Documenting the selfie: why brands opt to include it in their activations

The selfie has proved a mainstay on the summer festival circuit this year, and brands have similarly incorporated it into their activations away from the festival grounds.

Virgin Media opted for a selfie-style activation at V Festival last month
Virgin Media opted for a selfie-style activation at V Festival last month

There was the high speed selfie by Virgin Media at V Festival, and River Island activated a selfie swing at Parklife, meanwhile Three devised a selfie tour bus in Barcelona earlier in the year, and Nike’s Air Max Day event featured a selfie area.

Event spoke to three agencies about the practice, as well as their predictions for the next 'big trend'. 

Why the selfie?

Jim Robinson, managing director at Frukt notes that selfie-related activations can operate as a form of brand advocacy, and an affordable one at that.

"With the integration of experiential and social output being vital for brands, providing opportunities for consumers to capture and share content at events is a complete no-brainer.

"It can be very cost effective to produce and offers the most valuable of returns – brand advocacy. When consumers share their selfies on social media channels containing a brand, it’s a form of acceptance, approval and endorsement," he said.

Sarah Mayo, brand and business development director at TRO agrees with Robinson on the brand advocacy front. 

"Social word of mouth has propelled this media into the holy grail of marketing – the ultimate endorsement and measure of advocacy for a brand," she explains.

"It’s no surprise then that brands are looking to create experiences that encourage this word of mouth and social sharing by capitalising on the selfie phenomena of the last few years. This is fine but for it to be truly effective, and to encourage genuine WOM it needs to be relevant to the brand experience and audience."

Stuart Knight, partner and managing director at agency Whynot says selfies are an effective engagement tool. "The engagement is direct with your consumer, customer or fan at a personal level.

"They are a great measurement mechanic – the amount of engagements or selfies posted does represent the level of engagement and the relative success of a piece of activity, especially at festivals or high footfall events," he adds.

 The future of the selfie – can it stand the test of time?

Knight believes that when it comes to the selfie, the creative possibilities are endless. "I think selfies can still be used at events and activations. In fact, I think brands can get smarter at using them by producing better, more authentic environments for creating great moments," he says.

"However the ubiquity of selfies does mean that they need to continue to be spontaneous and not staged or set up. The selfie has a negative impact if it looks created, especially if it’s tagged with a brand."

Robinson explains the selfie is incorporated into modern society rather seamlessly – it’s the next photo booth. "With the cost of production comparatively low, I think for the right brands, it is here to stay.

"Most people now own a smartphone, are relatively active on social media and more than willing to tell the world what an amazing time they’re having. It’s becoming a replacement for the beloved photo booth."

However, he adds it’s important that brands don’t rely solely on the selfie. "It needs to be a part of the experience – not the experience – otherwise the experience will be very short lived and forgotten."

Conversely, Mayo says there hasn’t necessarily been an increase in selfie activations at TRO. "When designing brand experiences for our clients, we look first at what engagements are going to genuinely change behaviours and beliefs in a brand, and if delivered in a simple, relevant and memorable way, this will naturally lead to word of mouth and social sharing," she explains. 

What’s next?

Robinson says that moving forward, well planned and well researched activations that have been developed with an understanding of the brand’s target audience are key.

"There needs to be a variety of tools that spark interest and keep consumers involved – things that enhance and add value. It's only by spending time with a brand that consumers get to know it and are comfortable being an advocate.

"If they [consumers] can get involved, contribute and customise then even better. Obviously this isn’t new, but the way in which it occurs can be."

Knight predicts the rise of the selfie in video form. "I can see the selfie snap becoming the selfie clip or video as social media evolves from the written word and static image to video clips and moving images."

He adds: "I also believe that there will be an increase in wearable technology. We see the genesis of it with fit bits, fuel bands and phone watches. Will this work with experiential? I think so."

Mayo says activations don’t necessarily need to be centred on trends – the focus should be on meeting customer needs and delivering relevant experiences.

"Often the best activations are the simplest and don’t involve technology or require you to share with your social network to take part," she says.

"One of our most effective experiential campaigns in recent years was Lucozade Energy’s festival collaboration. The brief was to bring "yes moments" and an energy boost to festival-goers when they needed it most – on arrival, ahead of the main stage acts, in the early hours and the morning after," Mayo recalls. 

More: Blog: Is your brand maximising its social media presence?

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