Associate Brand Director Charlotte Corbett talks about the impact of social media in branding and how important it is to be a brand with purpose. Branding as we know it has been turned on its head, the singular touchpoint approach is replaced by a seamless customer experience. There is increased complexity for brands to co-ordinate multichannels to a new era of consumer who demand an exclusive relationship built on sharing engaging stories.

Brands succeed if they are connected online but its more than this; it’s about carving an own-able, authentic culture. Instagram is king of the mobile display world and is now the fastest growing social network with 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook and 120 times more than Twitter. It is the new visual pulse on the world and can’t be ignored. Win the battle for cultural relevance online and create a conversation with the crowd. We explore key ways to carve a culture and embrace this new window on the world.



1. Brands must focus on creating an own-able brand culture grounded in rich, authentic brand stories that customers can connect with – it’s more than just a hashtag. Brands with well thought out values will stand out online. Instagram offers a unique platform to visually present a brand, celebrate personality and keep it top of mind. A great example of this is the Lonely Planet, a brand known for printed books, embraced the digital age and crafted a distinctive visual look around the vision of exploring and enjoying the world.


2. Once an authentic brand story is established then consistency is key. Be strategic about what you post and view your feed holistically and not as individual images. Set up a theme and look that will direct your photography. Consistency communicates trust to consumers, resulting in a well earned purchase. An image speaks a thousand words so most successful feeds are image led with little text. Everlane is a great example of this whether posting product or landscape they have a grey/black/white look. Find what works for you and stick to it. 



“By partnering with Instagram we saw the power of connecting with our audience using
great creative and the immediate impact that has on business results. Our brand lift was
very significant in terms of awareness, recall and association compared to any other
media channel.”

Interactive Marketing Communication Manager – Turkish Airlines




3. Be even bolder and consider how the Instagram window will influence your product. Brand Sonic Drive-In's #SquareShakes, are the first brand to have a product designed for the Instagram platform increasing the share ability of their content. “Everything about this product is square – the cup, the straw, even the cherry on top. I thought this was visually interesting and it taps into something we all do already. We all take pictures of our food and post it”. – Creative Director Margaret Johnson.


4. Don’t underestimate the power of the hashtag, they are the best way to grow a contents reach. Posts that include at least one hashtag see an average of 12.6% more engagement. Hashtags create engagement, anyone can click a hashtag and suddenly your influence extends beyond the restrictions of your own followers. The hashtag makes your photo discoverable by target audiences, otherwise your photos will remain private. Hashtags in photos enables brands to influence and create brand followers. Make them specific and use sparingly – about five is the golden number –to avoid posts seeming too amateurish and try hard. A nice example of a recurring theme is #thingsorganisedneatly.


5. Build a community through geotags, simple but not something many people know about. Have your business listed as a location on Instagram means that people can check in – creating a community in real time. Others who click that geotag location can see all the other posts that people are uploading. This communicates brand transparency and creates a showcase of product or services but also reaches new customers. Also if customers are publicly sharing their experiences you can regram that content to your account. This acknowledges your existing customers and shows them appreciation.



6 Instagram’s user base is largely millennials – a group that want to actively engage with brands and thrive on the opportunity to self promote. Shrewd  brands are exploiting this – making the effort to engage with individual fans humanizes even the biggest brands and generates exciting, honest content. Marc Jacobs fashion label ran a campaign to find credible, creative millennials for its Autumn/Winter Marketing Campaign. Fans submitted photos of themselves by adding the #CastMeMarc to images, this created considerable brand buzz in the process. Nine of the 70,000 entries made the final cut and appeared in an edition of teen Vogue. "It seemed like a great idea to me, as casting through Instagram seemed cool, current and strong" said Marc Jacobs, “we wanted the ads to shout with youth and energy.” 


7. Instagram is described as a lifestyle focused “moment sharing” platform. To tap into Instagrams vast global fan base it is important to be respectful to its aesthetic and content rules to avoid alienating customers with a hard sell. This means being authentic and spontaneous emphasizing inspiration over product. Starbucks coffee are a good example of this uploading inspired photography of product out and about – creating a world that customers want to be a part of – this detracts from the ultimate goal of making a purchase. Starbucks vision is driven by inspiring and nurturing the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.



“Instagram is fantastic for small and medium businesses. The targeting and global reach enable
us to connect with a passionate and engaged consumer base to tell an authentic brand story in
a really simple and effective way.”

CEO – Wool and the Gang




8. Instagram is an incredible creative canvas that can be used to inspire and delight. Instagram stories – has just launched a feature that lets users post photos and videos that vanish after 24hours. This enables brands to get followers so close to their product they can feel it and connect more deeply. Brands have a chance to take their followers on a journey behind the scenes and tell the stories behind posts. J Crew embraced this new format and created a pink infused story marketing the “limited availability” of their pink sunglasses product – Instagram becoming an instant shop window to help sell product.

How smart is that. The possibilities are endless. Always remember whatever you create, keep it consistent to your carefully carved brand culture



9. There are third party e-commerce platforms that exist such as Like2buy – it helps turn Instagram engagement into sales. It works by pulling images directly from the photo-sharing platform in order to render them shop-able. Each Like2Buy brand account displays images from the brands feed – when these images are clicked they re-direct users straight to the ecommerce website. Although not a one touch solution it does give brands another route to connecting commercially with fans by what they see.

…and if that’s not enough more recently Instagram has launched “Instagram for business” a new range of tools aimed at small businesses to promote and elevate their companies and brands, as well as collect valuable insights into the behaviours of their followers. Read more about this here.


10. And finally but by no means least. For the first time ever small brands can compete on the global stage with big brands. Watch brand Shore Projects grew its business on Instagram – crafting a visual culture around the beauty and fun of the British Shore line.

“For the first six months of launching the business, the only platform we actually focused on was Instagram” Says Neil Waller, CO-founder of Shore Projects. Instagram became the perfect shop window for the brand to show it’s personality and display it’s timeless, every day product and how it is worn around the world – Be inspired and watch the video below. 

Let us help you craft your culture to success