Snapchat - What It Can Do for Your Brand

10/23/2013 12:45 pm 12:45:19 | Updated Jan 23, 2014

What started as a way to send funny, sexy or other silly quick pictures or videos to friends has turned into the next big thing for marketing teams. Snapchat, the multimedia messaging app where content can be viewed for up to 10 seconds before it is deleted, is prime real estate for innovative marketing campaigns, and now is the time to get in on the act. Although a brand-advertising feature has yet to emerge, brands should get an early start on the network to exploit its precious commodity: a personal 10 seconds with their target customer.

The Welcomed Ghost

Whenever the small faceless ghost appears on my lock screen, I'm immediately faced with a string of questions: Who is it from? Is it a video or photo? Will this picture or video be safe for work? Will it be screenshot-worthy? Often the mystery of the content to be shown and the nature of the work environment lead me to defer my snaps until I'm within the privacy of my home. All this emotional involvement and decision-making surrounds a single received snap.

Enter brands. Now, the excitement of the exchange is tied into a piece of content from a popular store or website. Whether the content is in the form of a coveted coupon, a preview of the coming season's new style or a promotional video, the target audience now has limited time to absorb the advertisement, grabbing their undivided attention for up to 10 seconds. And in a world of 140-characters and 15-second TV commercials, capturing the audience in small bits is a proven tactic to make a lasting impression.

"There is value in the ephemeral," is a common phrase from Snapchat. The short time span adds a whole new dimension to the marketing game. Not only does the app garner excitement, but it also forces quality and creativity: What can one actually do with a still picture or a 10-second video? Acura used six seconds of user interaction to showcase its new prototype, the NSX supercar, as it races around a track. Karmaloop, an online clothing shop, showcased suggestive snaps of its models to its followers, along with previews of new shoe and clothing products. Even more effective was the campaign from 16 Handles, a frozen yogurt chain that offered coupons of 25 percent, 50 percent--even some 100 percent--for those sending a picture of themselves in the process of enjoying some of the brand's yogurt. Whatever their target audience values, brands can utilize Snapchat to deliver it to them in an innovative way.

The Personal Level

Snapchat also offers the unique opportunity to communicate on an intimate, personal level. With no advertised special features for brands, the platform is a level playing field for all producers of content, brands and users alike.

Some brands have leveraged this personal advantage for creative campaigns. Taco Bell is the most active brand on Snapchat thus far. One unique example of how the fast food giant attains a personal feel with the customer is by playing with the cards they're dealt. Armed with only a smartphone, four Taco Bell employees document a late night food run. When you see the pictures of the meal, you're not seeing a false representation of the Mexican fast food that is prevalent in advertising. You see the actual tacos, nachos and burritos, accompanied by funny comments and drawings, a feature that requires personal time and effort. After the meal is devoured, the wrappers and packaging are playfully strewn about the table, with a tombstone and "RIP" drawn over the picture.

Just the Beginning

Already, Snapchat has amassed an estimated 8 million adult users across the country--after just two years in existence. In three months, the volume of snaps jumped from 200 million to 350 million per day. This app is clearly changing the way smartphone users communicate, so why not join in the conversation? Brands can follow the example set by Taco Bell and Acura, or better yet, find their own way to captivate their audience with a 10-second video. As the technology and company develop into a full-fledged business, your company can be early adopters of the next big trend by including Snapchat in your next marketing campaign.

Mike Cunningham and Giuseppe Crosti are fellows with Venture for America, an organization that seeks to revitalize American cities and communities through entrepreneurship. They co-manage SocialProvidence, the brand new social media management and consulting arm of Havas PR based out of Providence, RI. They want to help other small business owners and entrepreneurs by chronicling their experience and sharing their observations of the ever-changing social media space.

To see Havas CEO Marian Salzman's post on SocialProvidence, click here.