September 9th, 2016
Last week Fast Company ran a story on how Snapchat is being used by DJ Khaled to deliver targeted messages to his millions of followers. He often mentions Listerine, Ciroc vodka, Dove hygiene products, and Palmer’s Cocoa Butter, but it is unclear at times if these plugs are sponsored by the brands or not.
There lies a slippery slope for marketers who utilize Snapchat and the challenge for the Federal Trade Commission tasked with protecting consumers and ensuring ethical business practices.
While brand advocacy has been around forever, Snapchat and other social platforms make it easy for influencers to amplify their message. And in the case of DJ Khaled, the line has blurred as it is unclear whether he is a genuine fan of the products he mentions or a paid spokesperson.
To be clear I do not believe DJ Khaled or any of the products he references are engaging in unethical behavior. This is more about how digital technology is creating new mediums to connect with audiences and how brands need to harness these capabilities without violating trust.
Within the digital marketspace, brands are increasingly embracing influencer marketing and native advertising to place their products and services within compelling content their audiences are consuming. This is no different than soap companies who sponsored daytime programming on radio in the 1930s and television in the 1950s. However, radio and television sponsorships are clearly referenced as commercials inserted into the programming.
Snapchat is different. Because the ephemeral content automatically purges after 24 hours, brands are using the platform to deliver creative content experiences – be it on their own or through social influencers.
According to the Fast Company article, Snapchat claims that 100 million users and 7 billion snaps are viewed on average every day. This offers a huge opportunity to build an audience through compelling content, and a nightmare for the regulator to stay in front of any surreptitious activity.
This is not to say brands are intentionally trying to deceive their audience. Today’s consumers are very astute, and can sniff out a shill quickly. With snaps vanishing within a day if not sooner, brands can creatively push the envelope on what they say as well as who delivers it.
According to a Digiday article, MeUndies is killing it on Snapchat. The underwear retailer is creating original, Snapchat-only content with customized vanity URLs to promote and sell specific items.
According to MeUndies, the company’s snaps are sketched like television ads, and on average 80,000 views per snap and 80 percent of viewers watch the complete story without skipping. Through compelling and comedic storylines, Snapchat has enabled MeUndies to drive traffic to its online shop and often unveils exclusive offers snapped up by its most loyal of fans who act fast.
The short shelf-life of snaps allows MeUndies to use Snapchat as an open canvas to frequently experiment and develop different storylines, instead of relying on influencers.
Brands can learn a lot from DJ Khaled and MeUndies, both at the forefront of social engagement. The key is developing (or aligning with) content that is entertaining, genuine, transparent and trustworthy.