Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

How local brands can use Instagram more effectively

Updated Nov 23, 2015 02:31pm
Global brands are succeeding on Instagram by NOT using it as a pictorial showcase of their products.
Photo: blogs.oracle.com
Photo: blogs.oracle.com

I recently saw a skit in Jimmy Kimmel Live, where the characters from Back to the Future appear in the present (the movie sent them to 2015), and Doc Brown marvels at how our cell phones (convenient Samsung product placement) enable us to do complex orbital calculations and other tasks that were only possible by using supercomputers in the past. Kimmel says, well yes, but these days we mostly use our cell phones to send emoticons and pictures of eggplants to each other.

That got me thinking: we are using technology for play and no work! Which brings me to Instagram.

First the good news, According to a study conducted last year by Socialbakers most brands do not use Instagram effectively; in fact about 40% of the marketers stated that they either did not give Instagram high priority or did not consider it at all. This means that any marketer willing to tap into the huge Instagram user base will have an early mover advantage.

Now the bad news. Those brands that use Instagram, use it very, very well.

For most of us Instagram is only about selfies (and we have to thank people like Rihanna and the Kardashians for this). So is it possible to make a silk purse out of this depressing social catastrophe? The answer is yes.

The cosmetic company Benefits uses Instagram to post selfies of real people who use their products. Loyal users feel even more connected when they can show the world how they have benefitted from the brand, and the brand in turn has access to thousands of models at no cost. (Well data costs apply, but that is the accountant in me, so ignore that.)

Greek yogurt brand Chobani invite their fans to post pictures of their creations. As a result, not only do Chobani get deep engagement, they are also able to tell what recipes are trending and change their marketing pitch in real time to match those trends.

Greek yogurt brand Chobani invite their fans to post pictures of their creations.
Greek yogurt brand Chobani invite their fans to post pictures of their creations.

Ben & Jerrys launched their new flavour on Instagram and immediately saw a 17% increase in top of mind among their users.

All this tell us that far more than being a visual medium, Instagram is a social barometer. How is that different from Facebook and Twitter? Not having to write anything and simply posting a picture on Instagram means it is far easier, and (sorry about this) doesn’t require much thought.

Ben & Jerrys launched their new flavour on Instagram.
Ben & Jerrys launched their new flavour on Instagram.

Brands are succeeding on Instagram by NOT using it as a pictorial showcase of their products.

Intel makes microchips –unglamorous and non-visual, right? Check out their account and see how they showcase their logo in interesting ways. Virgin America asks users to post pictures while they fly, making flying look like a mile-high party. American Express and Macy’s use Instagram to take users backstage to the exclusive events they sponsors, thereby associating them with the premium brand image they stand for. Pen makers Sharpie post drawings done with their products– and you may think that pens are irrelevant today.

In contrast, Pakistani companies seem to be way more conservative. Check out Alkaram. Their account is filled with shots from their catalogue and celebrity photos. Telenor combine ads of their latest offers with pictures of their events and of their employees’ achievements. This is slightly better as it gives them a unique personal angle. I imagine that this would be a significant motivator for their team members.

Alkaram's Instagram account mainly has shots from their catalogue.
Alkaram's Instagram account mainly has shots from their catalogue.

Habib Bank’s account has pictures of (wait for it) Habib Bank Plaza. Go figure.

Unilever Pakistan has a few models wearing various outfits and 36 copies of the same picture advertising a TV show. I guess millions of people use their tea, shampoo, toothpaste and cosmetics, but none of them can take a selfie!

I am not going to just bash anything because it is local; yet I see a worrying trend of thinking that is not proactive. To have an impact, marketing needs to incite a reaction and get people talking.

I don’t know if any of the local brands above are running Instagram accounts – for all I know, someone might have used their name. Does it matter? Nope. Being proactive is about anticipation, about jumping on a trend before it is a trend.

You need to make people check out your Instagram account and you need to let them know that your brand has an official Instagram account. How do you do that? By not thinking that having a social media presence is merely a question of displaying miniscule icons at the end of your TVC, in the lower right corner (remember, a huge majority of Pakistanis don’t have HDTVs).

So what do you do with your Instagram account? Simply – everything that you are NOT doing elsewhere. That is what Instagram is for – it is not the rest of the internet.

While you are at it, let me take a #selfie!