Why Big Brands Are Dumping Old-School Ads For Creators and User-Generated Content

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Marketing strategies are like technological advancements — they’re always changing.

Recently, there’s been a significant shift away from the traditional ads that used to dominate TV and billboards, toward digital-first strategies that resonate more powerfully with today’s audience.

Magna reported that during the second quarter of 2024, digital advertising strategies like search, commerce, social, and short-form video experienced a robust 8.7% year-over-year growth. This growth compensated for the 4.1% decline observed in traditional media, including television, radio, publishing, out-of-home, and cinema.

In this article, we’re diving deep into the world of influencer marketing and user-generated content (UGC), exploring why big brands are increasingly betting on these methods to connect with their customers.

Let’s unpack this trend that’s reshaping how brands reach their audiences and the growing opportunity for content creators.

The Shift in Consumer Behavior

When the pandemic hit, we all noticed something interesting: everyone seemed glued to their screens.

According to a report by Statista titled “COVID-19 Impact on Time Spent Watching Online Video Worldwide in 2020”, global daily time spent watching online videos increased by 16% in 2020 compared to the previous year.

This increase highlights the trend of people spending more time glued to their screens during the pandemic, particularly on platforms like YouTube and TikTok.. After all, we were made to stay home…

Image of a woman on her phone sitting with boxes of clothing.
Image source: Pexels.

This wasn’t just about binge-watching; it marked a big move toward creator-based marketing. And guess what? It turns out our people are starting to trust these real, relatable voices, more than the polished ads of the past.

Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising report backs this up, showing a clear drop in how consumers trust traditional advertising. Instead, they’re turning to recommendations from peers and their favorite online influencers (more commonly known now as creators). This shift isn’t just a small change; it’s part of a bigger transformation in what people expect from brands and how they behave online.

The Rise of Social Media and the Creator Economy

It’s impossible to ignore the meteoric rise of platforms like TikTok, which have sparked a significant shift in the digital landscape.

It goes beyond talking to a camera about topics one is passionate about to a community who wants to know more; it’s about a revolution known as the creator economy. Every day, we see more and more people creating content and turning their passion for creating content into full-time careers.

Content creator speaking to an iphone and ring light.
Image source: Pexels.

These aren’t just side hustles anymore. Creators are earning real money, often outpacing traditional careers in earnings potential! For starters, this article reports some astronomical observations of the creator economy:

  • Over 200 million people consider themselves creators.
  • Content creators can earn over $50k a year.
  • Half of consumers use ad-blocking technology.
  • 1 in 4 American kids plan to become social media influencers.
  • 35,000 YouTube channels have more than 1 million subscribers.
  • 3.32% Instagrammers have more than 100,000 followers.
  • The creator economy could reach $480 billion by 2027.

Social media has become a bustling marketplace where anyone with creativity and drive can establish their brand, connect directly with an audience and monetise their skills and talents.

Examples include:

  • The emergence of creators who effectively manage and distribute successful newsletters
  • TikTok and Instagram influencers who cultivate dedicated followings through visually captivating content.
  • Medium authors who captivate broad audiences with their thought-provoking articles.
  • Youtubers who skillfully produce compelling video content, accumulating subscribers and capitalizing on revenue streams including advertisements, sponsorships, and merchandise sales.

The implications are vast and varied. This new creator-driven landscape is refining not just who creates content, but who benefits from it and who leverages it, signalling a shift towards a more inclusive and diversified media environment.

The result is a multi-faceted content economy where consumers receive more of the content they love, creators meet content demand, and brands partner with creators to establish themselves in the mix.

Exploring the Advantages of Influencer Marketing

Influencers have mastered the art of building genuine relationships with their followers, which is why they wield such significant persuasive power.

Image of a camera recording someone speaking.
Image source: Pexels.

These creators can offer brands targeted reach within specific niches and platforms, delivering messages through authentic and creatively rich content. Their ability to engage an interested audience is unmatched because, let’s face it, we tune into creators whose interests align with our own.

This is exemplified in a recent X post about Kylie Jenner’s pledge to no longer pay for advertising. Instead, she is betting on her own personal brand and content creation to fuel her business growth. Fernando Cao Zheng captured the key to Jenner and other creator’s success:

“When people care about you, they’ll buy anything you sell.” — Fernando Cao Zheng

Diverse Strategies in Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing isn’t one-size-fits-all. It encompasses various forms including sponsored posts, affiliate marketing, direct collaborations, and UGC. Consider these examples:

Dyson

During the global lockdowns, Dyson recognised the potential of influencers to reach homebound audiences. By partnering with influencers across various platforms, Dyson increased its visibility and boosted its engagement and sales significantly.

For instance, a campaign featuring popular lifestyle influencers reviewing Dyson’s air purifiers saw an impressive 200% increase in social media engagement. This surge translated into a 40% increase in sales during the first month of the campaign alone, highlighting how trusted voices can drive consumer interest and action effectively.

Related article: Dyson Marketing Strategy: A Look at Home Appliance Go-to-Market Strategy and Branding

Temu

Temu’s smart use of nano-creators on platforms like TikTok has been a game-changer for their brand visibility and engagement. Storyclash’s article shares how Temu brought on 158 TikTok creators who talked about the brand in nearly 300 posts, pulling in an average of 82.3k views per post.

This strategy wasn’t just about getting likes; it turned views into downloads and site traffic, significantly boosting Temu’s presence in a crowded e-commerce market. Thanks to this approach, they’ve rocketed past 50 million downloads since they started, making a serious name for themselves in the online shopping world.

Bar graph shows stead increase in influencer / affiliate marketing spend in the US and globally from 2012–2025
Image source: Influencer Marketing Hub.

According to the data above, the global marketing spend towards affiliates has surged by over three times since 2012, showcasing the ripple effect it has in this sector. Although not the first to jump on the affiliate marketing wagon, Temu’s program is a driving force behind its marketing success.

They offer perks like a $300 seeding balance and up to $100,000 affiliate earnings per month. It’s not just about spreading the word; it’s about building your empire while Temu has your back every step of the way. Some might say it’s the kind of opportunity you don’t want to miss out on.

Related article: Developing a Winning Temu Marketing Strategy

Supergoop

Supergoop has taken a distinctive approach by focusing intensely on UGC to promote their skincare products. Encouraging customers to share their own experiences using the products, Supergoop has built a community of brand advocates. This approach not only enhances credibility but also ensures deep engagement.

Image is a screenshot of user generted TikTok videos that promote the brand Supergoop
Image created by the author.

Statistics reveal that campaigns centered around UGC tend to outperform those without, with Supergoop seeing a 70% higher engagement rate on posts featuring user content compared to traditional branded posts.

Furthermore, their investment in quality engagement has yielded a more favorable ROI, with UGC campaigns costing 50% less than conventional advertising methods while achieving more sustained engagement.

Merging Paths: Business and Creator Brands

The future of marketing sees a converging path between business brands and creator brands.

Whether you’re on a marketing team at a large corporation or running a start-up, leveraging influencer marketing is a pivotal strategy.

Tips for Leveraging Influencer Marketing in Your Business

There are several ways you can get in on influencer marketing and leverage it to grow your business, or complement your marketing programs.

For in-house marketing teams:

  1. Leverage your in-house experts: Your team members are your secret weapons. Let their expertise shine by making them the face of your brand.
  2. Collaborate with niche influencers: Forget the big names; focus on influencers who truly connect with your audience.
  3. Tap into influencer agencies: Get access to a wider network of creators and streamline your campaigns with expert help.

For entrepreneurs:

  1. Partner with like-minded creators: Find creators who share your values to authentically represent your brand.
  2. Team up for cross-promotion: Join forces with fellow entrepreneurs to expand your reach and boost your visibility together.

In a recent LinkedIn post, Kieran Flanagan, the brain behind Zapier’s marketing strategies, dropped some serious truth bombs. He’s all in on the idea of creator-led marketing, boldly stating that the future of B2C and B2B marketing belongs to the creators. According to Flanagan, people crave real connections, and creators are the ones delivering.

“Brand Marketing -> Creator-led Marketing: B2C and B2B will be disrupted by creators. People buy from people. The marketing channels still growing in popularity favor creators vs. brands. In the future, brands will tell their story through the creators who work there.” — Kieran Flanagan, Chief Marketing Officer at Zapier

He predicts a future where brands will rely heavily on these creators to share their stories, tapping into the authenticity and relatability that traditional marketing just can’t match. And you know what’s speeding up this revolution? AI.

Indeed, artificial intelligence is giving creators — whether they’re solopreneurs or part of a big corporate team — the tools they need to churn out top-notch content faster than ever.

It’s like having a whole marketing team in your back pocket, making it easier than ever for creators to stand head-to-head with big brands. With AI in the mix, the line between corporate giants and creator-driven businesses might just be faster than you can say “innovation.”

Final Thoughts on Influencer Marketing

As the marketing industry hurtles forward, it’s clear that influencer marketing is leading the charge into a new era. Brands that jump on board and embrace these strategies aren’t just surviving — they’re thriving in this creator-driven landscape.

By tapping into the power of influencers and user-generated content, brands can forge authentic connections with their audience, optimize their marketing spend, and stay ahead of the curve on consumer trends.

Are you ready to ride the wave of creator-driven marketing into a future where authenticity reigns supreme, and every connection counts?

About the Author

Hi, I'm Justin and I write Brand Credential.

I started Brand Credential as a resource to help share expertise from my 10-year brand building journey.

I currently serve as the VP of Marketing for a tech company where I oversee all go-to-market functions. Throughout my career I've helped companies scale revenue to millions of dollars, helped executives build personal brands, and created hundreds of pieces of content since starting to write online in 2012.

As always, thank you so much for reading. If you’d like more personal branding and marketing tips, here are more ways I can help in the meantime:

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