Why Brands Are Betting Big On Snapchat

When Rebecca Minkoff went to Indio, Calif., for the Coachella music festival last month, her fans got to go along for the ride — at least on Snapchat. Followers got to see firsthand what festival style was like out in the fields and felt like true VIPs at Minkoff’s official luncheon, which was hosted at Sonny and Cher’s old estate — all thanks to the social media platform.

Rebecca Minkoff Snapchat Coachella
Rebecca Minkoff on Snapchat.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Snapchat.

Snapchat launched in 2011 as a mobile photo-sharing app that originally allowed users to send friends a snap that lasted for up to 10 seconds. Now, it’s evolved into a daily tool for more than 100 million daily active users, who post photos and videos to their “Stories,” which then live for 24 hours before the content disappears.

With 8 billion video views per day, it was only a matter of time before more brands jumped on the Snapchat bandwagon — and now it’s a major part of most players’ social media strategies.

Minkoff, who was one of the first designers to embrace the platform, continues to evolve her strategy. She began using Snapchat in 2013, giving her audience a sneak peek at the brand’s spring ’14 collection. Now, Minkoff snaps to drive interest in the brand’s events all over the country and often gives fans an exclusive look inside upcoming ad campaigns.

“We are always looking for the latest way to connect with our girl. We love encouraging her to engage and snap us back,” said Minkoff. “As it is in real time, what people choose to share is incredibly authentic.”

At Puma, the athletic brand has used Snapchat for some of its most visible projects, and it’s the first place where it unveiled its recent Fierce campaign, featuring Kylie Jenner and the brand’s popular trainers. “We like the unpolished, unrefined mode of Snapchat communication. It’s more raw, real, gritty and authentic,” said Adam Petrick, Puma’s global director of brand and marketing.

Kylie Jenner Puma
Kylie Jenner in the Puma ad campaign — her sneakers concealed.
CREDIT: Snapchat/Puma.

Jenner is an example of the brand’s “prototypical consumer,” according to Petrick. She may not be the average teen, but her daily social media habits are in line with the demographic. Consider this: More than 60 percent of U.S. smartphone users ages 13 to 34 are Snapchatters.

“When it comes time to work with Kylie on things, Snapchat is the perfect channel for her,” said Petrick. “We can take more risks than with other platforms. We can be more creative and allow people like Kylie to do whatever they want with our brand message and make it their own.”

Kylie Jenner Puma Ad Campaign
Kylie Jenner shooting a new ad campaign for Puma.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Snapchat/Puma.

Other initiatives have included giveaways, exclusive access to launches and specific geo-tag filters. “If you go to a Rihanna concert right now and you’re in the geo-fence, you can use a custom Puma filter,” Petrick added.

There’s no question that brands are devoting more energy and dollars to their Snapchat initiatives, but some observers noted the lack of metrics and difficulty getting discovered on the app can be seen as disadvantages. Still, insiders said the advantages far outweigh the drawbacks.

Dan Moseley, senior account manager at social media agency We Are Social, said, “Snapchat is not just on the rise, it’s punching its weight alongside the more established platforms and, even more excitingly, refusing to play by their rules.”

As of this spring, Snapchat was the most preferred social media platform for teens for the first time, according to a survey by Piper Jaffray & Co. Plus, there’s a much better chance users will view a snap than a Facebook post, for example.

Rihanna Fenty Puma Creepers Release
The Puma Creepers in White Glo, announced on Snapchat.
CREDIT: Snapchat/Puma.

“On Facebook, about 5 percent of your users will actually see a post,” said Adam Durfee, director of PR and social strategy at Wallaroo Media. “However, on Snapchat, you can put out a story for a brand, you do it organically, and it will camp right there in [users’] phones for 24 hours.”

For Bloomingdale’s, the platform feels like a community — and social coverage during New York Fashion Week has shifted from an Instagram focus to Snapchat, according to Jonathan S. Paul, operating VP of social media. “Snapchat lets us capture the energy and excitement of our brand, including shopping, dining, going to fashion shows and exploring New York City,” said Paul. “We believe the content we publish on Snapchat brings dimension to our brand in a way that most digital channels can’t do.”

The platform also allows for experimentation. “The tool itself is always changing,” said the exec. “We develop graphic treatments — handwriting, reverse video, transitions — and we draft a script for each story. We want to raise the bar aesthetically, while remaining true to the channel by speaking in the Snapchat vernacular.”

Mike Isabella, director of consumer engagement at Timberland, says Snapchat is the brand’s most lifestyle-focused platform and is utilized “through the lens of our campaign, the Modern Trail.” “Instagram is the curated, visual representation of our brand, where Snapchat is more spontaneous,” he said. “It could be anything from a photo shoot to a look at what we’re up to on the weekend.”

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