Instagram and brands : explanations and cases

This article is a translation of an article date from december 2012 and which is not updated

Following the December debate on changes to Instagram’s general service terms and conditions, I thought it would be interesting to look at how brands could interact with this social media.

Not that I often get asked the question, but in my opinion, Instagram is an obvious choice for certain brands.

Why ?  Firstly, because it’s a much more direct, rich and easily accessible network than Facebook.  Also, a younger demographic is starting to defect to Instagram (for the reasons I just mentioned).  The result of this shift is both positive (sharing beautiful moments on camera) and esthetic (thanks to the filters).

Of course, there are a few rules to take into account when using Instagram, just like any other platform :

  1. Post content that will appeal to everyone and that is not egocentric (ie.  only posting pictures of your own new products and advertisements will not work).
  2. Your followers are not part of your “community”.  They are favored contacts and should be treated as such.
  3. Instagram isn’t an asset to all brands and should be integrated somewhere in your global strategy – PLEASE don’t propose an “Instagram strategy” similar to the “Facebook strategies” that I have come across.
  4. Usage and needs differ from country to country.

What do consumers expect from brands ?

It’s important to understand that first and foremost (and even if not expressed clearly), people are always looking for values to connect with.

On a more basic level, the consumer wants to go “behind the scenes” or to be showcased by a brand.

Needless to say, if a brand succeeds in contributing added value and a new perspective (its own) on things, it wins the jackpot. For example, Burberry posts backstage pictures and shots of London.

I can remember in 2012 when Levi’s launched a contest to find its next model using only Instagram and a hashtag.

Business Insider identified 20 brands that had an interesting strategy on Instagram.  Here are a few that I find particularly noteworthy :

Taco Bell – “Taco Bel. Live Màs” -22 880 followers


When you look at this account, your initial reaction may be : “ they’ve only used their products and the brand is everywhere!”

My answer to that is “yes, but the image focuses on creativity, not on the brand.  This changes the users’ perspective and they no longer see this as advertising but as inventive and fun”.

Here’s their account

Bonobo – Better fitting men’s clothes – 19 500 followers



What’s interesting here is that the brand tells fans/followers that if they send in pictures of themselves wearing the brand’s clothing, the brand will post them on the Bonobo profile.  Highlighting fans isn’t a new idea, but it always pays off.

Here’s their account  

Vevo  – See music play – 38 000 followers

venoTo this video platform specialized in music, it seemed pretty obvious that posting “behind the scenes” pictures would be a winning strategy and it has been working.

Here’s their account 

Brooklyn Nets – Hello Brooklyn – 47500 followers

brooklinThis basketball team has gone beyond “behind the scenes”.  They post pictures of the construction of their stadium, historical shots of Brooklyn, anthology pictures.

They almost always use the B&W filter to give their pictures a vintage feel.

Here’s their account 

General Electrics – “the groundbreaking research & technology at GE” -135 000 followers

GeGE is a B2B brand with a unique view of the social internet.

Frequently used as an example, often copied but rarely equalled.

They use Instagram to illustrate the technologies they are developing.  We rarely have the opportunity to see these kinds of images elsewhere.

Here’s their account  

adidas Originals – “authentic, creative, individual” – 387 000 followers

adidasIt’s interesting to see that a brand can have a stupid approach on its official account (publicizing shoes and advertisements – not terribly fascinating) and an intelligent approach (the Originals campaign) that doesn’t show the shoes but rather what people do with the shoes (DJ, sports, city sightseeing…)

Here’s their account    

Red Bull -Make your dream happen – 525 000 



Not surprisingly, Red Bull’s strategy focuses on extreme sports (in reality, on the values of “bravery” and “courage”) and offers some pretty cool shots of these sports.

Here’s their account 

Burberry – A 156 year old global brand – 640 000 followers


As presented in the introduction, with their shots of London or and a few products, they have created a very effective mix.

What about ROI ?

The big question in your head is, or should be, what about Instagram’s ROI  ?

Once again, there’s no financial short-term ROI but rather a stronger link to the brand, one that is built around shared values that bring together an important minority : the brand’s best customers, those who consume the most (several studies prove this), a more qualitative audience…

gregfromparisAuteur: Grégory Pouy
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