Snapchat: 10 seconds to convert teenagers into consumers

I was asked by Harvard Business Review France to contribute with an article on the latest trends in digital marketing. So, I wrote for them my thoughts on Snapchat and why it should be used by brands. Here is the English translation of the original article

The phenomenon

Launched in 2011, Snapchat has the highest penetration rate among teenagers and young adults, according to Statista’s latest figures. It has already clearly asserted its strength in certain regions like North America, and is now in full expansion in Europe.

Snapchat has now become the holy grail of media companies and advertisers are flocking this new platform. The reason for this craze is simple: Snapchat is one of the only media that truly allows capturing and maintaining the attention of the younger generation, thanks to two of its core characteristics: transience and authenticity.

Snapchat in figures

Snapchat’s target market is the 13 to 34 year-old segment, with a core target of 13 to 24 year-olds. In the United-States, 60% of this segment that owns a smartphone is a Snapchat user. With an expected revenue of $300 million for 2016, valuation at $20 billion and 150 million active daily users worldwide, Snapchat has nothing to be ashamed of, even in the face of the other big social networks which have existed for much longer. It even had the luxury to turn down the 3 billion acquisition offer of Facebook in 2014. More than just a fun network for teens, Snapchat offers real opportunities for marketers to engage with a highly captive audience and convert young users into consumers.

Marketing applications

Snapchat offers various opportunities to brands. First, brands can pay to have their ads displayed in the Discover Channels. On these channels, media companies such as CNN, National Geographic or Vogue publish informational and entertaining content, in a digital magazine type of format. On these feeds, brands can display their ads, like they would on TV. Video format is the most popular, with more than 10 billion daily views.

Live Stories are published by users, often in relation with a particular event, and can be linked or sponsored by a brand. Coachella festival in California, for instance, saw its popularity peak with this technique, as they virtuality gave access to the festival to over 40 million young users worldwide. Practically, a Snapchat user attending the Coachella festival could make a video of his experience and submit it for review to Snapchat, which would then broadcast it on the Coachella Live Story, making it visible to all. Brands can also sponsor geographic filters, which are stickers with creative designs that can be pasted onto content posted by users. These filters use geofence and are thus only accessible in a designated geographic area.


Snapchat naturally monetises all these marketing actions, as none of them is free for brands. A brand can also naturally have its own Snapchat account and post content for free through this account. However, in this way, the content is only visible to users who are actively following the brand.

Two keys to success

Attention. Content disappears after 24 hours on the platform, and it can only be seen for a maximum of 10 seconds. For a manager, it can seem absurd to invest in content that is not made to last, however this transient aspect is precisely what makes the platform so attractive : content is instantaneous and rare. The reason for the success of transient content can be explained by the “Fear Of Missing Out” (FOMO), which is typical of generation Z. For them, happiness can never be reached because they cannot experience everything : modern day teenagers are thus constantly dissatisfied. This fear of missing out is so strong and deep for that generation that they try and consume as much content as possible to live as many experiences they can and stay « in ».

Thus, this functionality of a disarming simplicity is in fact the reason for Snapchat’s success : by making content ephemeral, they increase its rarity. Because of this, users are 100% attentive to what they watch, since they only have 10 seconds of their precious time to sacrifice to see it.

Intimacy. Since content is transient and because it disappear, shared content can be much more personal. In the same way in which it is consumed, content is produced rapidly, without fuss and with the emotions of the moment.

For these two reasons, brand have the ability to interact with an extremely engaged and receptive audience. By launching campaigns on Snapchat, brands can increase their visibility, reputation and relevance for young adults and propose innovative forms of content. WWF, for instance, launched a campaign called #Lastselfie, where they surfed on the selfie trend and aimed to raise awareness of endangered species. The campaign was one of the first international campaigns on Snapchat and it raised unexpected levels of attention and awareness, with over 5000 tweets seen by 6 million users in the first 8 hours following its launch. Their visibility objective was thus achieved and they won a Webby Award for the campaign.


Tips for businesses

  1. Creativity

The first crucial element of communication on Snapchat is creativity. The tool has developed a wide array of functionalities to increase creativity : emojis can be placed over pictures and videos to express emotions, as well as coloured text or filters. Young people look for entertaining content: using a light and humorous tone is thus key. In order to know and get to grips with what makes young people laugh nowadays, the easiest way is to recrute one of them internally. Many businesses now have Gen Z consultants in order to improve their Snapchat strategy. Companies such as GoSpooky in the Netherlands are flourishing: they were created by teenagers in order to provide strategic insight to business and manage their Snapchat campaigns.

  1. Relevance

On Snapchat, there is no complex algorithm that pushes specific content on people’s feeds: from the moment that someone is following your account, they have 24 hours to view what you have posted. Thus, contrary to platforms like Facebook where you have to publish regularly in order to be well positioned in people’s feed, Snapchat does not have that problem. As soon as there is content posted on your account, your followers can see it and decide to visualise it or not. This way, it is only relevant to post something if you really have something to share – otherwise, it would just be noise. For instance, if a music festival is happening during the summer, its Snapchat can burst with content during the event, but have much more spaced out posts during the rest of the year. Activity can then resume when pre-sales are opening, for instance, and this would not be a problem.

  1. Verticality

Posting on Snapchat means entering a logic of verticality, a little bit similar to magazine content, given that smartphone are most often held vertically. This means that creative content creation needs to be adapted to this new format. If Snapchat users have to turn their phone in landscape to be able to enjoy the content, it creates frictions and disengagement.

  1. Exclusivity

Snapchat, is a platform where content is not embellished. Like its target audience, Snapchat is raw, authentic. Therefore, a way to engage Snapchat audiences is to make them perceive the real and authentic aspect of a brand; to invite them to see behind the scenes. This makes exclusive content particularly appreciated on Snapchat: the most popular celebrities on Snapchat are those that let their fans enter their every day lives, posting selfies without make-up, with their real friends or families, such as Kylie Jenner or Macklemore. This genuine aspect sets Snapchat aside. In this line of thinking, brands can decide to launch a Takeover, whereby they give control of their account to a chosen influencer. Using consumers insight and (quite literally) their lens is a fantastic way to signal that your brand is authentic and bare.

These methods can help brand willing to engage the 13-24 year-olds on a relevant medium with high engagement potential. By telling a fun, authentic and relevant story, opportunities to differentiate on markets that are not yet « Snapchat mature », like France, should be grasped.

This article was initially published in French on the website of  Harvard Business Review France on this page. You can reach HBR France on LinkedIn.

Capturing the real consumer engagement

During my PhD, I created a measure of online consumer engagement. In other words, it is a list of questions that people answer to help gauge their level of engagement with a brand, product or even community.

With this tool, we can find out how emotionally, behaviourally and cognitively engaged consumers are. This is really useful, because most online metrics at the moment only allow you to say how engaged people are by counting “likes”, “comments” or “shares”… If this was enough to know how people REALLY react to marketing content, we would live in a dream-world!

My results show that people with high online consumer engagement  are more likely to trust, commit and be loyal to a brand.

The tool is therefore useful for managers who want to find out the engagement level of their audience and improve it to sustain their growth.

The infographic belows explains what my metric of online engagement is about and how it works. 4 years of hard work nicely summarised for you!

infographic, engagement, consumer engagement, emotion, thinking, action, behavior, behaviour, metric, measure, score

To find out more about the metric, the project and related publication, you can go on the blog of The Journal of Marketing Management, here or get in touch with me directly.

Introducing: the KEDGE students guest blog series

For the first time since the inception of this blog, I’m going to host not only one guest blogger, but  15 of them!

What?guest blogger blog blogging contribution marketing

As a professor at KEDGE Business School in Bordeaux, France, and I am teaching on the digital marketing specialisation in our Msc programme. Within our “digital customer experience”, course kicking off today, I’m inviting my students to contribute to this blog with a guest post each.


It think it’s important for a future marketer to learn to produce quality content for a vast audience. It’s also part of a student’s job to articulate critical ideas and be able to share them convincingly. The point of this series of guest posts is getting the students out of their zone of comfort and providing them a friendly, yet professional outlet to do so.

How will it work?

Student will write on a topic of their choice, related to customer experiences. I’ll post the work and they will then promote it.  At the end, they will peer-assess each other’s work and this will count toward their final grade.

I am really excited to see their output and share it with you, which will come out in March and April.

Stay tuned for 15 insightful, smart and fresh posts from my students! They’ll be waiting for your support and tons of shares and comments to get their grades up, so watch this space!

Photo credits:

Why do consumers love social experiment video ads?

In the last 2 years, there has been a surge of the number of video ads featuring real people: they don’t mention any brand or its merits, they are just put in a real life situation, or asked their opinion on something.

These experiments work because they tap into the collective subconscious through stories. Deeper than emotions, collective subconscious is the best way to rally crowds, generate buzz and be relatable. Remember when I told you about archetypes in a post earlier? It’s the same functioning here.

“By relating to strong, deep felt collective emotions, brands position themselves in a memorable way and embed themselves in a narrative”.

I have selected and comment on a few of them, trying to debunk this advertising phenomenon from a branding standpoint and finish with top tips for managers. (Disclaimer: this post is a bit longer than my usual ones: I got very excited about the ads).

Always #LikeAGirl campaign (2014)

This hugely popular ad created by Leo Burnett for Procter and Gamble depicts women, girls and boys asked to do something “like a girl” – throw a ball, run, fight. The experiment shows that girls before puberty enact being a girl with powerful and determined movements, whereas women past puberty use exaggerated limp and goofy moves.

I believe this study rings a bell in the collective unconscious by showing that something indeed happens around puberty where girls’ self worth and value is undermined. It then further echoes on the brand, which becomes an ambassador of women’s empowerment and self-confidence.

WREN’s First KISS (2014)

This ad is particularly interesting because the brand behind it was initially not mentioned, and everyone thought it was just a nice video about love. In the experiment, strangers are paired-up and asked to kiss. On the mouth and all. The tension is palpable, excitement is mixed with shyness, reserve and tenderness depending on the individuals.

Unfortunately, despite the great creative effort and massive buzz the ad created, the brand message was not clear: people failed to understand that the video was sponsored, and that the people were wearing the Fall clothing line by WREN. In fact, most were disappointed when they found out that the video was commercial. The controversy has in the end done more harm than good to the brand, which remains very obscure to date, even on social media.

Coca-Cola “Remove Labels” (2015)

In this video, which was launched in the Middle East during the last Ramadan period in July 2015, strangers are gathered in the dark for a break fast (iftar) and they converse, get to know each other. When the lights come up, it reveals a diverse group: A guy with facial tattoos, two men in Arab dress, a man in a wheelchair, and another man in smart business dress: everyone is shocked to discover the face behind the individuals.

The campaign aims to promote the values of equality and not to juge people according to their looks, or ‘label’. It was combined with a release of cans of coke without label, in a humanist attempt to promote equality. The campaign has attracted quite a lot of criticism, but admittedly fits the brand’s strategy to be a global brand, without borders and prejudice. Ain’t easy being liked by everyone.

Dove Real Beauty Sketches (2014)

In this ad, which is really more a short story, Dove invites a few women to come and describe themselves and another woman to a sketch artist. The artist then draws them based only on their description, without seeing them. Looking at the sketches, the experiment shows that people describe themselves very critically and in fact view themselves in a rather negative light, whereas they describe others much more accurately. The ad has been viewed 5,740,248 times since April 2013 and was Ad Age’s viral campaign of the year 2013.

The campaign is part of the Real Beauty concept by Dove. Ogilvy Brazil contributed to the creative work and aimed to create an ad to make women feel better about themselves. Like the other campaigns above, I think that the strength of the ad is that it does not only tap into emotions, but into hidden, subconscious processes of self-evaluation that everyone undergoes and that plays a strong part in the process of brand identification. It is also very consistent with the ongoing efforts and values of the brand.

How to use these techniques for your brand?

The ads above show that there are at least three keys to successful videos experiments:

  • Plan carefully. All experiments start with hypotheses on how people are going to act and react. Careful planning and set-up is required (no big money needed: the WREN ad was created with $1,300). How much information is revealed to the participants is also crucial.
  • Involve genuine participants. When it comes to the experiment itself, work in an open and relaxed environment. Work with real people, not actors, for deep-felt and authentic emotions to be released, that will be shared by many. (Sure, the people in the ads might have been paid to perform or act in a certain way but to show they are real, there is usually a “making off” and genuine experimental design behind the ads that is clearly explained).
  • Make a clear brand connection. If you want your campaign to generate buzz around your brand, and not just about the video itself (like WREN), make it very clear that you are behind it and why you are doing it. Embed the video in your story, in your values.

Because these videos generate strong responses, they also often attracts spoofs (see the Dove spoof: “Men: You’re Less Beautiful Than You Think”). I think that being able to elicit strong critical responses is also part of the game and of the buzz, as long as you are ready for it.

What do you think about these video ads? Do you view them like traditional advertising? Would you use them to support a new product launch?


Social media misbehavior

It’s undeniable that social media are giving users enormous power to express themselves. In the blink of a click, you can Tweet or post about your latest flight experience, say how much you loved the service at that little Italian restaurant yesterday, or how amazing the new Starbucks frappucino flavor is. Fantastic.


Alternately, you can vent your disappointments, frustrations and bad experiences just as easily, and why should you refrain from it? In the end, constructive complaints might very well be helpful and push companies to improve, right? Well this is what most savvy and well-behaved people are going to do, or at least say they do.

Then you have those abusing the power that social media gives them. Rambling about whatever they might get frustrated about. Using social media as outlets for their personal issues and targeting their anger at whatever strikes their fancy.  As a company, you better not be in the way when that happens!

Recent research on the topic of brand hate has led me to spend a substantive amount of time on Facebook pages, groups, forums and sites dedicated to hating brands, celebrities, people, companies or products. You would not believe the amount of inappropriate language, obscene pictures, abusive and sexual talk, or just plain nonsense chat that is posted on these platforms.

I am 100% for the empowerment of customers, don’t get me wrong. But in return for the freedom of expression that is given to us, it is essential for us to learn how to make  good use of it. It is our duty to be civilized, to think about the consequences of our actions and please (please!) remain polite. Consume responsibly, talk about it responsibly. Simple enough.

In a recent blog post, the Harvard Business Review explain how companies have a huge stake in making social media platforms more sociable and more civil. They explain : “There’s no question that consumers have more power than ever before to call attention to bad products, services, and experiences. But it’s equally true that companies also have greater power to call attention to bad customer behaviors”. They also go on giving examples about companies that are now rating their customers according to their consumption behavior, and how this is used as a segmentation tool, to make badly-behaved customers pay more or go away. I think this makes sense.

And you, what do you think about customer misbehavior in general, and on social media?