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Snapchat CMO talks brand renaissance, ads and AR after most profitable quarter

Snapchat has had its best quarter in four years, with revenue of $982m

In 2017 rumors circled that Snapchat might end up in the social media graveyard alongside old app favorite Vine. Call it a comeback, it clung on, recording one of its best ever quarters. As it looks to the future, The Drum talks to chief marketing officer Kenny Mitchell about why Snapchat is launching its biggest brand marketing push to date.

Built for a generation of teens who prefer to communicate with pictures over words, when Snapchat first hit the social scene in 2011 it soon became a firm favorite.

But what was once the new darling soon became sidelined by fierce competition from Instagram, which created a carbon copy of its then-unique Stories feature, and then TikTok entered the fore. Not to mention that infamous Kylie Jenner tweet about the redesign that wiped $1.3bn off the company’s market share.

In the face of adversity, Snapchat hung on and was dealt a good hand by the pandemic. After it invested heavily in building its technology and expanded its offer to advertisers, opening up everything from commercials to e-commerce, it upped the ante for professional creators. This has paid off, with the platform experiencing a renaissance, announcing its best quarter in four years and revenue of $982m. However, this pales in comparison to Facebook’s revenue of $29.08bn – showing how much work Snapchat still has to do to catch up with the big players.

“I’m really grateful for the momentum we’re seeing on the business,” insists Kenny Mitchell, Snapchat’s first-ever chief marketing officer, who was appointed back in 2019.

Mitchell puts it down to a combination of things. “It’s partly driven by our team’s relentless focus on community, providing the best and most useful experience for users. It’s also due to areas of our service that have shown to be promising, like Spotlight. The ongoing engagement with the camera and AR. And we’ve gone out and told our story to advertisers, which has helped to deliver pretty good results for them.”

In the honeymoon period of its positive earnings, Snapchat is being careful not to drop momentum, launching its biggest global campaign to date. Scheduled with two phases, the first stage is to encourage more users to ‘Open Your Snapchat’, with the second targeting advertisers.

“Much like Snapchat, this campaign starts with the camera,” says Mitchell. “The camera and AR are part of our DNA. It’s why Snapchatters are 150% more likely to prefer communication with pictures over words.”

Putting its camera and its AR functions at the heart of the campaign, Snapchat wants to shout about the significant progress it has made with its AR platform, and that presently more than 200 million users engage with AR every day, with over 200,000 creators using Lens Studio to create lenses.

“We’ve made tremendous investments through the lifecycle of the Snap business. AR and the camera, in particular, is what we believe is one of our greatest opportunities to help support human progress and your ability to bring unique experiences,” he explains.

“There’s this massive ecosystem that we’re excited about. This is one of the future ways that people will engage and it’s one of the core ways we’ve seen brands have tremendous success, highlighting their makeup or clothing.”

The first stage of the global ‘Open Your Snapchat’ campaign will roll out tomorrow in major cities across the US, UK, Mexico and India to dovetail with International Friendship Day.

For a digital app, the campaign relies heavily on extensive out-of-home (OOH) placements – a media space that Mitchell says is experiencing a renaissance. “It’s one of the few places where you don’t have a screen in front of you,” he explains. “Whether you’re driving or walking, you have a canvas to do some breakthrough storytelling, which we think is pretty unique.”

In June, Snapchat doubled down on its offering to advertisers, releasing e-commerce and AR shopping tools. Working hard to make its Lenses a core part of the shopping experience on the app, it acquired Fit Analytics – a Berlin-based startup that helps shoppers find the right-sized apparel and footwear while shopping online. It has also rolled out the dynamic ads format globally and made its Reserved Buys tools open to all, endeavoring to reclaim some ad spend lost to the pandemic.

Snapchat started its offering to advertisers last year when it debuted its first brand-facing campaign ‘Meet the Snapchat Generation’. The campaign was devised to help marketers navigate its platform, highlighting the impact of its community on businesses while shedding a light on its values and behaviors.

Considering social media can be an enigma for those over 25, making its platform easier for marketers to succeed on is imperative, but media buyers claim it still has work to do on convincing them its 500 million monthly userbase is willing and ready to buy.

Therefore, the second stage of its multi-pronged campaign will target advertisers in Q4. Shining a spotlight on brand success stories globally and underscoring the impact AR can have on brand favorability and ROI, the campaign will highlight the natural role that brands play on Snapchat.

“One of the things that we’ve learned is that advertisers who are familiar with our platform lean in very hard. They understand and they get it,” claims Mitchell.

“For others who are not as familiar with the platform, we have to shine a light and expose them to what it feels like to experience visual communication and AR. When we’re able to uncover that – when people can actually see themselves in that experience – it increases the opportunity for consideration and ultimately the usage of the service.”

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