Op-Ed: Pinterest – The Savior of Print?

By Kiran Aditham 

Let’s check in as we do every month with our pal and HUGE senior marketing strategist Josh Seifert, who this time turns his attention to emerging social media powerhouse Pinterest (which recently even enticed a certain world leader to join). There’s really no need to preface things any further as the hed should adequately tease Seiftert’s topic of discussion today. Take it away, sir.

Ever since a creative director colleague introduced me to Pinterest to put together moodboards, I’ve slowly watched what seems like every single Facebook friend begin following my mostly empty boards. For anyone still unfamiliar, Pinterest is essentially a digital corkboard that lets users “pin” images from various websites, saving them to “pinboards” viewable by the rest of the community. Users can then “repin” things they find on others’ boards, to add it to their own. It’s a terrific tool for finding inspiration, saving stuff you might be interested in later, or just managing ideas visually.


A handful of brands have been quick to start taking advantage of Pinterest—HGTV, Kate Spade, Whole Foods, West Elm. As a highly visual site, fashion and home décor (and brands within those verticals) are pretty obvious fits for Pinterest. More surprising is a recent survey that found 70 percent of users share recipes or other cooking-related photos. As more users begin using Pinterest in more ways, all kinds of brands will surely follow and either create their own presences, or begin using “Pin It” buttons to make content on other digital properties shareable on the site.

What strikes me most about Pinterest is its potential as a technology to bridge the gap between traditional advertising and digital. Facebook and Twitter disrupt the traditional ways that brands have communicated with audiences, but Pinterest could end up being a digital technology that makes storytelling in advertising even more powerful. While printed publications have slowly given way to digital ones, the digital advertising that has followed—online banners—is completely inferior for storytelling and brand advertising. Pinterest is poised to make “print” highly relevant in digital in a potentially massive way.

To oversimplify, digital’s directed and transaction-oriented nature has meant that attempts to recreate the “lean-back” inspiration experience of print often fail online. A catalog is scanned and put online (complete with animated page turns—it’s digital, after all), or an alternate digital experience emphasizes selling products, turning what should be a more passive experience into e-commerce. Neither option is particularly compelling.

Pinterest, however, is a ready-made platform for inspiration and discovery, lean-back at its heart. All that’s needed is great content that users find interesting, for whatever reason. While some of this content will come from users, much of it can come from brands, as users look for the best visual examples of whatever it is they want to share—from curtains in a room they love to cookies that look delicious.

As a social platform to let people share anything and everything they find interesting, Pinterest may prove to be an ideal place for marketers and advertisers to connect with consumers in a brand-centric way. While Facebook users want coupons, deals and incentives from the companies they “like,” Pinterest users just want something inspirational and interesting that they can repin and share.

For any company seeking to provide inspiration to consumers, Pinterest has sorted out the place to do it, letting brands focus on their content and messages. While I doubt Pinterest will become the place to merely post print ads, the brands that put out visually arresting and powerful content—the same found in all kinds of advertising, from print to television to outdoor—will likely find success with consumers.

Still in its infancy, with a user base a mere fraction of Twitter and Facebook, the growth and success of Pinterest remains uncertain, but the explosion of primarily visual social media may well increase the importance and value of great brand advertising stories that other areas of digital seem to have forgotten.