Gone In 10 Seconds: How the Pioneers of Snapchat Marketing Use the App to Build Their Brand


ADOTAS – Snapchat has transformed the concept of photographs on social media from perfected and permanent timestamps to brief and impulsive acts of sharing and remains the purest form of a one-to-one real-time interaction on social media. The app is moving away from its negative reputation and will continue to do so as it continues to grow and diversify its user base across the globe. By the sheer volume of users currently on Snapchat, it is inevitable that the next step will be for brands to leverage this technology. With Snapchat turning down a $3B acquisition attempt from Facebook, it appears that Snapchat is looking to monetize their product soon.

Snapchat currently shares 400 million snaps each day which surpasses the photo-sharing activity on both Instagram and Facebook. Facebook reportedly sees 350 million photos uploaded each day from its worldwide audience of more than 1 billion users, and Instagram’s 150 million users upload around 50 million photos each day. Consider all the effort and investment that goes into today’s forms of advertising – T.V., Print, Digital Media, etc. What if these forms of advertising were altered into 10 second self-destructing pieces of content within a 5-inch screen?

Snapchat is responsible for making this possible and if brands jump on board with creative ways to leverage this new technology they can pioneer a new form of advertising. The snap must be relevant enough to drive a specific message in a very short period of time. Since not many brands have used SnapChat as yet, there still remains an open playing field of the types of learnings and opportunities that can be gained from marketing on the app. Additionally, early marketers on the tool will have the luxury of setting the tone and expectations for users while avoiding the clutter that other social media platforms have.

To investigate, we looked at an array of brands currently active on Snapchat, ranging from a household name like Taco Bell, to ambitious guerilla marketers, Chat Sports. From these examples, it is clear that Snapchat is a great place to 1) develop brand affinity through relevant content blasts 2) create buzz by unveiling and promoting new products 3) drive transaction by providing coupons or offers. The effectiveness of each opportunity is still to be determined as brands continue to grow their presence on the platform and learn from their experiences.

Taco Bell: To date, Taco Bell is the most active brand on the application. Taco Bell leveraged their Twitter account and generated a massive amount of buzz and anticipation by telling followers they plan to share a secret announcement over Snapchat. They initially used the platform in May to launch its Beefy Crunch Burrito. For the fast food giant, the snaps aren’t about sharing coupons or offers, but building brand loyalty. The element of real-time creates a very personal touch and makes users feel as if Taco Bell is communicating solely to them. Once Snapchat introduced its ‘Stories feature’, Taco Bell once again took the lead in setting an example. It used the Stories platform to tell a visual tale of friends hanging out and grabbing some Taco Bell, providing brand appropriate content in real-time that is relatable and engaging to its audience. Additionally, being an early adopter of the platform has put them in the spotlight and Tressie Lieberman, Director of Social and Digital for Taco Bell, says the brand has been “blown away” by the response it has gotten on Snapchat.

Chat Sports: This sports media company saw the opportunity to connect with their college demographic on Snapchat due to its high adoption rate. Chat Sports leveraged SnapChat to create a deeper connection with their individual users through a targeted and engagement based campaign. For the chance to win free tickets to a game, Chat Sports encouraged fans to get 5 friends to add Chat Sports on Snapchat and have these 5 friends send a snap with the fan’s usersname and #gimmietickets. Chat Sports received 150 responses within the first 48hours of posting the contest, a response rate for the size of the company. Chat Sport’s targeted and incentivized approach contributed to the success of the campaign as they were able to attract the right user base. Through incentive based campaigns brands are able to build a Snapchat following to which they can engage on a regular basis.

Karmaloop: Clothing e-tailer Karmaloop is taking full advantage of its in-house resources including photo studio and models to be top of mind with their young and salacious demo on Snapchat. The brand has become known for sending suggestive and scandalous snaps to its followers — all content wrapped in Karmaloop messaging and product. Karmaloop is providing the type of content its users crave, while at the same time marketing their products through a very personalized distribution channel. In just a matter of weeks, Karmaloop has engaged with more than 2,000 new Snapchat friends, regularly sending them product shots for new clothing lines. Moving forward, Karmaloop plans to test Snapchat exclusive coupon codes to see if the app can help them drive transactions. If Karmaloop is able to successfully demonstrate an increase in sales through Snapchat, others will likely follow their lead.

Acura: Acura, the car manufacturer, was one of the first brands to use Snapchat to unveil a new product – introducing its new prototype, the NSX supercar, through a Snapchat video. The first 100 users who added Acura_Insider got an exclusive six-second clip of the car driving around a track. By limiting the Snapchat to only the first 100 users, Acura builds a layer of exclusivity around not only their product but also their Snapchat communications. This is a great tactic especially while building a loyal following on a new social media platform. It is impressive to see an automobile brand like Acura, one that typically relies on traditional forms of advertising like print and T.V. already utilizing Snapchat.

Other brands that have dabbled in Snapchat content blasts and campaigns include: Unilever, Juicy Couture, 16 Handles, Rebecca Minkoff and MTV UK. There is definitely a lot to learn already from the types of executions launched thus far in terms of approach, content and messaging strategy.

While Snapchat does not yet offer any kind of structured support for businesses, the app is beneficial to brands due to its extremely active user base, with 26 million users in the U.S. alone. As Snapchat continues to evolve its product, the possibilities for brands to engage with users can be endless. Just imagine if Snapchat incorporates GPS functionality into their app and users can send Snaps that reveal their current location – this could transform how brands communicate with Snapchat users altogether. Snapchat is a great place to launch products and create a buzz as it attracts an audience of early adopters. So not only will brands be able to provide users a sneak peak of their product but they will be doing so to an audience that is eager to know about the next new thing.

Snapchat’s out-of-box format encourages brands to think like they have never done before and it is revolutionizing the future of advertising. Snapchat could become a social media platform that allows brands to directly affect sales and track ROI, despite its temporary nature and lack of user data like Facebook.


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