The Dos and Don'ts of Selfie Promotions: Are brands being selfie-smart?

From Teachers’ Day to Valentine’s Day, brands are engaging with users by asking them to take selfies as part of their digital marketing activity, very often without keeping a connect to the brand’s product offering

e4m by Sarmistha Neogy
Published: Sep 7, 2015 8:04 AM  | 7 min read
The Dos and Don'ts of Selfie Promotions: Are brands being selfie-smart?

At the mall, on a holiday trip, at your favourite restaurant; today part of enjoying the experience is taking a selfie to share with others on social media. The global craze of taking selfies has taken root in India as well. Looking at this hugely popular trend that has become such an integral part of people’s lives, brands too have jumped onto the bandwagon and are tapping this sentiment.

Today, any digital marketing campaign or brand-empowered online contest is incomplete without selfie section. On Friday for Teacher’s Day, Pearson India, an education publishing and assessment service company, was engaging with its users through a selfie contest named ‘Telfie’. It urged people to send a selfie with their teacher and stand a chance to win a Kindle and several Amazon vouchers. From Independence Day to Raksha Bandhan, brands today engage with users by asking them to take selfies. Like SBI Life Insurance’s recent ‘Azaadi Wali Selfie’ during Independence Day and Indigo Airlines’ Selfie contest for Valentine’s Day, digital marketing campaigns are using the trend to engage with today’s younger audience.

One of the most popular Indian brands- Brand Modi also uses selfies for promotional purposes. Not only does the PM take selfies on his trips abroad, but he endeavoured to popularise the ‘Selfie with Daughter’ initiative which was started by a Sarpanch in Haryana and which then received tremendous response. The ‘Beti Bachao, Selfie Banao’ contest, came into the limelight nationwide, with the PM tweeting about it and asking people to send their parent-daughter selfies.

Are brands over doing it?

Zafar Rais, CEO, MindShift Interactive said, “Whether it's on a poster or an interactive display banner, there is not a single marketing firm that can call upon up an ad campaign without using a selfie. Selfies are still the rage and so are selfie campaigns, but it's the lack of ensuring relevant usage that's leading to a plethora of campaigns with selfies in mind. Brands must gain insight to the audiences they wish to reach and what they're doing differently. This will help them reach out and gain adequate brand recall. Just as hashtags need to be thought-out, serve an objective and ensure high adoption, selfie campaigns need to serve almost the same purpose. ?Brands cannot leverage selfies as a means of adding volume to a campaign only, but look at the medium as a way towards narrating a story and experience.”

Chaaya Baradhwaaj - Founder – MD, BC Web Wise pointed out that a majority of the brands today seem to have a default 'selfie contest' slide on their strategy PPT. “Just because one sells candy, doesn't mean there should be a Candy-Selfie Contest. What is happening is that, most engagement ideas lack a deeper connection with the brand positioning today. However, there have been some, who have been able to connect well to the brand as well. Plus, it is tough to get users to post selfies on social media, unless there is an emotional takeaway for the consumer. One example which comes to my mind is #ProudFathersForDaughters campaign by Project Nanhi Kali. The name itself suggests the kind of connect it made with the audience and the payoff for the participant,” she cited.

Echoing similar thoughts, Shikha Chawla, Social Media Account Manager, Gozoop said, “Isn’t everyone today bitten by the selfie bug? Brands are tapping into the most common practices and traits of their audience. They want their audience to act and engage with the brand but also realise that it’s difficult to make them go the extra mile (unless the brand is an aspirational one). Taking a selfie isn’t rocket science for an already selfie-crazed audience. The logic is simple. Make your consumers do what they already love doing.”

Commenting on the common mistakes made by brands while conducting selfie contests, she added “Every brand caters to a different audience and while most of the people are still enthusiastic about selfies, we can’t ignore the growing number of users who’ve started regarding selfies as monotonous and as a thing of the past. Users are always looking for some kind of novelty from the brands they follow. Having a selfie contest every time is like advertising the same product over and over again with a different tagline. Sooner or later, the audience will catch your bluff and move on to another brand. Brands don’t need an audience that interacts with them for a day and then goes away. They need an audience that stays with them and engages with them for a longer time period. That’s the elephant in the room most brands fail to address while conducting selfie contests.”

Tripti Lochan – CEO, VML believes it’s mainly about proper usage of the trend. “Consumers taking and sharing selfies is the trend. Brands of course, are looking at ways in which they can leverage this trend. As any trend, during a peak popularity phase, many brands were leveraging the same and it may have felt like a crowded space. We don’t believe it is a case of overdoing; it will always need to be a case of relevance to the brand and campaign at hand. We would not recommend using the selfie trend for brands that don't have relevance to it. For example, a banking brand using a selfie contest may not be appropriate or engaging. On the other hand, a beauty or make up brand leveraging the selfie trend would be a good use of the trend,” she opined.

How can brands keep the selfie idea fresh and be creatively different?

Rais from MindShift Interactive states that given that selfies have now spread far and wide, beyond just the youth, there are opportunities right from health insurance brands to IT companies that can leverage the selfie craze. “There is a world of creativity when it comes to brand communication or engagement and the fashion industry is leading the charge in this respect. Brands must understand how and when to use a selfie campaign by understanding the selfie itself. They must offer the consumer a good reason to create content for the brand and should then provide rewards accordingly. Making people invest for you is more of an art these days than a science. Impact will be visible to those that gain insights and engage through forms of creating a story and integrating the selfie phenomenon well into what their product has to offer or say,” he explained.

Baradhwaaj spoke about the need to brainstorm and come up with a strong insight. Based on the objective, the activity should allow the audience to explore and showcase their fun side, confidence, opinions, and support towards a particular cause and so on. The campaign should resonate with the brand ethos in every aspect, right from the visuals to the gratification. For instance, the candy brand should rather do a contest that's named - #CrazyAboutCandies, the gratification for which could be a year's supply of candies! What we’ve done here is connected with something that the users may be doing anyways; this time we’ve given them a reason to share the same on a brand page with like-minded people.

Chawla from Gozoop feels that evolution of the trend might be a good way forward. He commented, “Make sure your selfie contest is not just a ‘selfie’ contest. Make it sound grander than a mere selfie contest, while the actual task could involve users simply taking a fun selfie. Shun the ‘selfie’ word if not the practice. You could package it in a new way, using a new term. After all, the way your users respond to your contest depends on the way you package it.”

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