The Challenge: Since consumers now trust peers more than most brands, Duane Reade, the drugstore chain, utilized their VIP Blogger Team to create user generated content about an important new promotion and launched a comprehensive social strategy. Results include: The Duane Reade Legwear campaign increased Duane Reade brand hosiery sales year over year by close to 20%.

Most consumers are wary of most forms of advertising. A recent study by Nielsen showed that fewer than half of consumers trust most major advertising channels. On the other hand, 92% trust recommendations from people they know, and 70% trust online consumer opinions.

Duane Reade has been effective in leveraging the power of peer groups. Early in 2012, the New York City drugstore chain launched its VIP Blogger program. Working with its social media agency, Collective Bias, Duane Reade recruited 20 bloggers with thousands of engaged followers and a clear interest in Duane Reade and its suppliers. In exchange for perks, special deals, and privileged access to suppliers and events, they agreed to write about Duane Reade. The relationship between the bloggers and the brand is completely transparent. They’re free to write whatever they’d like. Calvin Peters, PR/Social Media Manager for Duane Reade, supervises the program: “Controlling consumer-generated media isn’t something I want to do. Unlike traditional media, social media conversations are a two-way discourse.” The campaign’s effectiveness depends completely on its authenticity.

According to Peters, “User-generated content or consumer-generated media is not only more trust-worthy, it also runs throughout the shopping experience and afterward. A great example is our Show Us Some Leg campaign.” The campaign asks customers to upload their original photos wearing Duane Reade brand hosiery via a Facebook page application. VIP Bloggers built awareness for the campaign with their own pictures and stories. The bloggers provide much of the content and traffic for the brand’s presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Google+ – even in stores through QR codes.

The results?

1. The Duane Reade Legwear campaign has increased Duane Reade brand hosiery sales year over year by close to 20%.

2. The Show Us Some Leg campaign has generated 10.9 Million Impressions for DR Legwear so far, which is more than all competitor conversation at Duane Reade combined.

3. The Twitter party around Show Us Some Leg helped deliver almost 2 million impressions while trending #DRLegwear throughout. A promoted trend on Twitter is now a $200K media buy and it indicates a “paid promotion” not an organic trend.

4. In 2012, Duane Reade Twitter followers grew from 2,200 to over 200,000; Facebook fans went from 21,000 to over 58,000 by strategically disseminating relevant and dynamic user-generated content.


1. Enlist brand enthusiasts to tell their stories.
Consumers trust their peers. Find real customers with influence, and encourage them to write about, photograph, or video blog their experiences.

2. Pay attention to customers after they buy the product, not just beforehand.
Duane Reade encouraged customers to share their excitement with a picture contest creating more dynamic consumer-generated media.

3. Understand that user-generated content is not something you can control.
Marketers need to monitor online conversations and can initiate some, but trying to dictate what bloggers or customers say, detracts from their authenticity.

4. Amplify user-generated content via your full social media menu.
Marketers can increase the impact of content by linking to it from other social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest.