Since 2010, Instagram has garnered more than 500 million users, 4.2 billion daily likes, and more than 95 million photos and videos posted per day. Brands who take advantage of this unique social media platform often find that the level of exposure that Instagram gives them is unprecedented.
But creating a successful, branded Instagram account requires more than just pretty images. To succeed, you’ll need to establish a distinct brand aesthetic, a well-curated feed, and an effective community management strategy -- all stemming from your own unique brand identity.
With millions of active accounts, we managed to uncover five main tips and ten inspiring brands that'll help you understand how to establish a more cohesive Instagram aesthetic.
Instagram Aesthetic Ideas
Once you establish your brand identity and define your target market, you can curate your Instagram content to meet that criteria. Instagram is the platform for captivating content, and brands can capitalize on this with consistent and creative posts.
When people talk about an Instagram "aesthetic", they mean a cohesive type, mood, and general impression of a user's posts. By presenting a seamless aesthetic that is consistent with your core brand values, you are aligning your brand with your target audience and are, therefore, building awareness. In this sense, your Instagram aesthetic is just as important as your website.
First impressions are everything on Instagram, so here are a few ideas for building your aesthetic:
1. Know exactly what your brand identity is.
A great part of your aesthetic will derive from your brand identity. What’s your brand personality and tone? What are its values? Is your brand playful? Adventurous? Bold and daring?
Having an Instagram feed that reflects the image and purpose of your brand is extremely important because it creates uniformity. Posting content that is random creates disconnect and confusion. When this happens, it’s hard to commit hitting that follow button. See how Taco Bell and fashion illustrator Megan Hess incorporate this into their Instagram feed.
2. Determine your target market and cater to them without compromising your brand identity.
Your Instagram feed is primarily meant to attract existing and future customers, so it’s important to create content that pulls them in and engages them. To do this, start by getting to know what’s important to your target market -- what they love about your brand, products, and services. Then, reflect that back to them in your Instagram feed.
3. Create a story with each photo displayed on the post.
The more compelling your story, the less it would feel to your customers that you’re just selling them something. Narratives tied with your brand identity create the emotional connection your audience needs, giving meaning to your content and making it more relatable.
4. Choose a color palette, “feel,” or filter and use it consistently.
Using a color palette, filter, or even texture in your Instagram posts can give you that much sought-after level of consistency in your feeds. To tie all your posts together and enhance your feed's look, try using the same two to four filers on your posts. You can choose a vintage look, a light and bright lens, or whatever is most aligned with your brand's personality. Try desaturating your photos or stick to bright white backgrounds with pops of color. Or, create your own brand color palette by playing around with three to four color combinations to repeat in your posts.
Check out how Tough Mudder repeats orange and brown in their posts and how Pantone plays around with their featured colors.
5. Post content that reflects your brand’s core value.
Don’t be afraid to use Instagram marketing to show off your products or service at work -- just get creative. Take detailed shots and create eye-catching flat lays that show off your products in new and interesting ways.
These shots can even encourage and inspire your followers to create their own posts featuring your products to share with their followers. Not only will you increase your brand’s interaction, but you’ll also have user-generated content that’s authentic and organic.
You can also post user-generated content (UGC) -- posts sourced from customers and followers -- to build brand trust and awareness. Oftentimes, users will tag your brand in their own posts -- you can then screenshot and post the content, or use a reposting app. UGC can only mean good things: prospects are likely to evaluate customer reviews when looking to buy, and it makes your brand look trustworthy and beloved.
6. Plan ahead!
Most well-organized Instagram aesthetics are organized and planned ahead. Some accounts plan posts on a chronological basis -- like seasonal, monthly, or quarterly timelines -- but others plan in terms of content. For instance, they might try to post consistently about a certain product or event, or create a repeated series of posts per row surrounding a specific topic like quotes or food.
7. Create a branded hashtag.
We all know hashtags are helpful for reaching new audiences. A branded hashtag, however, is unique to a company, product, or event that is used to help promote whatever it represents. For example, the #ShareACoke campaign was one of the best-performing marketing campaigns in Coca-Cola's history. It appeals to their target audience, was effectively shared across all media channels, and reflects Coca-Cola's core brand values.
Instagram Aesthetic Examples
Taco Bell (@tacobell): 1.3M Followers
When you think Taco Bell, you think tacos and “LiVE MÀS!” This means that social media accounts will reflect a lot of tacos, bold colors, and a lifestyle that includes living fast and “on the go” like their individual posts on Instagram.
Since Taco Bell's main audience has been increasingly attributed to millennials, they have focused on inserting fun and authenticity into their aesthetic, which makes it easier for them to drum up engagement.
Vitruvi (@vitruvi): 67.7K Followers
Vitruvi, an essential oil company, has a soothing and aspirational Instagram feed. They make good use of one or two filters, post simple images, and show women living their best lives. They are associating their products with clean, happy, and healthy lifestyles.
Megan Hess (@meganhess_official): 377K Followers
Megan Hess is an illustrator known for her very beautiful, feminine, and fashion-related artwork. She has built an empire on fashion illustrations that are coveted and aesthetically pleasing. Instagram has become her main outlet for her fans to follow her work and get a glimpse of what happens behind-the-scenes.
As an illustrator, she’s big on personal brand recognition, so she frequently uses one of her most important brand assets in her posts: her logo. Simple, black, and uniquely hers, the logo perfectly matches her aesthetic and illustrations which makes it easy for her to include it with any Instagram post.
Having a distinctive logo is critical to building your brand, so it’s important to create one that’s easily recognizable and matches your brand identity. If your own needs a spruce or you’re looking to create a file that’s easily adaptable for your social posts, try using Canva’s free logo maker.
GoPro (@gopro): 15.9M Followers
GoPro's Instagram photos perfectly represent what it means to capture a lifestyle full of adventure and action through the lens of their product.
Their feed focuses on showcasing a variety of unique moments designed to drive you to want to go out and document your own adventures.
Old Navy (@oldnavy): 2M Followers
If you're trying to sell consumer clothing, you need to meet their seasonal needs. Old Navy is a retail company that knows how to sell for seasonality, and their Instagram reflects this. For summer, Old Navy brought out bright yellows, light sundresses, and generally tried to create backgrounds to reflect a summertime mood.
They also have a unique color strategy -- for instance, they might gradually transition from yellow to blue in a series of posts.
Squarespace (@squarespace): 193K Followers
If we’re talking about well-curated content tailored for an audience, we have to talk about Squarespace’s Instagram. Promising the simplest way to create a beautiful website, the brand echoes its tagline through a beautifully-curated feed.
Squarespace intrigues followers by using impressive images reflecting the brand’s minimalist aesthetic. Best of all, it features images from clients, showcasing success stories and the wide range of possibilities on how the Squarespace service can be used, which helps to engage followers and inspire potential clients.
ColourPop Cosmetics (@colourpopcosmetics): 8.1M Followers
ColourPop is a cosmetics brand based in Los Angeles that understands what users want from makeup posts on Instagram, and delivers it. They maintain a bright collection of tutorial videos, product posts, swatches, images of influencers, and pop culture. Each image is glorious and eye-catching.
Nike (@nike): 90.9M Followers
With one of the largest followings on Instagram, Nike's feed goes beyond just great athletic sportswear and footwear. They have created a distinctive “Just Do It” mentality and systematically developed a social media presence to reflect that inspirational brand image.
As seen in the post above, along with the rest of the recent videos uploaded on their Instagram feed, Nike has done an incredible job of featuring inspiring athletes to promote propel their vision. If you want to perform at the highest level like these athletes, you wear Nike.
Doug the Pug (@itsdougthepug): 3.8M Followers
Who doesn't love dog pics?It seems like everyone has an Instagram for their beloved pets these days, but Doug the Pug is the most famous dogstagram account in the world. This verified pup has almost four million followers and is best known for his many costumes and floppy tongue. Doug (and his owner) have cultivated a brand that brings audiences' joy and keeps them coming back for more.
Red Bull (@redbull): 11.6M Followers
When you think of Red Bull, you think high energy. That's why Red Bull’s Instagram feed includes so many “epic” videos and pictures -- each one more thrilling than the other.
Red Bull associates their brand with a lifestyle that is exhilarating and pushes boundaries when it comes to extreme sports and weekend getaways. Another way they create a narrative is through the cohesive feel of their posts. Notice below how majority of their posts are set in the outdoors. It helps create the image that when you drink Red Bull, you live on the edge.
Tough Mudder (@tough_mudder): 935K Followers
Tough Mudder has built an image on conquering a military-inspired obstacle that requires teamwork, tenacity, and a whole lot of feeling like a total “badass." Tough Mudder's Instagram feed is brimming with pictures that highlight muddy participants sporting the color orange, which helps to signify the brightness and sense of camaraderie that exists in a otherwise challenging situation.
The beauty of Tough Mudder’s Instagram feed is their ability to capture moments of participants’ emotions throughout the completion of the course. They have mastered the art of evoking feelings of strength and the desire to accomplish a difficult task that only a select group of people has achieved.
The pictures of training hard and being part of a program that pushes you to your limits is exciting as it is rewarding. Tough Mudder showcases a curated Instagram feed that addresses perseverance and toughness, just as its brand name indicates.
Pantone (@pantone): 2M Followers
Striking visuals are everything on Instagram, and Pantone's instagram looks like a color wheel. The color consulting firm uses high resolution images, and each post captures a particular color in a unique way. Additionally, Pantone takes advantage of the space on their Instagram homepage -- every 3-6 photos highlights a different color through clothing, architectures, or paint color samples.
Office Depot (@officedepot): 15K Followers
Through some well-thought planning, the Office Depot is able to showcase its sheer amount of products in fun and interesting combinations. Their “Gear Up for Great” campaign is a great example of featuring products inventively while staying true to its business.
Office Depot is also great at curating content that’s relevant. They do this by working with themes and seasons like "Gearing up for School", as well as holidays like Teacher’s Day or Cinco de Mayo.
Fabletics (@fabletics): 341K Followers
Fabletics -- one of the first companies to introduce the subscription model for athletic wear for women -- knows a thing or two about performance, quality, and style.
In a generation where selfies and gym posts are very much a norm, Fabletics makes sure that it sticks to its image of ensuring its customers look good while working out.
Ready to refresh your Instagram?
With these 10 brands that are rocking Instagram as references, get started refreshing your brand’s Instagram feed and take it to the next level. Happy posting!
What tips do you have for creating a cohesive Instagram aesthetic? Share them below.
Originally published Aug 6, 2019 7:00:00 AM, updated February 18 2021