A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words, But What’s Its Price Tag on Instagram?

Opinion: Aspirational images connect with users emotionally

Now that Instagram has found a good way to monetize its platform, other networks will quickly follow suit Wachiwit/iStock

If you’re an Instagram user, you’ve likely come across ads from Quip and Away. You’ve probably seen them more than once. Ever wondered why?

It’s not random that Quip and Away ads dominate Instagram feeds. Both brands have wisely adopted advertising strategies that incorporate Instagram’s preferred content—aspirational images that connect with users emotionally.

Let’s start with Quip, which some refer to as the Tesla of toothbrushes. And rightfully so: Quip ads look and feel highly reminiscent of marketing from major tech companies—especially Apple.

This is for two reasons. First, like Apple, Quip understands the importance of ads that incorporate target demographic content preferences and interests. The toothbrush brand uses edgy, aesthetically attractive images to create “must-have” feelings among viewers, just like iPhone ads. Quip’s sleek product photos mirror the style of popular Instagram influencers and celebrities—it’s no surprise that the toothbrush comes in rose gold.

Second, Quip ads convey a high-end purchasing experience, despite that fact that toothbrushes are an inexpensive grocery store item. Every Quip ad focuses on the product’s efficiency, ease of use and add-ons that solve for customer inconveniences, such as an automatic renewal program for toothpaste. Technology retailers like Apple follow the same marketing strategy when they highlight their devices’ user friendliness and conveniences.

Away applies both of these tactics to travel. The company’s stylish ads feature just-as-stylish travelers on exciting vacations. This conveys a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) and wanderlust, suggesting that adventure awaits if only you purchase an Away suitcase.

Like Quip, Away also spotlights its product’s sophisticated features and conveniences. Each suitcase has a built-in charger and comes with a 100-day, no-questions-asked return guarantee—attractive perks considering the bag’s high price tag.

Even if you don’t need a new suitcase, Away ads make you feel like your life won’t be as great—or as easy—until you upgrade.

The biggest strength Quip and Away ads share, however, is that they’re not disruptive to the larger Instagram experience. It’s easy to spot sponsored content on Facebook and Twitter, but not so much on Instagram. The platform’s mobile-first approach creates an environment where users always know what to expect—an image, a few engagement buttons and then comments. This consistency makes it easier for brands’ native ads to blend in on Instagram.

Historically, Instagram has never asked people to engage further than posting and liking. This catered to a user base interested in a simple way to stay in touch with friends and family, but not so much to brands’ sales goals.

However, Instagram’s new in-application booking and payment features announce the platform’s jump into commerce and, more specifically, direct-response marketing. When browsing Instagram, users already develop attachments to products and imagine their lives post-purchase. The social network’s new “action buttons” empower people to follow through on these feelings and spontaneously purchase, whether looking at pictures of a new shirt or the latest game system.

Once Instagram extends its full business features to all companies, any brand can mirror the strategies Quip and Away use to win over social media users who are further down the marketing funnel. To create ads that encourage more engagement while still looking like part of the overall Instagram experience, consider these tips:

  • Be relevant: Instagram ads aren’t for every brand, as not all content strategies align with the platform’s visual demands. Neither do all products. An item must speak to Instagram’s audiences and their desires for aspirational, stunning pictures. Ads for a lawn mower, for example, won’t inspire action on Instagram.
  • Prioritize convenience: Marketers must respect that Instagram is still in its commerce infancy, and users aren’t ready to put in a ton of effort. The fewer clicks before checkout, the better. Brands should also support multiple payment options to make checkout easier and lower the barrier for impulsive purchasing.
  • Personalize: Instagram’s algorithm rewards personalization and is engineered to show users content that’s similar to what they’ve engaged with before. Brands must know what their target audiences enjoy and search for on Instagram, otherwise they’ll struggle to get involved in important conversations.

Now that Instagram has found a good way to monetize its platform, other networks will quickly follow suit. As that happens, brands may be tempted to reuse content from one social media platform to the next. But there’s little to earn in creating content for Facebook and then resizing it for Instagram.

Brands interested in driving real return on investment from social media marketing must thoughtfully address each platform’s unique opportunities, needs and users. Brands should also invest in new systems designed to handle complex digital environments like social.

For example, call-tracking solutions arm marketers with a data-driven perspective on which social media advertising choices encourage consumers to pick up their phones and call. Similarly, sentiment analysis technologies help brands monitor and react to different emotions among social media users. Marketers can use these insights to develop targeted ad campaigns that earn them the best chances of reaching the right social users with the right content.

And with more than 800 million monthly users on Instagram alone, brands stand to engage many consumers once they embrace strategy as part of their social media marketing programs.

Nancy Lim is director of marketing at call tracking and analytics company CallRail.