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UGC is dead. Long live CGC!

July 14, 2023
Pepijn van Kesteren

For years now marketers have realized the best ads are all about authenticity. Over the past period many advertisers have therefore turned to User Generated Content (UGC), but a lot of them are falling flat. Why? Because hiring a UGC creator to make content for you is the opposite of authenticity, and consumers see right through that.

What you want is CGC, Customer Generated Content: Real customers that already love your brand and can speak about your brand authentically. With TikTok being word-of-mouth on steroids, it dwarfs everything brands do – some examples for the past 2 months:

  • Nike received 2 billion views from content that was Nike branded, but posted as CGC, vs 3 million views they got from their owned posts
  • CVS’s owned content has an average engagement rate of 0.07%, vs 8.4% for content their customers post about CVS; that’s a 120x difference
  • And of course Bud-Light – without even a profile on TikTok it's no surprise they couldn't control the narrative around Dylan Mulvaney, whereas 1,000s of creators generated 140M views and 15M engagements in the last 30 days alone

We analyzed 15,000 companies on TikTok, showing that in 9 out of 10 cases, Customer Generated Content has over 6x more reach and performs 4-8x better than anything brands put out, either by themselves or via influencers. Real people talking about real experiences with real products is what wins – not paid-for creators promoting items they’ve never truly used.

Brands embracing CGC, such as Liquid Death and Bubble Skincare, are thriving in this era of authenticity. They have achieved impressive growth, virality, and major cost advantages by leveraging the genuine voices of their customers: 

  • Liquid Death ideated their superbowl commercial based on what they saw their customers posting on social media, and saved millions on production;
  • Bubble skincare responds to every single post, and created such a customer-love that everybody wants to be a Bubble ambassador. The result: free viral videos from their customers, reaching up to 6 million views each.

To extra clarify: We’re not talking about social listening – this is about connecting with customers and using their brand voice. This is hard, takes time, and is labor intensive, but incredibly powerful. 

Zelf has spent the last year building a tool to help marketers discover this content and the people behind it and make it easy to connect with them (see a sample Nike dashboard). After great feedback from our first customers, we’re opening up a select number of slots for additional brands – if you too want to win the race to authenticity, sign up for a demo here.

It’s great to be authentic, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot with “fake” UGC – find real customers that already love your brand.