What is Instagram?
Instagram is a free photo sharing application for mobile, which allows users to take photos, apply a filter, and share it on the service or a variety of other social networking services (CrunchBase).
Launched in March 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, with seed funding of $500,000, the platform was purchased in April 2012 by Facebook for a reported $1 billion in cash and stock. The application is currently compatible with any iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch or any Android device running Android 2.2 or above.
“ In the ten days after launching its first Android App, Instagram’s user base grew from 30 to 40 million ”
Instagram photographs by Hermès & Gucci
Who is using Instagram?
Originally available only to iPhone owners, the Instagram iOS app had accumulated over 30 million users just eighteen months after it debuted. In the ten days after launching its first Android App, Instagram’s user base grew from 30 to 40 million, at a rate of over 1,000,000 new users per day.
Instagram has continued to grow at an astounding pace in the first seven months of 2012 – going from 15 million users in early 2012 to 80 million in July – an increase of over 400% in just seven months (Forbes).
According to data from appdata.com, the user base of Instagram is nearly 70% female – described by Forbes as the people who make the majority of household purchase decisions.
Number of Instagram Followers (As of 23rd August 2012)
How are luxury brands using Instagram?
40 percent of the world’s most popular 100 brands – according to Interbrand – are now active on the photo-sharing network. When it comes to luxury, the key players so far are Burberry, Gucci, Tiffany & Co., Audi, and Hermès, with follower bases between 75,000 and 500,000.
Instagram is fast establishing itself as the social network of choice for luxury lifestyle brands according to L2 because luxury brands have inherently visual stories to tell. Burberry, for example, use the platform to reinforce its ‘Britishness’, showcasing photos of the London skyline and key landmarks, alongside the occasional product shot or advertising campaign.
“ Instagram is fast establishing itself as the social network of choice for luxury lifestyle brands because they have inherently visual stories to tell ”
Hermès – active on Facebook but yet to launch an official Twitter account – follows a much more product oriented approach. Under the username Hermès Paris, the brand shares photographs of its accessories, homewares and iconic orange packaging, both as advertising images and amateur shots of products in action.
The platform is also being increasingly used for photographic competitions. Brands such as Chloé, W Hotels, Tiffany & Co. and Four Seasons have all taken to the App to encourage conversations with fans and ensure user engagement.
W Hotels went so far as to launch an Instagram exhibition at its New York City property, which showcased the work of six commissioned artists but also allowed its Instagram community to win two-nights stay when submitting photographs under the hashtag #wdesign.
Burberry use Instagram to share new products, advertising campaigns and cover events, as well as champion its ‘Britishness’ with photographs of London
Why should it be a consideration for luxury brand marketers?
“Our atomic unit of communication on Instagram is an image,” explained founder Kevin Systrom to TechCrunch. “Advertisers all around the world speak in images.” Perhaps even more compelling, is the fact that if someone opens Instagram, they’re likely to open it eight more times that day.
Systrom is confident that Instagram may be “the next big opportunity in display advertising.” And even though the app doesn’t have an ad program yet, he highlighted three ways that brands are already using it; To promote products, for live event coverage and publicity, and to create Instagram specific campaigns – such as the example with W Hotels.
“What’s really cool about this is, it doesn’t feel like advertising,” Systrom mused. “When you open Instagram, it feels like entertainment.”
“ Our atomic unit of communication on Instagram is an image. Advertisers all around the world speak in images ”
One particular US fashion brand has come forward to champion the platform’s direct impact on sales. In conversation with Luxury Daily, Rebecca Minkoff founder Uri Minkoff, explained how the brand’s Instagram community now forms an integral part of both the design process and retail mix.
Rebecca Minkoff - the designer - first started using Instagram to share “shoe of the day” images that showed her outfit from her legs down (Luxury Daily). The brand has since grown its community to 70,000+ users, where the amount of “likes” and comments that the images receive can go into the thousands.
The brand now uses the platform for instantaneous feedback on design and to interact with the comments that it sees on images, and steer consumers towards retail partners or brand hubs. As a result, spring shoe sales were up 100 percent, with expectations to grow by 200 percent this year. The brand also used user generated Instagram photographs as advertising, in the debut issue of Style.com/Print issue.
W Hotels launched Manhattan’s first ever social network photo exhibition in May 2012
Why should luxury brand marketers be cautious?
“A poor shot of a watch on a hairy wrist,” deadpans (Franck Jehanne), co-founder of The Kalory Agency. “An un-retouched close-up of a handbag buckle showing micro scratches rather than representing its true luxury material feel. A picture of a flagship store featuring a dirty street and people’s reflections instead of carefully merchandised window displays,” he continues. “All these communications feature the wrong message and effectively kill the luxury dream.”
To avoid this, many luxury brands are using professionally shot product and campaign images on the app, before applying various filters and effects. But the one area they have little control over is user generated comments, which range from complimentary and celebratory, to – more often than not – profane and absurd.
Everything from requests for internships, to abbreviated Internet speak (LOL, G8, <3), to self promotion from followers, and what appears to be the work of Spambots. It has a similar effect to seeing a carefully styled, photographed and printed advertising campaign, covered in graffiti at a bus stop.
Rebecca Minkoff’s print campaign in Style.com/Print, using user-generated Instagram images of the brands accessories
Where can Instagram take luxury brand marketing?
As yet, this is not deterring luxury brands. On the contrary, more and more brands are launching communities everyday. But as compared to Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is still in its infancy, both in terms of community size and sophistication. Though its growth is undeniably impressive, little is really understood as to how brands will benefit from making it a part of their marketing mix.
Parallels can be drawn to Facebook, in that until recently, luxury brands didn’t really know what to do with the millions of followers their branded content and inside access was earning them. But as that social network has become more sophisticated and collaborative, we have seen many luxury brands move far beyond consumer engagement, into crowdsourcing projects, social commerce and producing Facebook exclusive products.
The Simply Measured Instagram study estimates that use of the platform by businesses will only increase as new administrative features become available. Features that allow brands to better control their accounts, manage communities and drive deeper engagement and business value.
TO GO FURTHER
To further investigate Instagram and Photography, we invite you to explore the following Luxury Society articles:
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is reposted with the permission of Luxury Society, the authority on the luxury industry.
Warm thanks in particular to Sophie and Philippe.
After publishing two male photographers (Carlo Mollino & Steven Lyon), our new guest for "Photography Without Words" series is a woman, and what a woman! Anushka Menon, a New Delhi based beauty & fashion photographer, is not just another talented photographer. Her humanistic, versatile & colourful touch makes her work both modern & fresh, her aesthetics combine Indian culture and Western fashion codes.
As she puts it (see her biography below), "her portfolio now has almost everything to offer, from beauty & fashion, to people, places, spaces and products."
We have also decided to include an interview given her incredible position as a woman photographer to learn more about her and about contemporary India.
But before you can read the interview, as usual, the pictures will speak for themselves, with no comment or context provided, open your eyes...
A Special Tribute to Anoushka Shankar & Her Divine Music Thanks to Anushka Menon
Rolex has selected one of her images for their 2012-2013 World Wide Campaign with Brand Ambassador Anoushka Shankar. The ads are out in magazines, billboards and of course on the Rolex Site!
Who are you?
I’d like to think I am many people all in one body. I have differently personalities which guide me through different phases in my life.
What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
Their love, respect and honesty towards me.
What is your favourite food, drink and/or restaurant?
Molecular gastronomy cuisine. Red Wine or Dirty Martinis! Shroom Restaurant New Delhi!
How do you
wish to feel the day you die?
What is your
present state of mind?
What is your favourite motto or quotation?
What goes around….comes around!
What is photography for you?
My bread and butter.
Who are the photographers, artists or people whom you find most inspiring in life?
I have many people who inspire me… But mostly it’s my friends…
How do you feel that being an Indian woman influence your work as a photographer?
India to me is a second home. I love the country and its culture and richness and sometimes it reflects in my work, but mostly I am influenced by the West as we all are – but I honestly feel I shoot Western better than I shoot Indian!
How do you perceive India today? Are traditions strongly preserved? How does women’s role evolve?
India is a scary place to be. As a woman it’s not the easiest of countries to live and work in. Things have become better over the years but we still have a long way to go before the majority of women are treated as equals. But it is my home and I have had many opportunities here I may not have had being abroad so it has its advantages and disadvantages
How do young Indian artists and professionals look at the rest of the world: an opportunity or a threat?
Opportunity for sure! It’s a way of expanding and growing. India is amazing but sometimes can be very suffocating.
How do you choose the brands you work for as a photographer? How do you pick & coach your models?
Now I choose my brands according to what inspires me. If I can connect to the brand and its vision then I take on the job!
Casting models is always a difficult process; we have a dearth of really good models in India. There are a handful only. Coaching them comes with practice, everyone needs a different approach. Sometimes it works, sometimes is does not!
Where is Indian fashion heading to? Which brands are your favourite?
Indian fashion is progressing really fast. We have such talent brewing
from all across the country!
My favourite brands are Manish Arora and Anaikka.
Which projects are in the pipe?
Just money making jobs at the moment!
How is Instagram affecting professional photography as so many people now use it for their blogs, facebook & social media in general?
I don’t think it affects professional photography at all! Professional photographers love using the app as I do but would never be able to use it for a commercial job!
What do you do and where are you when you do not work?
I love being in my space at home with my dogs. I also love working out so I go for personal training and just started with Arial Silks.
What would you do if you were not a photographer?
I have wanted to be many things… but most of all a musician!
What is your piece of advice to aspiring photographers?
Photography is not an easy way of life or making money, so try and develop your own style and make it original! Shoot what inspires you, make it speak for itself and stay true to your ideals.
TO GO FURTHER
"I live in a crazy city with beautiful people... and I love to take photographs! Just over 7 years ago I began my career as one of India's youngest female photographers to have worked in the beauty & fashion industry.
Since then, I have been able to work with some incredible people, both in front of and behind the camera, to create a portfolio that I am proud of. I have been lucky enough to have photographed a diverse set of people from film stars such as ShahRukh Khan & Gabriela Wright to the Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes to musicians such as Anoushka Shankar, Midival Punditz & Karsh Kale just to name a few!
My photography education began in 2002 when I moved to Australia and did a course in Art Design and Communication at RMIT Melbourne after which I decided to focus entirely on photography. I then moved to India and completed a 2-year photography course in Delhi.
My portfolio now has almost everything to offer, from beauty & fashion, to people, places, spaces and products.
Highlights in my career:
- Rolex Watches 2012/2013 Campaign with Brand Ambassador Anoushka Shankar
- Fashion Photographer of the Year at the Marie Claire Fashion Awards 2011
- Rated one of the top six young emerging photographers in 2007 by The Fuji Film Company.
- Award for Excellence at the "NOKIA EYE ON FASHION" contest 2006 for the best New Photographer in a professional category.
- Trained under one of my icons, Beauty & Fashion Photographer, Gavin O Neill."