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How to be authentic in the perfectly curated world of Instagram

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On any given day, more than 200 million users will visit one of Instagram’s 25 million business profiles worldwide, the company reports.

Here’s how three brands are cutting through the noise without relying too heavily on the expensive and obvious strategy of celebrity endorsements.

According to Instagram, 200 million users visit at least one business profile daily.

Your best brand ambassador may be yourself

Celebrities are featured on the Jennifer Fisher Jewelry Instagram account, but it’s Jennifer Fisher’s own story that consumers are engaging with.  In the 12 years since Fisher started her jewelry line, customers have gotten to know her and her family through social media, Fisher said during a panel discussion this month at the MIT Sloan Retail and Consumer Goods Conference. She personally handles the social media outreach for her line, which includes more than 300,000 Instagram followers.

The company even switched from using models on its website to photographing Fisher herself to show off the jewelry. Customers want to engage more with her, she said, rather than a celebrity they don’t know.

“That’s where the company has seen growth,” Fisher said. “Getting people to know me; buying into me. I really can’t fake who I am. I don’t try to make it glossier than what it is. Sometimes the photos look a little better than I do in person, but it’s the same [person].”

Collaborate with people and brands that share your values

Keds president Gillian Meek also sees how authenticity can take you further than celebrity.

“Consumers are smart,” Meek, who has helmed the century-old shoe brand since 2016, said. “They don’t just want the stuff — they want value that’s inherent in that stuff.” The company has had celebrity endorsements, including from Taylor Swift, but as a strategy, celebrity is not in the budget.

“A lot of money is being spent on influencers and it does work, but it’s a lot of money and we’re not the kind of brand that has that kind of money — nor do we want to spend it in that way,” Meek said. Keds has close to 400,000 Instagram followers, and Meek said most of the company’s marketing budget is focused on social media.

The brand strategy is focused on cultivating partnerships with people who share the company’s values and style, which emphasize creative women. For example, Keds started a small-scale partnership with a woman who illustrates for her own stationery company.

“We work with entrepreneurs, fashion designers on a small scale, artists, all who have the same kind of belief set that we do,” Meek said.

Fans first, but seek a celebrity fan

Spindrift Beverage Company is also learning to balance endorsements and authentic content. Actress Kristen Bell is a spokeswoman for the sparking water brand, but she was a fan first, said Caroline Kibler, a senior vice president of marketing.

“Her voice, her brand, what people know about her is very consistent with the personality we’re trying to sketch out for Spindrift. But we didn’t want the brand to be her,” Kibler said. “It’s been sort of a gut feeling on how much weight we put behind that kind of content versus other more product-centric content.”

Kibler said that sort of “megaphone” for the brand’s message was needed to help maintain awareness around the company’s rapid growth. But Spindrift will continue to market directly to its fan base and new customers that help comprise the company’s 55,000 Instagram followers. For example, Spindrift will sometimes offer new flavors to fans before the retailers get it.

“Word of mouth is not only incredibly efficient from a cost standpoint, we love to have an endorsement from someone who just discovered us from somewhere and started drinking us, and doesn’t really know much about us, and starts to tell their friends about us,” Kibler said. “Our most loyal fan base came about just that way. It wasn’t from seeing any advertising.”

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