Snapchat Could Make Brand Storytelling Sexy

With Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel headlining Forbes “30 Under 30” list this week, everyone seems to be wondering the same thing: “How the heck will Snapchat make money?”

For starters, the red-hot social platform is the perfect vehicle for brands that want to get their hands dirty, so to speak.

Some companies have already started skinny-dipping into unchartered content waters. For example, Karmaloop, an offbeat e-commerce retailer, has begun sending Snapchat friends a mixture of racy photos, product updates, and coupons. There’s no hardcore material, but there is some nudity. As Megan Knisely, Karmaloop’s marketing director, recently told Adweek, “You got to be ready for a little bit of boobs and butt … We have played up the fun, sexy side of things.”

This is likely only the start, and in 2014, we should see Snapchat embraced by brands selling “cool” products aimed at young consumers, such as Axe, Bacardi, and American Apparel.

You got to be ready for a little bit of boobs and butt.”

Say you’re a young Lothario drawn to Axe Body Spray commercials that show models fawning over guys who use the deodorant. But those TV spots will always be restricted in some degree because of FCC regulations. If you engage with Axe on Snapchat, maybe the branded snaps show more skin. Maybe they eliminate the need for a male actor, and through the use of point-of-view camerawork, the model talks directly to you about the product. Such an intimate experience has the power to make young men feel exhilarated — a golden emotion in the marketing world.

In fact, Delta Lingerie executed a campaign along these lines during New Year’s Eve 2012 on Facebook Poke, a Snapchat clone. The disappearing 10-second video showed a lingerie model getting dressed behind a half-open door, the viewer positioned as a voyeur who is suddenly spotted by the model. The door slams, and the camera pans down to a card that directs the viewer to the Delta site for a discount on tights. Since then, Facebook Poke has waned while Snapchat has exploded, with a user base tailor-made for this type of edgy content.

“Snapchat’s audience is largely composed of teens, who have a low tolerance for advertising,” said Mark Evans, Head of Social Media for Mindshare North America. “But if they can create appropriate targeting mechanisms, they have an audience that is focused on your ad alone, which is a brand’s dream.”

Snapchat’s vanishing photo shtick will certainly make marketers queasy. Why pay for ads that disappear? But, there’s reason to believe that brands will be more than willing to create provocative content for Snapchat. Evans added that Snapchat “gives brands a chance to create urgency or exclusivity around their message.” He believes clothing and retail companies could have the strongest impact by offering up private deals and insider product launches.

Snapchat also seems like the perfect platform for “cool” brands to feel like insiders. In November, marketers for the upcoming film “22 Jump Street” started sending exclusive snaps from the set to users who friended the film’s account.MTV also tapped into the space in a similar manner last summer to hype up “Geordie Shore,” a UK version of “Jersey Shore.” It seems inevitable that characters on reality shows like “Jersey Shore” will be sending users sexy Snapchats during the show itself.

So the big question: Do these campaigns actually work? That remains to be seen. Karmaloop’s brief engagement has already resulted in an increase of 2,000 Snapchat friends.As more powerful brands join the party, those numbers could skyrocket quickly.

“I love the concept of short form content marketing and challenging brands to deliver content that is tailored and personal,” Evans said. “It’s about determining what part of your brand story can be delivered in this manner.”

So prepare to get edgy: Snapchat could make ephemeral content the next brand storytelling frontier.

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