Crowdsourcing Helps Brands Communicate

With the immense popularity of photo sharing apps like Instagram and SnapChat, it’s no surprise that big brands have followed consumers to these platforms. Some brands advertise on Instagram like it was any other channel while some brands use Instagram to shake things up a bit. What is the distinguishing factor between these two breeds of brands? Authenticity.

A few months ago, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when a picture of Big Ben caught my eye. At first, I thought that my friend, who was studying at Oxford University, had posted it after her weekend trip to London. As I was about to leave a typical “looks like you’re having the time of your life” (read: I want to be you, I wish I was in London right now) comment, I discovered that the photo wasn’t posted from her account. It was an advertisement for Burberry. Here is a brief version of my thought process after discovering this ad… 

  • How did that get there? I don’t follow brand pages on Instagram.
  • Get off my feed.
  • At least it’s Burberry and not something tacky like Walmart.
  • Get off my feed. This is my Instagram feed, not yours.

Thankfully, some retailers are challenging the norm. Instead of forcing content down our throats (ahem, Burberry), brands are recognizing that we love social media because it gives us (the users) a voice. Brands are also recognizing that we are far more likely to listen to our peers than to big brand voices that are advertising to us. We don’t like being sold. We do our research, and a lot of that research comes from friends and people in our networks because we like genuine, authentic conversation.

Enter Coach, one of the many big brands with a social media presence. Coach is rewriting the playbook for online retail by using social media in new and engaging ways. According to this Businessweek article, Coach has begun to crowdsource photographs of shoes and other merchandise from consumers on Instagram. That’s right, instead of looking at Coach shoes on the feet of some industry standard, ridiculously Photoshoped model, you can look at Coach shoes on the feet of your every day consumer (through a strategically chosen Instagram filter, of course). You can even Instagram your own shoes and use the hashtag #CoachFromAbove for the chance to be featured on their site.

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Their website highlights consumer created content with links to buy your own pair of trendy, crowd approved shoes.

Lancome is another great example of a brand that is using new, innovative ways to reach out to consumers without run of the mill advertising content. Much like Dove, Lancome is urging women to post Selfies to showcase their natural beauty. It does fit into the promotion strategy for one of their new products quite nicely, but Lancome isnt buying up space on my Instagram feed to sell it to me. Instead, Lancome is acknowledging me, asking me to engage (using #bareselfie) and become part of the conversation. Lancome gets to know me and I get to know Lancome. They are communicating with me in a more personal and authentic way and showing me how personalized their products can be.

I’m glad brands are starting to get it. We join social networks to have a voice, and Coach, Lancome, and others are changing the game by giving us one. This isn’t just an email complaint system or a hotline to call with comments. This is content that we generate on our own and we can immediately see it integrated into the brand’s identity. It gives the brand a more relatable and authentic personality. In this way, brands can seamlessly integrate themselves into the fabric of social networks and be invited into conversations between consumers. It is not an intrusion. It doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb in the way that traditional advertisements do. It is welcome and invited by social network users, and I hope we see more of it from other brands.



The Power of the Selfie to Redefine Beauty

The Sundance Film Festival is well under way in Park City Utah. Sundance, in partnership with Wayin, have integrated social media into the festival like never before, but one short film by Dove is taking the power of social media to the next level.

I was familiar with Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches campaign in 2013 that offered women the chance to describe themselves to a portrait artist who had never seen their face. Then, they were asked to describe another woman who was in the waiting area with them. The portraits were displayed side by side. The portraits in which another woman described the subject were by far everyone’s favorites because they highlighted the noticeably beautiful aspects of the women, whereas their own descriptions of themselves tended to focus on the negative perceptions they have about certain features.  This campaign drew a lot of positive attention to Dove for championing the idea that we are our own worst critics and that beauty products are not what makes real beauty.

Today at the Sundance Film Festival, Dove debuted a short film about the power of the Selfie. The film follows a class of high school girls as they embark on mission impossible… teaching their mothers how to take selfies on their smartphones and upload them. The girls and their mothers then submitted the selfies to an art gallery where they were all displayed. Visitors to the gallery were given sticky notes to write messages to leave on the selfies, much like leaving a comment on an Instagram or Facebook photo. What surprised these women was that the things they disliked most about their appearance in photographs were often the most positively received parts of their selfie. The film goes on to encourage women to harness the power of the selfie to show her true self to the world with pride. Watch the short film on Mashable

The video has already sparked social conversation from the celebrities at the film festival, and now, everyone can join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook or Dove’s Website by answering what beauty means to you using #beautyis. You can even submit your very own selfie!

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Here’s a screenshot that shows you how to post on Dove’s website.

Personally, I’m excited to see the power of social media being used to redefine beauty in a positive way, especially at an event like Sundance where many in the industry feel pressured to fit into the societal mold of beauty that film, television, and magazines impose upon us. I have tremendous respect for Dove, who continues to champion “Real Beauty” in new and engaging ways. I’ll leave you with what my idea of #beautyis: confidence and a big smile!

What’s your idea of beauty?