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Marketing Brand Strategy Social Media

Pinterest is out to prove its more than just a mood board, but are advertisers convinced?

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By Hannah Bowler | Senior Reporter

October 20, 2023 | 8 min read

It’s been on a mission to show it’s a social media platform people use every day. Is that translating with big brands?

The 'It's Possible' Pinterest brand platform

The 'It's Possible' Pinterest brand platform / Pinterest

Pinterest is the perfect platform to plan your dream wedding or design your first home. But setting itself up as an inspiration platform 11 years ago meant that, for a long time, it sat on the periphery of media plans where Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat dominated - social apps used daily, not just for life’s biggest moments.

Spurred on by the rise of lockdown hobbies and coinciding with the waning influence of Meta, Pinterest has had something of a revival. It claims to have around 463 million monthly active users, 17 million in the UK. However, it still doesn’t publicly break down daily active users.

Boosting user growth has been its investment in brand marketing, spearheaded by Andréa Mallard, global chief marketing and communications officer, when she joined the business in 2018. Before Mallard took the helm, Pinterest was an entirely performance-based company, but now it’s diversifying its media mix and trying to land that Pinterest is for everyday use.

It recently pushed this message in Europe with a campaign called ‘It’s Possible’ led by Louise Richardson, director of marketing in Europe.

The beauty of the campaign, Richardson says, is that it “allows Pinterest to talk about smaller moments.” The work highlighted several Pinterest features, from e-commerce to collaborative mood boards, and functions like its skin tone and body shape search options.

“So yes, it’s possible to play my dream wedding on Pinterest. It's also possible to have a nicer sandwich and to see my skin tone or my body shape, or my hair texture represented in the content that I’m looking for,” Richardson explains.

Evolving media mix

Pinterest is a “relatively immature brand business” because of its reliance on performance marketing.

“We’ve always focused on having a really robust media plan that delivers the very best value for our spend and generates monthly active users,” Richardson says. “But now we are looking to add new channels into the mix, and experiential is definitely one of them.”

Pinterest had its first go at experiential marketing when it opened the Possibility Place pop-up in London last month, giving users an opportunity to get free tattoos, nail art and DIY and cooking workshops. “Experiential just conceptually makes so much sense for us, pinners are always asking to bring my Pinterest to life,” Richardson says.

Possibility Place

Along with experiential, organic social will soon receive significant investment with Pinterest looking to beef up its social team in the UK and US. Pinterest has a presence on all social apps though says that, more often than not, trends begin on its own site. “We want to show up in those places and claim that,” she says. “We are all over social in a paid perspective, but growing that organically is really exciting.”

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Appetite from brands

It’s not just users Pinterest is trying to win over with its fresh brand positioning, but advertisers as well. Earlier this year, Pinterest had a strong presence at Cannes Lions anchored to its brand-safe and internet-positive pitch to advertisers and more recently, with its annual advertising summit.

Christina Miller, head of social at VMLY&R, says the new features shared at the advertising summit were a “key signal that it’s pushing hard to be viewed as a place for action, not just inspiration.” In her opinion, Pinterest has been proactive in helping brands and agencies see its value beyond an inspiration hub by sharing materials with the agency.

“But am I seeing more brands dip their toes in from an advertising perspective? Not necessarily,” Miller reveals. “We have clients who have seen success on Pinterest in the past and continue to see success today in its advertising, but I’ve not seen much of a change in terms of getting new brands to activate there, but it’s early days.”

Paul Kasamias, chief performance officer of Performics at Publicis-owned Starcom, says the work Pinterest has been putting in to shift perceptions as an always-on media channel has not gone unnoticed by the agency or its clients. Global FMCG brands increasingly see it as having a “pivotal role” in their media plans.

A landmark deal it inked back in April with Amazon has massively helped Pinterest re-establish itself with these advertisers. These ad units allow for a more seamless experience when buying a product from Amazon that a user has seen on their Pinterest feed.

“They are in a good place to back up that always on full-funnel strategy,” he adds. “One of the things that the team is quite complimentary about is the degree and granularity of some of the insights that come back from the measurement team. It’s right down to the creative level, which you don’t always get from other social partners.”

Similarly, founder of social agency Seen Connects, Sedge Beswick, says she’s seeing more brands include Pinterest without the need for her to explain why it’s a good investment. For her, the “huge benefit” of the platform is its SEO and the “premium polished nature of the content.”

The lingering issue, though, “is that it’s not got the same creator community and the same creator clout that TikTok and Instagram have.” This means stretched social teams at the brands have to do a lot more of the leg work on Pinterest rather than handing it over to the creators.

“I’m a massive advocate of Pinterest, I actively encourage my clients to use it and it’s great from an SEO perspective, but I do still think there is some shit to do,” Beswick says.

Its earnings update earlier this year suggests advertisers were beginning to invest more in the platform. Sales were up 6% year-over-year in the second quarter, with the company saying it expects its third-quarter sales “to grow in the high single digits range year over year”.

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