Earlier this year, we profiled five brands that have each built themselves a solid marketing presence on Instagram, the popular photo editing and sharing social network so often linked to Twitter and Facebook updates. We’ve also stressed the why and how of using Instagram for marketing, citing the increasing importance of mobile marketing, and how that should be playing into the strategies and tactics of your social media marketing.
Now, I'm sure most of you know that social media is important. I’m also confident that many of you know some basic strategies. But let’s talk about the Earlybird-filtered big picture: when it comes to presenting your brand on social media, your reputation and brand image is only as strong and complete as your most recent update. If your content is off-brand, your image will come across as confused, incomplete, or just plain wrong. That’s not to say you should be dropping nothing but explicitly on-product tweets, but to say that your content, be it original or shared, should always carry within it some sort of a representation or affirmation of your brand’s identity in some way. In fact, a Facebook study just recently confirmed this very philosophy!
An interesting way to explore this constant depiction of brand values and traits is through—you guessed it!—Instagram photos posted by brands. Check out the following images and learn how these ten companies completely nailed the representation of their respective brands.
Annie's Homegrown has done an excellent job of asserting its brand identity as an all-natural, organic, and healthy provider of foods Americans love, from macaroni and cheese to frozen pizza to fruit-flavored gummy snacks. The brand understands how important these qualities have become to its target demographic, so its Twitter strategy is based upon sharing product news, tasty-sounding recipes, and Instagram photos. This shot of a wooden version of Annie's logo keeping guard over a small vegetable garden incorporates several important parts of Annie’s brand identity. It takes the brand's logo, already cute and loveable, and places him directly amidst the action of the brand’s foundation. Additionally, the garden is small, and looks to be on a residential street instead of a factory, implying that Annie’s ingredients are not only natural and organic but also as homegrown as the brand name implies.
Billboard is, like many other publications that originated in print, evolving its strategy to mesh with the era of real-time social content. On Twitter, Billboard uses Instagram to capture photos of the stars gracing its pages and share their presence within its brand in real time. The Billboard brand is based on its knowledge of who’s on top in the music industry, and its revelations of music previews, exclusive photographs, and breaking news in the music industry. Twitter is an excellent platform for Billboard to explore these real-time aspects of its brand identity, and Instagram allows for this exploration to turn into proof – Billboard can reveal its latest associations in more casual, semi-candid photographs, which make the stars—and thus, Billboard—appear more real and genuine.
Brisk has gone through quite the evolution as a brand. Named after an archaic definition of the word 'brisk' that means 'tangy,' the drink has become Lipton Tea’s attempt to compete with various other popular canned tea drinks in today’s beverage-to-go market. This Instagram photo of a hand just about to pop the tab on a can of Brisk, coupled with a caption referring to the can as an alarm clock, serves two brand-representation purposes: it cues the viewer to imagine the scene playing out, watching the hand open the can and hearing the satisfying popping sound as the task is completed. The filter of the photo is one of Instagram’s many filters meant to call-back to older photos, just as Brisk’s name recalls an earlier definition of a flavor. This makes the brand seem both long-lasting and nostalgic, yet entirely modern due to the update's home in social media.
The Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics are quite the social basketball team. Their Twitter presence is huge, from the individual players’ accounts to the strong social media strategy utilized to market the Celtics as more than just a basketball team, but also a brand built on the history of Boston, the luck of the Irish, and the joy of the game. They’re a team that builds its reputation on hard work and fast-paced play. This Instagram photo, sent out in a tweet just before the start of a game, captures a real-time moment that likely passed without notice, but displays the team’s togetherness, dedication to the game, uniformity, and excitement to go play, all in one shot. It also assists with the Celtics' down-to-earth reputation in delivering a photo that is close-up, placing the fans’ viewpoints on par with the players, and low to the ground, literally implying that the team is down-to-earth and willing to put their noses to the grindstone to get to work.
Coach can sum up its brand identity in three words: classy, trendy, and luxurious. Seeing a Coach logo on a bag instantly raises the bag’s (and carrier’s) social capital, and the price tags attached to Coach bags are more than enough evidence to point toward their earned status as a luxury brand. In Coach’s Twitter feed, ample evidence of these three points are pronounced, but none are as pronounced as in its Instagram account. In this image, Coach divides a purse into three smaller photographs, all muted by a filter to suggest the classiness of the bag, despite its loud, unmuted color. The logo is present in two of the photographs, with the third zeroing in on the handcrafted detail of the bag, reinforcing Coach’s high-quality reputation by showing consumers the details in a setting more causal than a photography shoot, and more personal than a busy store.
Forever21 is a clothing brand dedicated to affordable, trendy fashion. Despite its smaller price tags and distinctly non-couture reputation, from its name, Forever21 indicates that with its brand, it's attempting to emulate a timeless feeling, through which clothing buyers can remain rooted in a particular time or age. In this Instagram shot, sent out over Forever21’s official Twitter account to announce some new arrivals to its stores, the recently-declared-back-in leopard print trend is paired with timeless fashion staples, and then sent through a nostalgia-inducing filter that ages the photograph back to the last time leopard print was in.
PepsiMAX is one of the newest product launches of megabrand Pepsi, and can be classified as Pepsi’s attempt to bridge the energy drink and “healthy” soda categories for sales. The brand identity pushed for PepsiMAX is that of something fresh, modern, and exciting, while also familiar to the trusted Pepsi brand consumers know and love. The Twitter feed for PepsiMAX, separate from its parent brand, serves to illustrate these seemingly paradoxical qualities, especially through its liberal use of Instagram. In this photo, we see an over-saturated image of a PepsiMAX can and a billboard of its ad campaign, indicating the real-time freshness of the drink and the update alike, paired with a foosball table, an activity that has been around for years that requires focus and one-on-one competition. PepsiMAX asks us to recall the in-the-moment feeling of playing a fresh round of a game we’ve all known for years, pairing that memory with its brand offering.
Puma is a footwear brand with attitude. Originally choosing to instill the quickness, agility, and hunting prowess of a puma cat with its footwear, this Instagram photograph suggests a far more laid back image. With the old photograph-toned filter, the presence of a pair of shoes on a person and a pair of shoes shed from a person, as well as the leisurely pace of the activity portrayed, it shows consumers that Puma shoes don't only allow you to speed past every opportunity, but they also get you to places you can enjoy with others, and remember for a long time. While Twitter is fast-paced, filled with customer service interactions, product announcements, and other news, Puma's Instagram account is a refreshing change, reminding users that Puma knows its product isn’t just about the journey; it's also about the destination.
Sharpie is an odd presence on Twitter. Its flagship product, permanent markers, is hardly something that seems easy to market on Twitter at first glance; however, the acute focus on artistic freedom and expression that Sharpie integrates into its brand makes it one of the most successful social branding companies on Instagram. Many of its Instagram snapshots, each posted to Twitter and enjoyed by many followers, does not feature the markers themselves, but rather their ink as applied to some sort of canvas by unique individuals. In this particular composition, for example, Sharpie has brought alive an artist’s passion for music, through the quick, black-and-white illustration of old-school headphones. Choosing headphones over earbuds indicates a preference for the classic, timeless instruments that have a permanent place upon the scene, which are exactly what Sharpie markers and their permanent inks are intended to be.
Starbucks got a mention in our last Instagram post, too, and it’s no wonder why. The coffee retailer is almost definitely the brand making the absolute most out of its Instagram-centric social media strategy. Starbucks strives to be seen as a local-friendly, socially conscious coffee shop that happens to have, oh, a few locations, rather than just another large corporate chain. In this particular image, we see bags of beans, for sale in the shops, that subtly boast the Starbucks logo, and a tray of samples of this coffee, conceivably headed for the counter of the tweeter’s local Starbucks location to be handed out to individuals. The coffee is unaltered, and the background is dimmed to black, allowing Starbucks to assert that when it comes to its brand, two things matter: the coffee and the customers’ opinions.
How could you depict your brand in an Instagram photo? What filter would you use?
Originally published May 18, 2012 4:15:00 PM, updated July 28 2017