In the age of influencer marketing, marketers and brands should be aware of its cost-effective counterpart: user-generated content (UGC). UGC is created directly by a consumer, instead of a brand, and is most often associated with social media. Think videos, images, testimonials, podcasts and more.

To understand the importance of UGC, here are several compelling statistics from The State of User-Generated Content 2022 Report:

  • 72% of consumers believe that reviews and testimonials submitted by customers are more credible than the brand talking about their products
  • 76% of consumers have purchased a product because of someone else’s recommendation
  • 64% of consumers agree that when brands they like and use re-share content by customers, they are more likely to share content about the brand or its products
  • 62% of consumers report that they are more likely to click on content like ads, websites, social posts, or emails, that feature customer photos rather than an image created by the brand

This information points to one key takeaway: consumers trust each other – and UGC brings a level of authenticity and credibility that brands simply cannot achieve on their own. By leveraging UGC, brands can gain a deeper understanding of their customers and what drives their expectations.

But before brands can understand how to incorporate UGC into their marketing strategies, they need to understand the why. What motivates consumers to create UGC and how can brands leverage these motivations?

This blog examines the personality functions that can influence the creation of UGC and is Daugherty, Eastin and Bright.

Personality Functions That Motivate UGC Creation

Brands typically focus on what this or that can do for themselves instead of understanding why and how consumers are using their products/services. Personalization is not a trend. The customer experience is all about the consumer’s expectations and will continue to be a critical driver in the success of a brand’s marketing strategy. Today’s consumer – especially in a primarily digital world – wants a voice. What influences that voice (and thus the creation of UGC) comes down to attitude and the consumer’s individual motivation(s).

Let’s define the personality functions that influence the desire to create UGC:

  • Utilitarian – This function of attitude is motivated by self-interest. Consumers with this motivation create UGC at the benefit of themselves. They ultimately think, what’s in it for me? Or what can I get out of this?
  • Knowledge – This function of attitude is motivated by the need to understand. Consumers motivated by the knowledge function create UGC to make sense of themselves and/or their environment or to increase their knowledge about a topic.
  • Value-expressive – This function of attitude is motivated by basic moral beliefs and self-perception. Consumers with this motivation create UGC for identity reinforcement or to proclaim their position.
  • Ego-defensive – This function of attitude is motivated by self-preservation from internal or external threats. Consumers with this motivation want to feel a sense of belonging or to protect themselves from their insecurities or self-doubts.

A consumer’s desire to create content is influenced by their attitude toward UGC. The more positive the experience, the more likely it is that a consumer will create UGC. And alternatively, negative experiences with UGC decrease the likelihood of UGC creation.

How User-Generated Content Benefits Brands

Brands should understand the motivational factors behind the creation of user-generated content and consider which ones best fit their product/service and leverage those to meet customer expectations.

Here’s what makes UGC successful for brands through a few real-world examples.

  • The #RedCupContest from Starbucks encourages consumers to share images of their Starbucks-branded coffee cups for a chance to win a Starbucks gift card. A consumer motivation represented in this example is reward-based as it incentivizes participation. Starbucks benefits from the sales and increased customer engagement, and the contest ultimately provides Starbucks with unique marketing content they can use throughout their seasonal campaign.
  • BMW utilizes #BMWRepost to get their customers to share images of their cars. Owners are motivated by a need to validate their identities as proud car owners and are encouraged to show off their luxury vehicles. BMW benefits from their customers’ love for their products and can utilize their customers’ images to bring testimony and credibility to their brand.
  • For Aerie’s #AerieReal campaign, customers are inspired to share their untouched swimsuit photos to combat excessive photo editing on social media. Additionally, for every photo shared using the hashtag, Aerie donated $1 to partner National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). The campaign has since expanded to include disability representation/inclusion and has aimed to build a community of those fostering positive changes in their respective communities. Customers participate because they are motivated by the desire to support causes that are important to them, and Aerie’s campaign makes them feel like they are making a difference. Through this advocacy, Aerie is increasing their brand awareness. Additionally, Nielsen research shows more than half of U.S. consumers purchase from brands that support causes they care about, so it’s a win-win all around.


The customer experience (CX) is increasingly important. Brands often spend too much time analyzing their own needs versus understanding the motivations of their users. By identifying and embracing user-centric motivations, brands can turn them into opportunities to engage more effectively with their customers.