The most “liked” photo in the history of Instagram, as of the date of this publication, is a recent Selena Gomez selfie. And not just any selfie, but one that would make brands all over the world green with envy. The photo features the actress, singer, and Gen-Z idol drinking a Coca-Cola from its iconic glass bottle. With over 5 million likes, and the viewership of the elusive youth demographic, the soft drink brand has a right to beam with joy.
While the photo has been undeniably successful for the brand, there are relevant questions to ask before Coke or other brands can expect to duplicate the results. How deep do my pockets need to be to accomplish something like this? What kind of scaling can it achieve? What kind of impression does this leave on our audience (said differently, does it look good for you, good for you, uh-huh?)? Finally, and most importantly, what impact will an image like this have on sales and customer loyalty?
Celebrities use social media platforms to showcase their everyday lives and keep in contact with their fans, but stars with Gomez’s level of cache can also rake in big bucks for paid ads. This photo is an example of paid promotion with effective results. That said, while exact terms of the deal are unknown, one can assume those 5 million little red hearts came with a hefty price tag (with over 93 million followers, Gomez is the most followed celebrity on Instagram, beating out the likes of Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and Kim Kardashian). And while Coke has the budget to achieve this sort of campaign, at Olapic, we believe there is a more economical way to achieve Insta-success.
We already know food and beverage posts are a favorite amongst social users, and it’s no surprise that the juggernauts of soft drinks are encouraging their influencers to share even more. The song lyrics on Gomez’s Coke bottle, from her hit song “Me & the Rhythm,” are part of the brand’s #ShareaCoke campaign, which features popular song lyrics on soda cans and bottles as a way to encourage consumers to snap, tweet, and text photos with their beverages. Rival Pepsi hosts a similar promotion with their #SayItWithPepsi initiative, and their re-release of Crystal Pepsi is sure to result in shares from nostalgic fans of the 90’s cola variation via #CrystalPepsi. Other beverage brands like Dr Pepper and Starbucks have also crafted out-of-the-box attempts aimed at driving social sharing (Dr Pepper’s “Pick Your Pepper” campaign has the brand wrapping their bottles in hundreds of different share-worthy labels, while Starbucks’ 2014 #WhiteCupContest invited customers to customize their cups to drive social buzz).
For brands with large followings, these hashtag campaigns work wonders to drive advocacy and sharing!
Instagram shows over 666,000 photos posted under the #ShareaCoke hashtag alone, for instance, which does not account for the content posted to Coke’s other branded hashtags.
These photos, from real-life brand advocates, present the brand with tremendous viewership and engagement amongst their fans’ followers, of course, but why stop there?
Following the concept of earned content, brands have the ability to extend their ambassadors’ content onto their website, emails, social ads, in-store activations, and offline campaigns. Combine the massive volume of available content with that widespread activation opportunity, and the world’s largest food and beverage brands have endless possibilities. Comparatively, one-off paid celebrity content involves a much higher cost and a limited ability to extend across all channels, making it a less scalable solution than earned content.
Last but not least comes the concept of authenticity. Even in our celebrity-obsessed culture, consumers value digital influencers over celebrities. Why? Because photos like Gomez’s Coke shot, with perfect movie-star makeup, professional photography, and a strategically positioned label, are identified by consumers as financially-motivated advertisements instead of content derived from passion for the brand. Content created by regular people, however, feels like an authentic endorsement. It’s akin to comparing a television ad with a recommendation from a friend you know and trust.
The age of the celebrity endorsement is far from over, and with good reason – campaigns like Selena Gomez’s Coke photo can get brands the reach and engagement they’re after. The value of earned content as an alternative, however, is hard to deny, with its efficiency, scalability, value, and authenticity all working to a brand’s benefit in ways that paid promotion never could.