. That means constantly trying new marketing elements, understanding quickly what works, and immediately scaling, then moving on to the next alternative. Nurturing marketers reserve a minimum of 10 percent of their marketing budgets for testing and learning. It’s a dynamic customer environment out there.
  • Innovate; don’t perfect. The nurture approach leverages from the best of the moment, quickly adding value before someone else does it first. The concept of continual innovation is crucial, because the best may not last long. Pick something that is good enough and embrace the flaw as an opportunity to learn. Adapt quickly and move on.
  • Act quickly and motivate others, including participants, to act on your behalf. Motivate people, including your customers, to do something to improve your marketing today. Inspire your organization to act quickly and create an environment that rewards moving quickly. Estimate and act; because if you don’t, your competitors will.
  • Mix and blend; don’t invent. Partner with others to create unique solutions that might benefit your brand, product, or solution. Choose an agency partner who is pushing the envelope and remember to consider technology, media, and creative opportunities. Look for elegant blends of all three, not an elegant single media solution.
  • Embrace risks and champion failures. Prepare to learn from mistakes and accept that failures are inevitable in finding success. It often takes several failures to find opportunities that yield the best results.”

P&G often uses participatory marketing and seems to have developed a “success-secret formula”:


The results are stunning since participatory marketing increases 3 times the customer’s propensity to recommend a brand/product!


Coca Cola just launched last month a very successful participatory marketing campaign: a TV commercial comprised entirely of short video clips made by fans. The video has gone viral and has been seen 345,204 times.

Last spring, Coca-Cola collected video clips of young customers showing how they feel when they take a sip of Coke – the “AHHHHH” moments, as the brand called it.

To motivate them, the brand announced that the best clips would be presented in a national Coca-Cola TV ad.

Coca-Cola got over 400 submissions, and chose 40 for the final cut. The clips in the ad come from all over the world, from London to Amsterdam and from Rio to New-York.

That’s definitely digital marketing and storytelling at its best!


–          Zwilling, M. (2012, December 20). Ask Your Customers to Participate in Your Marketing – Forbes. Retrieved from

–          Nudd, T. (2014, May 20). AdFreak | Adweek. Retrieved from

–          Marketing in the Participation Age: A Guide to Motivating People to Join, Share, Take Part, Connect, and Engage: Daina Middleton: 9781118402306: Books. (n.d.). Retrieved from

–          Coca Cola (2014, May 15). Coca-Cola – “This Is AHH” :30 (The Coke Commercial Made by You!). Retrieved from

5 thoughts on “User-Generated content: When Brands use YOU to make their commercials.

  1. This type of marketing is very smart. I also found the stat that said marketers save 10% of their spending budget for testing very cool. I work in a digital space that many advertisers and marketers are hesitant to use, but others love to push the envelope, as you stated, and test us out. They’re usually really happy with the results, because it’s user-generated content, so it’s all unique. I think more brands need to do what Coca-Cola is doing, and get their fans and users involved. It shows that the brand is actually listening and responding to its consumers; it’s not just some far-away wizard that no one ever hears from. Their video ad campaign was not only smart creatively (all they had to do was put the best clips together!) but they probably generated a ton of word-of-mouth marketing. Think about it… all of those people that created the clips had to have their friends help, which probably got their friends thinking about it. Then they probably shot a lot of the clips in public, which got people watching thinking about it. Then they probably told their friends that day that they saw someone filming a crazy Coke clip, which just keeps the conversation flowing. Coco-Cola is very smart with their advertising, because they take risks. In a world that has so many platforms, it’s time brands recognize the need for participatory marketing, to gauge all aspects of their audience!


  2. What is occurring now is the plethora of various individuals doing majority of the work for the companies. If people consume something they will post it on a social networking site or they will somehow inform their friends and family about it. The Coca Cola advertisement that you posted is an amazing example of just that. Coca Cola is continuously stamping their position within the world’s culture. When viewers see that they can participate in the marketing of a certain brand themselves, they will take on the role of marketers. All things considered, we are going to see a lot more participatory marketing in the near future. Which means we will see more individuals marketing for the companies.


  3. This creates brand loyalty! I believe that many advertisers/brands do this now its just a little more obvious. They are all just a little more vocal then others have been about it! The bad thing is that bad news travels much faster than good news! So if the product is bad the world will know faster than they even know what the product is. But then again that makes for better conversation! This participatory theory at least sparks for better conversation but can provide a sense of bias towards certain brands!


  4. I strongly agree that nowadays consumers involve a lot in marketing strategies. The word ‘consumer engagement’ are being said thousand times a day. Every brand wants to generate communication that is purely from their customers. However, from where I came from (Thailand), the brands still need to educate, persuade their customers to generate content. Incentive is given out a whole lot to trigger them to join brand’s activities.

    I’m interested in this Coca-Cola campaign too. I love that it utilizes the sound ‘AHHH’, which kind of represents the brand, and let its customers create fun activities out of it.


  5. Thanks Asmaa for your very interesting post. I see that this kind of strategy creates brand loyalty, however I am very scared and strongly disapproved this strategy applied to all kind of food industry products that have children as target audience. Unfortunately minors have not sufficient capability to understand a strategy and what ids the goal beyond it. And junk food producer companies who care of their profit and not of the consumers’ health are increasingly creating games for kids to induce them eat their unhealthy products.


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