In 2001, Polaroid filed for bankruptcy as it struggled to pay down its large debt and compete with emerging digital photo technology. Yet in 2016, the brand is strong and its sales are thriving – in no small part due to its savvy leverage of user-generated content.

Polaroid’s parent company, C&A Marketing, hired Aaron Paine as director of social media and digital strategy about 18 months ago. Paine started working with Social Native, a digital platform available in eight languages that matches brands with 14 million high-engagement content creators. The platform allows brands to create a library of owned content that can be used across all marketing channels. Polaroid’s first Social Native effort in July 2015 had an organic reach of 2.5 million Instagram users in three weeks, and Paine has been regularly using the platform since.

With a relatively modest budget and no ad agency of record, Polaroid is seeing impressive results. By utilizing user-generated photos for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google ads, the brand is boosting sales – sometimes by up to 180%. Polaroid dedicates around $12,000 a month to the Social Native platform, and Paine reports a cost-per-engagement as low as 13 cents.

Takeaways from Polaroid’s Approach

The value of user-generated content and influencer marketing can’t be overstated. Polaroid could invest a much larger budget into agency-created photos, but they wouldn’t have the same authenticity or appeal. Paine said the top-performing creative piece from an agency received 1% click-through-rate, while user-generated content reached a 5% CTR and drove traffic and sales to Amazon. People appreciate beautiful content, but they are more likely to see user-generated pieces as real and trustworthy. Studies show user-generated content can influence purchasing decisions and drive sales.

Polaroid is commissioning stunning photos that real people are taking out in the world, and using them to promote its brand and products. Customers see inspirational, but accessible, examples of how they could use Polaroid products – a huge win for the brand. With this approach, the company isn’t limited by location, budget or other constraints. It has the flexibility to experiment with different content and track what generates the most engagement. User-generated content continues to strengthen Polaroid’s brand identity and demonstrate measurable results.
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