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UGC Marketing: Opportunities and Risks

User-generated content (UGC) is one of the most compelling trends in marketing — a key for brands to convey the authenticity that Millennials crave and a competitive advantage for marketers to increase sales, cultivate brand advocates, and build brand equity.

UGC presents exciting opportunities for marketers; however, it also raises some challenges related to photo usage—namely, managing the rights to use photos from individuals around the world. Brands with successful UGC strategies must respect the rights of their fans.
UGC Marketing Photo Rights
The legal risks are not insignificant. Several high profile cases over the last year have shown the potential damage to brands — both monetary and to public relations — from mismanaged photo rights. As the leading visual commerce and marketing platform, Olapic is committed to setting an example for trust and transparency in the rapidly evolving visual marketing space.
To that end, we’re championing the rights of consumers, creators, and photographers whose work is used by brands that work with us.

Maximizing the Potential of UGC Marketing

Every photo is the creation of the photographer and he or she owns the copyright. Photos which show an identifiable person also implicate the subject’s right of publicity. The creator of any photo thus owns the copyright and the “bundle of rights” that comprise copyright for that photo, and may also have rights in his or her image if featured in the photo. Marketers therefore need permission from the creator, and sometimes from the subject, of a photo to display, reproduce, distribute and use it commercially.

For the last few years, many marketers have relied on a consumer’s placement of a brand hashtag on a photo as an indication that she’s agreed to the brand collecting and using it, usually in a UGC web gallery. When brands create and promote unique hashtags, especially campaign or contest hashtags, this implied consent becomes even more obvious, as the end user posts a photo in direct response to a specific call-to-action from the brand.

However, many leading brands now want to maximize the high conversion and engagement rates of UGC across other channels, and seek explicit permission to use consumers’ photos in channels like direct mail or billboards. Marketers looking to extend their use of customer photos beyond web galleries into advertisements, print catalogs, e-mail, promotions, and other channels need to have a strategy for acquiring rights that enable them to take advantage of UGC’s ability to lift revenue, while respecting the rights of copyright holders and the subjects of photographs.

How Olapic Helps Marketers Manage Photo Rights

Olapic’s platform is designed to help marketers manage rights.

UGC Marketing Rights Acquisition
A request for explicit consent might say, “Love your photo! We’d like to feature it on our site. Please respond with #YESbrand after reviewing the to agree to have your photo featured!”

First, Olapic’s visual content marketing platform enables marketers to “ask” to use photos, through a comment on the consumer’s original Instagram post. A large majority of consumers who’ve been asked by Olapic’s brand partners to use their photos have said yes. And those consumers respond “yes” to brands who request to use their photos resoundingly — with an average of 2.4 exclamation points. These are clearly real fans who enjoy seeing their photos in the ads, catalogs, and websites of their favorite brands.

Additionally, we’ve created a Trust & Security page at to share with consumers why brands are asking to use their photos and how they might be used, and to provide a way for individual consumers to prevent Olapic’s brand partners from requesting use of their photos if they choose. Giving consumers the choice to “opt-out” of having their social photos used by brands that have partnered with Olapic is how we’re helping to make sure that brands only consider publishing photos from folks who want their photos published by those brands.

Finally, as part of Olapic’s trust initiative we’ve created a guide to help marketers like you master the best practices of UGC photo rights. With these tools, we hope to help brands mitigate the risks of incorporating UGC into their marketing strategies so they can focus on maximizing the rewards.

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