June 3, 2011
Released six months ago on the Apple app store, Instagram is a photo app that allows users to take and edit photos and post them immediately to the Instagram community through the consumer's profile. Luxury brands have only recently taken the plunge into Instagram, and it is becoming a successful marketing tactic.
“I think the incentive here is two-pronged," said said Ron Schott, senior strategist at Spring Creek Group, Seattle. "First, brands are able to tap into their customers' creative sides by taking part in a community that is driven, for the most part, by artistic expression.
“Second, they're able to easily send images to users who opt in without some of the added noise of other channels like Facebook and Twitter,” he said.
Mr. Schott is not affiliated with the brands, but agreed to comment as a third-party expert.
Gucci and Burberry were among the first luxury brands to create Instagram profiles.
Burberry posts professionally-shot photographs from its advertisements and other marketing campaigns.
With 34,564 followers Burberry has the largest fan base of the brands discussed as well as the most photos posted, at 255.
Gucci uses Instagram to post photos from events that its executives attend, celebrities wearing the brand and even old photos from the Gucci archives, including workers in one of its old factories.
Despite being one of the first luxury brands on Instagram, Gucci has posted only eight photos which most likely resulted in a low amount of followers, at 1,551.
More recently, luxury brands such as Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta and Bergdorf have started using the app.
Marc Jacobs mainly posts photos of models from its campaigns, which gained it the second-largest loyal following of 5,833 Instagram fans.
Oscar de la Renta and Bergdorf are quickly building up their followers and broadening the reach of the Instagram accounts by linking to them from Twitter.
“Right now, Instagram is very reliant on Twitter and Facebook as the vehicle for dissemination, but as the community grows, you'll see more people consuming the content directly through the application,” Mr. Schott said.
Oscar de la Renta PR girl has accumulated 1,887 Instagram followers, posting 100 photos that are linked to from her Twitter account, @OscarPRGirl.
This displays the photos to the account’s 69,595 global followers.
Bergdorf has chosen to use its Instagram account in a more unique way, displaying “secrets of NYC” and glimpses into a high-luxury lifestyle.
The department store posts New York sights, sculptures and hot spots, optimizing the mapping function of the app.
Bergdorf has posted 79 photos to date, and tweets the links to every photo on @bergdorfs.
This is probably broadening Bergdorf's audience from 1,727 Instagram followers to 54,404 Twitter followers.
Currently, the Instagram app has 4.25 million users whoare posting 10 photos per second, according toInstagram founder Kevin Systrom.
“This seems, for now, to be most-successful as a community-building tool," Mr. Schott said. "You're seeing a mix of early-adopters and socially-connected users flocking to Instagram, so the likelihood of sharing is incredibly high.”
As profiles gain followers, users may like others' photos, and photos can be categorized with a hashtag, much like in Twitter. There is also an optional mapping feature which pinpoints where the photo was taken.
As brands become more comfortable and the community grows, Instagram will become a product unveilings platform, per Mr. Schott.
In a new announcement, Apple plans to create an “I-Phone Hook” for the Instagram, allowing users to take photos in any of the other Apple camera apps and seamlessly slide it into the Instagram filter and posting page.
A more flexible app will undoubtedly lead to a larger Instagram community and more brands latching on. However, this may not be as beneficial as it originally appears.
While it would seem that a larger user-base would cause the marketing services to be more effective, Mr. Schott warns otherwise.
“Much like other social networks though, you'll see the point where brands come in and start giving the hard sell,” Mr. Schott said. “When that happens, it might have a negative effect on brands that have been all about the community from the beginning.”
Kayla Hutzler, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York