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The Purpose of Selfie Marketing for Brands

Whether you love them or hate them, smartphone self-portraits, known as selfies, are a major cultural movement. Last year, Oxford Dictionary named “selfie” the Word of the Year. The popularity of the word has increased by 17,000% since 2012. Everyone from teenage girls to public figures like Pope Francis and Barack Obama has been included in selfies.

Based on these facts, brands and marketing professionals recognize the potential here. Taking a selfie is an action that is participated in by a whole variety of demographics, spanning geographic location, age, gender, lifestyle and more. Additionally, images with human faces are on average likely to receive 38% more “likes” and 32% more “comments” than images without human faces. Selfie marketing represents an enormous potential to reach a broad audience and maximize interaction.

We are a culture that is becoming much more visual oriented. We prefer to get our news by scrolling through headlines on a feed rather than opening a paper and reading articles. We are also a culture that relies heavily on word-of-mouth and peer-to-peer marketing when it comes to making purchasing decisions. Individuals are more trustworthy to us than brands. The advent of loyalty programs and online review platforms has set retailers which utilize them apart in an extremely beneficial way. Looking at the success of recent global events like the World Cup, it is also apparent that we like rallying together and participating in common movements. And selfie marketing speaks to all of these tendencies.

What are some ways that brands can incorporate selfie marketing into their strategies? One idea is to capitalize on the fashion blogger movement. Fashion bloggers are seen as style experts. In essence, they are also professional selfie artists. Brands looking for increased awareness send products to fashion bloggers, who publish photos of themselves with credits to the item, sometimes selling products out completely for retailers.

Another selfie marketing idea is to create contests that revolve around selfies. For example, shoe brand Sam Edelman encourages fans to take a Sam Edelman shoe selfie, what they’ve dubbed “#SamShoefie” in their hashtag campaign. Winners of creative, original photos receive free shoes. This type of selfie marketing creates demand for the product – customers want to go purchase Sam Edelman shoes so they can participate in the campaign. It also increases brand awareness via free marketing – peer-to-peer advertising.

A third successful example of selfie marketing is South African retailer Urban Hilton Weiner. They increased foot traffic in stores by asking customers to take a selfie trying on their favorite items. For every selfie that was uploaded with the #UrbanSelfie hashtag, the subject received $10 toward their purchase. The selfie marketing campaign incentivized purchasers who otherwise may not have even visited their locations.

If you don’t believe that products in selfies have the power to create demand, just look at the new wave of digital apps cropping up. Social media users see items in selfies and they want what they see. Resources are being poured out to create solutions and ecommerce shopping platforms that can identify the clothing worn in selfies, then tell the seeker where they can purchase the same or similar items. The ideal is a sort of “Shazam for fashion” where you can scan a look and within seconds be browsing websites with similar items for sale.

It is likely that in the future we will look back on 2013 as not just the “Year of the Selfie,” but the start of a brand new phenomenon – “The Selfie Economy” as Forbes predicts. The selfie economy and selfie marketing are new phenomenons that will change the way stores and products are able to reach audiences, growing profits and brand awareness as a result.

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