When selfies become fingies and other thingies

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It was declared ‘Word of the Year’ in 2013. In an era where things trends in hours and change is constant, we see marketers and digital agencies acting as if they discovered the phenomenon of selfies just yesterday. It is almost 2015 and there are so many ad campaigns featuring the ‘selfe’ as the central idea or as an important element in the campaign be it a TVC or social media campaign on Twitter or Facebook.

I realise that marketing & advertising folk need to be keen followers of consumer trends and behaviour. A good grasp of such trends has an impact on marketing and advertising campaigns. A lot of product & marketing innovation occur when marketers understand big trends and tap into insights that drive such trends. Sachets in FMCG goods, pre-paid mobile services, missed call phenomenon, vegetarian dishes in global restaurant chains – they are all initiatives which took into account consumer behaviour & trends.

Advertising too has sought to reflect societal trends – be it in portrayal of women and other characters, use of language, music and so on. In that context, selfie has been hailed as a phenomenon which indicates anything from our need to share everything to narcissism to dominance of tech & digital products in our lives. Yes, it is a real thing – people are obsessed with taking selfies. If not selfies, people surely are obsessed with taking pictures. Many a times, we whip out our smartphones and take pictures even in places which call for simply soaking in the sights, enjoying the view and the company. Instead of seeking to embed what we see in our memory we are obsessed with capturing it on our phone cameras. Taking pictures with family & friends in places we visit is not a new thing. But taking a picture has become more of a priority of late, than taking a few seconds off to just enjoy being there.

I digress. Back to selfies and marketing campaigns. Globally, a lot of marketing campaigns centred around selfies were implemented in 2013 and early 2014. I realise that some of the campaigns fit seamlessly into regular consumer behaviour. For example, when trying on a new dress at a store, women might take a picture to see how they look and share it with others through messaging apps or on social media. If a clothing or fashion brand (sunglasses, apparel, shoes) tries to be a part of that moment, it feels natural. Sure, consumers do take selfies with people, things or gizmos they care about. Selfies with celebrities are common. So are selfies with near & dear ones, at landmark tourist spots or with prized possessions (selfie with premium car brand in the background, for example). A campaign for Cape Times used it interestingly. Here the selfie idea sits very well with the message being conveyed.




Agency: Lowe Cape Town, South Africa

[bctt tweet=”When random categories and brands try to appropriate a selfie moment, it feels forced.”]

A handfie? A fingie? Stop, please. Is it the season of the sillies? What happens when other parts of the anatomy are targeted by say, inner wear brands?

If a marketing message is meant to reward the viewer in some manner (entertainment, new news), in an interesting, engaging way, how rewarding is it to see pictures of hands or random people (celebrities included) holding up hands? Sure the campaign raises awareness but is that the best metric in an interactive medium? The idea fits with the product category, overall marketing message etc. but boredom and force-fit are also thingies. Shouldn’t a brand’s message feel naturally suited to the medium it is present in?

The selfie phenomenon may not be a fad, who knows? We may be clicking selfies everywhere for years to come (marketers are mining that data). But brands trying to use them in marketing campaigns in an effort to blend in and be cool has to evaluated against fit with the product category, the marketing message and how well it utilises the characteristics of the media platform. Just adding -ie to any word and a hashtag to accompany it won’t make it endearing or go viral.

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