Brands that became interested in the hype were initially inspired by the spontaneous selfies of YouTubers. However, these brands continued to make ads in their usual formats. Some companies even got involved in the production of accessories like the McDonald’s ’Frylus’ and docking stations for Coca-Cola, but the most effective campaigns were those based on the native mechanics of social media, where everyone was already used to selfies.
To reach their goals, advertisers began attracting not only stars, but also micro-influencers – opinion leaders with a smaller follower base. These influencers are closer to the consumer than celebrities are, and they boast high audience engagement. Brands just had to help the influencers convey their idea, defined by PR departments and marketers, without any significant distortions. The most effective way to reach this goal for influencers was to simply set an example for their subscribers. They customized their selfies or video content using ready-made software products available to anyone willing to join a particular campaign. For example, a similar technique was used to promote The Walking Dead series.
However, one automobile brand took a different approach. The company decided to run a large-scale, but rather simple, campaign. It promoted the #SelfieForSafety hashtag and asked participants to take a photo inside a parked car, with their seat belt fastened, to set an example for their friends and family. After analyzing all the pictures, the company came to an unexpected conclusion. In four out of 10 selfies, the belt wasn’t fastened properly. This is a great example of distortion. On one hand, 40% of selfie makers set the wrong example for their audience, which, of course, wasn’t the automaker’s plan. On the other hand, the company gained valuable insights for its engineers and designers.
At Mnfst, we worked on a similar theme, but to promote the client’s idea we chose a more distortion-resistant format. It looked like this:
We used a similar approach when promoting a phone launch:
It’s worth noting that the ’stacking’ method of assembling an image or video using several layers is already quite familiar to audiences. Think of all the thematic slogans and flags that are placed over profile photos on social media to express a point of view or attitude towards big social issues. This mechanic became mainstream just a few years ago, but today it’s considered the norm.
What researchers say
The problem of perception and delivery of advertising messages has been studied for several years, including branded content on TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram where selfies have become the norm. Thus, experts from the University of Melbourne and Emlyon Business School in France analyzed 6,800 Instagram posts highlighting the products of famous champagne producers and confirmed the following hypothesis: micro-influencers can easily distort some nuances that form a general picture of brand values in the eyes of a potential consumer, especially when it comes to selfies.
A similar study was conducted by experts from the University of Hamburg and Columbia Business School. They analyzed about 500,000 Twitter images and 7,000 Instagram pictures and split them into several categories. As a result, they came to the conclusion that selfies with branded items were really effective. These posts demonstrated the highest engagement rates, but their text descriptions didn’t contain many references to the corresponding brands and brand characteristics.
These conclusions are fully in line with how classic advertising works: faces always attract more attention, while the logos, products and service descriptions struggle to do the same. This problem can be solved not only by software, as we have shown above, but also by combining selfies with images or elements that related to a particular brand.
That is what a well-known manufacturer of potato chips did. The ’#SmileWithLays’ campaign helped raise significant funds for charity and became an example of ’sustainable’ selfie marketing: the product appeared in the pictures and the mechanics were easy to understand for buyers. A similar effect was achieved by Disney marketers, who suggested that users upload pictures of themselves wearing Mickey Mouse ears and share their memories and photos from trips to the company’s theme parks.
User-generated content (UGC), promotion using brand selfies and micro-influencers are all trends. But we should use these formats carefully, taking into account how easy it is to distort the concept of a campaign or repel the audience with excessive advertising pressure. If the latter topic sounds interesting to you, we’ll try to discuss it in more detail in one of our next articles.