Sep 2014

The Importance of Stories

From our ancient ancestors passing stories down through the generations that we still tell today, we have been fascinated by the power of stories. Stories stimulate our emotions. They create a lasting impression – which is just what you want for your brand. Your brand is perhaps the most important aspect of your company.

What we love about stories is that they are captivating, memorable and inspiring. They aren’t about facts, figures and statistics. We can see ourselves in those stories and identify with the lead characters. The art of brand storytelling is not about boasting how amazing you are, but to tell a story that makes your customer the hero.

In this generation where technology is so handy and people want to surf things quickly and get as much information as possible in the least amount of time, visual marketing becomes very important. Instagram is one of the biggest social media platforms to watch for 2014 as it’s a fun, visual, and engaging channel for brands, influences, and consumers. People love posting photos of their meals, outfits, pets, vacations, so on and so forth. Brands can take advantage of Instagram by focusing on people’s passions and what evokes emotion from them each day.


Why Instagram?

While Twitter took over a year to reach 1 million users, Instagram achieved that feat in merely two months. Currently touting over 200 million monthly users and 20 billion photos uploaded, the visual media platform is becoming a powerful marketing tool for brands.

The highlights of Instagram usage in brand storytelling are:

  • It’s quick and intuitive.
  • It integrates easily into other profiles like Twitter and Facebook, so you can share your photos across all your social media accounts.
  • It’s the top photography site among teens 12 to 17.
  • The appeal of Instagram is that it is image-based, offering a different way to communicate with the readers as compared to other social networks that are text or comment-based.
  • The inbuilt filters can be used to give desired effects to the pictures.

Lessons from some brands that did it right

Every successful brand or company has a story to tell as to why they should be bought instead of their competitors’ offerings. Here are a few takeaways from the brands which have been successful in creating a buzz among customers.

  1. Feature Customers Using Your Products – Appealing to people’s vanity could be one of the easiest ways to encourage brand engagement.

 e.g. a) Clothing Company Free People uses the app to turn customers into models by asking them to post photos of themselves wearing their favorite Free People fashion. These are added to the website, so that customers can see how the product looks in real life, in a variety of styles.



b) Benefit Cosmetics, who turned to Instagram to find images of real people using its “they’re real!” mascara. Fans submitted more than 11,900 selfies via Instagram using the #realsies hashtag, and Benefit Cosmetics created a mosaic view of these submissions on a responsive design microsite linking to the “they’re real!” product page.



  1. Get behind the scenes– Instagram offers a unique platform to give consumers a snapshot of the behind-the-scenes workings of a company, or even a peak into the day-to-day lives of its employees. The best way is to post pictures of happy employees in their work element or at company events to show that your business doesn’t take life too seriously and workers truly enjoy being a part of your team.

e.g. a)Burberry–Burberry, unlike its high-end competitors, uses its account to post cool backstage pictures from photo shoots.


Romeo Beckam on set at the S/S13 campaign shoot with #Burberry Chief Creative Officer

Christopher Bailey.

b) Tiffany’s has also given fans an inside look into how the jewelry is actually made.




3. Use of hashtag-based contests  5

Hashtags have become very popular in the digital world so it makes sense to utilize them in your social media strategy. One of the most common tactics for starting conversations with users and driving up follower numbers is to hold a photo competition.

This generally involves coming up with a branded hashtag and asking users to submit  images based around a particular theme.

e.g. a) Ford #Fiestagram


Ford gave away weekly prizes and the grand prize was a brand new Ford Fiesta. 16,000 photos were posted within 7 week period.

It gained 120,000 facebook fans in Europe.

It created a huge interest from fashion, style and technology trendsetters.

b) During National Geographic Channel’s “#UntamedAmericas” the magazine asked travelers to capture some of the most beautiful landscapes in the continents. The winning contestants received a National Geographic camera bag filled with a Nikon D3100 and a subscription to National Geographic Magazine.


Over 6,900 photos were submitted with the hashtag #UntamedAmericas in just over five weeks. Followers on Instagram increased by 55% from 10,781 to 16,817, average likes/photo increased by 205% from 126.2 to 384.81 and average comments/photo increased by 239% percent from 3.5 to 11.88.

  1. Build anticipation – Refer to something that will be happening later that day, week or month tokeep your followers engaged and give them an exclusive treatment.

 e.g. Photographer Mike Kuspresented Instagram followers with a real-time photo feed duringits September London runway shows, getting fans pictures before it was available anywhere else.


  1. Promote New Products-

e.g. Ben & Jerry’s- According to Instagram, last November the brand posted four sponsored images of their new flavor over the course of eight days, targeting American users between 18 and 35 years old. They reached 9.8 million users in the process, saw a 33-point increase in ad recall, and alerted 17% of these users to their new flavor.


b) To promote new headphones, the #SonyX contest allowed users to post 1 image a day, with a daily winner receiving a $50 coupon.


c) To promote the release of the Swatch New Gent Lacquered watch, Swatch gave the authors of the best photos #fromthestreets the new product. The giveaway seemed extremely effective as the brand actually has more followers on Instagram than on Twitter.


  1. Harness Hashtag Power – Hashtags are a great way to get your posts and brand noticed in the vast universe that is Instagram. 80% of brand posts contain at least one hashtag, and the average brand post will have three.

 e.g. a)Starbucks has always been a leader in generating brand conversations centered around the customer. Their customers are encouraged to take pictures showing how Starbucks fits into their daily lives, generating a vast photo record of fans’ interaction with the brand.



b) Lipton ran a contest that spanned across 11 countries and in seven different languages, with a Grand Prize being a safari trip to Kenya, during four-weeks in 2013. Followers simply uploaded an image that applied to a weekly hashtag word.



  1. Power users / Influencers the new brand ambassadors –

Who are these people?

People who are more active than the average user and more widely followed by their community. According to Kindai report, some 22% of them boast over 200,000 followers, which makes them an especially valuable target for brands looking to tell their story.

e.g. a) Steven Rojas @stevenrojas  (115k+ followers)

He is a good example of visual influencer who also has a strong twitter following.

b) Sam Horine @samhorine (343k+ followers)

He is a photographer most widely known for the pictures of New York City he shoots and posts on Instagram.


c)  Liz Ezwein @newyorkcity (1225k+ followers)

Her aim is to give people a glimpse into life in the city that never sleeps.


  1. Geolocated content – Geo-location is also highly popular, with over half of all Instagram subscribers using it. 47% of standard-profile ‘Instagramers’ say they have been on to a commercial site after seeing a friend’s post, especially when the photos are taken in a restaurant or an arts or entertainment venue.

e.g. Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong@FSHongKong

It launched an Instagram competition to capture Hong Kong’s most iconic scenes and geotag the specific location. The participants had to post their image to Instagram with the hashtag:



  1. Show your products creatively – Pilot Pen USA is a great example of creative marketing on Instagram. They sell pens, right? So how do you market that on a social site like Instagram? Theyk show photos of handwritten notes, and their pens.


  1. Reply to Comments – If people have taken the time to comment on your posts, it is very important to respond to them. This is how you will quickly grow a loyal Instagram audience. Make sure to @mention their name in your response comment to ensure they receive a notification of your comment.

e.g. Starbucks is one of the top 3 brands on Instagram. They use this tactic frequently. Every few weeks they show appreciation for one their followers, by giving a shout out to cool image makers. The images include their products. They take it one step further by updating their Facebook covers, using the Instagram photos. Their fans love it.


b) Here’s another example of Coke @mentioning a customer who won a recent Instagram photo contest:





Sanchit Mendiratta

Sanchit is a Partner at Happy Marketer.