UGC, CGC, and UPCs – Part I

July 10, 2007

White AlbumUser generated content has been a huge topic in marketing circles over the past few years but I often feel like we’re talking past each other and missing it’s core relevance to marketers. We even get bogged down arguing terminology; Is it user generated content, consumer generated content, authentic media…or something else?

I’ve listened to idealistic revolutionaries like Joseph Jaffe who believe consumer generated content is an exciting new opportunity for brands – a way for consumers to shape, own and engage a brand.

Andrew KeenI have also read Andrew Keen, who believes UGC is dumbing down art, culture and society in general – encouraging even the most uncreative and inarticulate to express themselves through digital media.

Might there be a thread of truth and hype in both arguments?

I’ll post my thoughts on this topic over the coming week, culminating with specific ideas on how (or if) marketers can actually leverage CGC to build a brand and move UPCs through the checkout aisle.


  1. More banter on CGC v UGC v CGM

    Stumbled upon the Koolaid Antidote blog and with it, an opening salvo on the continuing CGC conversation. In it, I am set up against Andrew Keen, who argues that UGC is dumbing down art, culture and society in general –

  2. Maybe it can be both. You can argue that most people are probably not living the most exciting, rewarding, creative or inspirational lifestyles, and that as a result most UGC content is of very little interest or relevance to brands.
    On the other hand, even the most mundane individuals on the planet do interesting and inspiring things from time to time, and at some point in their lives they engage themselves in moments of extreme emotion.
    UGC gives everyone a chance at their own 15 minutes of fame. Perhaps the trick for brands is to find a way to associate with / share in that inspirational 15 minutes, without associating with the rest of the day to day drudge and drivel..?

  3. Mike, I believe it is both.

    I don’t even think brands need to wait around for a consumer’s 15 minutes, but they need to understand much of UGC is only relevant, entertaining, or of interest to a micro audience. I’ll discuss in more detail during subsequent posts.

    Thanks for joining the conversation.

  4. Firmly against Keen. The majority of mainstream media is crap and has been for a long time. CGC is no better.

  5. I’ve blogged about this a lot. I’ve even guest-blogged on Jaffe Juice about it.

    If you’d rather not follow the links, my argument can be summed up thusly:

    1. Most so-called CGC is not created by actual “Cs.” In other words, Keen’s worries are pointless. Most of this stuff is created by young actors/writers/directors who see it as an easy and free way to get noticed. They’re not doing it to “express” themselves, they’re doing it to get an agent.

    2. As such, it’s only relevant to brands when it’s better than what their agencies crank out. Mostly because it’s free. But brands should take care not to proclaim that this is being created by enthusiastic consumers who love the brand so much they went out and made a video about it.

    3. Much of what the CGC enthusiasts proclaim to be “CGC” is what the rest of us call “family photos” and “videos of our trip to Disney World.” The fact that we’ve posted it to YouTube or Picassa- with password protection- for the express purpose of having our friends and family view it- does not turn it into “content.”

  6. Toad,

    Thanks for the link and summary. I’ll touch on each of these points and hopefully add some additional value with my comments.

    I agree that Keen is unncessarily concerned about the deluge of CGC. As you noted, most CGC is created for a very a micro audience, not for mass consumption.

    Also, along with better creation tools and sharing media, technology has given us better content filters – much to the chagrin of marketers. Our ability to filter out junk content will improve exponentially over the next decade.

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