Ecommerce, mobility, social media and product forums have turned customer purchase behavior on its head. While it was once unconceivable to buy a product without seeing it or touching it, and pay for it in advance over an “untrusted” medium, it is now commonplace for consumers to buy products totally on the basis of their perceived aesthetics, benefits and value.

Does that mean marketers can sell pretty much anything online? The small caveat here is that the product or service on sale must have a clear-cut value proposition, unique appeal and tangible benefits. Marketers need to get the product in front of their audience and inform them about its usefulness in their lives.

And sometimes, they’ll need to go as far as to create a new market. But you are not Steve Jobs, your company isn’t Apple, your product isn’t the iPhone, and you don’t have the budget to do flamboyant product launches. So what do you do? You turn to the next best thing – social media.

Every Social Network Has a USP

There are a dozen social networking platforms that allow brands to engage with customers more personally and in a way not possible by traditional or even other forms of digital marketing. Each platform has its own special features and type of audiences who favor that platform for the very same features. Understanding this can be of great value in creating and distributing content specifically designed to elicit reactions from various segments of your audience.

Coming back to our product with a USP, appeal and instantly realizable benefits, a visual platform like Instagram becomes the natural choice for promotion. With more than 300 million daily users, Instagram has come a long way from an iOS-only app to a huge, full-fledged social network.

But can you promote your products solely – or even, primarily – to a mobile-first, social audience on the basis of its visual appeal? Turns out, yes. Here’s a few brands cracking the Instagram code with either a continuous presence or limited marketing campaigns:

Beyoncé – Doing the unexpected

Companies and established brands with great agency partners come out with amusing and interesting campaigns all the time. However, in a first of sorts for personal branding, singer Beyoncé launched her flagship “product” – a full album titled Beyoncé, with 14 songs and 17 videos – by leveraging her 50+ million fans (at the time) on Instagram. Without any pre-launch hype or spending millions of dollars on advance marketing, Beyoncé stunned the world with a simple word on Instagram: Surprise. A mad rush followed – the album sold a massive 828,773 copies in just three days after launch, which happened exclusively on iTunes.



National Geographic – Channeling the force

Instagram is known for its stunning pictures, and brands go all out to produce professionally shot, high quality photos to showcase their products. National Geographic, one of the biggest brands on Instagram, is no exception. The brand’s biggest asset is its collection of millions of stunning photos of every aspect of nature and human life that Nat Geo photographers have clicked through the years. Some of the shots they share on Instagram are rivalled only by those on Bing’s homepage.

What Nat Geo also does superbly is connecting these pictures to the relevant programs on their channel or articles in the magazine. Viewers interested in the topic are encouraged to tune in to or browse through a copy of Nat Geo for more information.



Burberry – Sharing the spoils

In 2009, Burberry, the 150+ year old English fashion house, was staring obsolescence and financial troubles in the face. And they went digital all guns blazing.

They began a wildly successful UGC campaign with the hashtag #ArtOfTheTrench, which spilled over onto Instagram.



UGC is known to be 35% more memorable and 50% more trusted than its company-created counterpart. No prizes for guessing how much love that got Burberry!

WeWork – Making work cool

Brands need to show, not tell, on Instagram. WeWork is a company that provides shared office spaces in different parts of the world. Naturally, it’s hard for them to produce written content that sells their services without sounding like real estate shills.

Instead, they took to Instagram in an attempt to showcase the offices and environs they provided with a slew of enticing pictures. Click on a few, and you’ll actually want to go to work on Mondays.


Playa Del Carmen – Selling paradise

When you are a service-based company operating in a mature market, you have to be constantly creative in order to rise above the noise. And if you’re in the travel industry, the use of spectacular visuals is nothing but an “ordinary” strategy.

Playa Del Carmen is a business that promotes tourism, facilitates corporate meetings, lets out rentals, organizes weddings and offers hospitality services in general in one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in the Riviera Maya in Mexico – the beachside golfing city of Playa del Carmen.

To promote the city as well as their hotel and rental services, Playa Del Carmen has built a great Instagram page that uses gorgeous visuals of its delightful beaches, seaside hotels, golf courses, quarry docks and other attractions to attract visitors.



Zevia – Differentiating the commonplace

If you are a soda brand, you are competing with the likes of Coca Cola, Pepsi, bottled water, soft drinks, beverages, and just about any other non-alcoholic, edible liquid. And even if you have a unique value proposition, like say, being a completely natural, zero-calorie drink without artificial sweeteners, you have to create a lot of interest in your brand – and its “coolness” – if you have to attract customers.

Zevia uses Instagram creatively to showcase the attributes of being a fun, friendly and health-conscious brand. The visuals are bright and refreshing and convey how Zevia fits into a healthy lifestyle.


Paris Opera Ballet – Breaking ballet

Another brand that “brings to market” a unique product and uses Instagram seamlessly with its website is the Paris National Opera or Opéra national de Paris. They showcase artistically clicked photos of behind-the-scenes activities, rehearsals, costumes, venues and larger-than-life productions on their Instagram page.

The Opera has developed a trademark style of creating large pictures by splitting it into a tiled collage of smaller photos in imaginative and whimsical ways.



Organic Authority – Changing lifestyles

How do you sell wellness? In another saturated market, Organic Authority does it with remarkable élan. Its wellness themed Instagram account is abuzz with quotes and mouthwatering pictures of healthy food, inspiring people to pursue a healthy lifestyle instead of patronizing fitness or berating the frantic, contemporary urban lifestyle.


Over to You

While there’s much for brands to talk about on social media, two particular kind of behind-the-scenes posts that work very, very well, regardless of the platform or business are

  1. How you make your products
  2. What your staff does

When customers see how much effort goes into the making of a product and understand the process behind it, their perceived value of the product will rise. Oliver Winery, for example, does a great job in showcasing photos that show how they collect grapes, how the wine is bottled and corked, highlights of their grape stomping festivals, etc.



Once you’ve introduced your products shown the world how you craft them, you can highlight the people who actually create awesomeness – your employees. Make them shine with photos of them “being amazing” and write a few words to describe who they are and what they believe in. IBM, the faceless computing behemoth, has transformed into a people-friendly brand by doing just that.



Social media is all about humanizing your brand. Instagram is a great way for your customers to engage with and experience your brand in a way not possible on other text- or even video-centric mediums. Use its visual appeal to connect with fans and get customers and brand advocates you never knew you could.

Rohan Ayyar

Rohan Ayyar


Rohan Ayyar is the social media and content marketing maven at E2M.