Of all the “uncool” brands that have recently made their way into the cultural zeitgeist, Crocs is among the most unexpected.

The brand primarily known for comfortable clogs often sported by older suburbanites has managed to gain appeal among hip young consumers. Similar shifts have seen brands like Carhartt, Fila, Champion and Uggs grace the pages of Hypebeast and Highsnobiety.

Crocs has leaned into its newfound fanbase with collaborations with big names in fashion and youth culture like Balenciaga and Post Malone, both released in 2018. Altogether, marketing to this new customer took a rethinking of strategy.

“We have defined consumer segments, and our younger ‘explorer’ consumer has played an increasingly important role in shaping our global product and marketing strategies,” said Terence Reilly, CMO of Crocs. “We know they’re active and independent, and most importantly, they want to be able to express their own personal style with their favorite brands.”

There is a danger for brands that straddle the line between “uncool” and “cool” when it comes to marketing. Brands run a serious risk of trying too hard — a death sentence in the ultra-cool worlds of Instagram and Gen-Z fashion. Crocs turned to user-generated content.

“As part of an effort to increase their footprint in the digital space while driving brand relevancy, Crocs needed high volumes of authentic and engaging content that performed well on social,” said David Shadpour, CEO of branded content platform Social Native, which helped Crocs create the UGC needed to climb from the 27th best-selling footwear brand in the U.S. in 2017 to the 13th last year. Social Native relied on its network of content creators to drive up UGC creation

The Crocs team knew their young, digitally-native consumers needed to lead the charge, in order for the brand’s digital campaigns to truly resonate, Shadpour said. “UGC has become a core part of Crocs’ digital strategy,” he said. “Since 2018, Crocs has run 15 UGC campaigns, working with more than 170 creators, and generating 225 images and videos.”

The relationship between fashion brand and consumer has changed drastically over the past few years, particularly streetwear. Rather than designers deciding what is going to be “in,” and fashion and the consumers following their leads, it is consumers who are creating and propagating trends faster than brands can keep up. UGC allows brands that are interested in appealing to a fast-moving, trend-driven audience, with less risk of making missteps and appearing out of touch.

“Crocs is a democratic brand, which means we create products and experiences that allow all kinds – from the Gen-Z consumer to the gardener – to engage with us, and vice versa,” Reilly said.