Selling with Selfies: The Ultimate Endorsement

Selfie Bryant photo bomb

Recently I wrote a post on Psychology Today wondering why the selfie phenomenon hadn’t been embraced by brands.  Selfies capture an authentic moment because it does something that we haven’t done before, allowed the photographer and the subject to be one and the same.  Apparently I don’t get out enough.  A few days ago I saw what I’m sure is going to be only one of many creative uses of selfies in advertising that captures their playful and participatory qualities—an Epic Selfie Shootout between NBA basketball star Kobe Bryant and international soccer star Lionel Messi for Turkish Airlines. (See Sam Thielman’s write up in AdWeek)

Selfies are immediate, personal, and authentic. Selfies are fun, participatory and transient. Selfies capture a moment. Selfies are playful. Selfies challenge social norms about portraiture and a bunch of other things. I’ve been surprised that aren’t brands using them more.  The more we recognize selfies as visual journals, the sooner people will realize that they do not represent the decline of civilization or a narcissistic generation.

jcrewsquare

This seems like a natural for brands that sell experience and identity, like #Nike or #Starbucks. Why aren’t they asking for consumer selfies? Or better yet, why isn’t the #Surfrider Foundation? What could be more compelling than the personal experience of surfing? Usually brand marketers are all over this kind of thing.

Yes. Selfies are weird to everyone who didn’t teethe on a camera phone. That doesn’t make them bad, just uncomfortable. Yes. Selfies are self-centered. That’s the point. Otherwise we wouldn’t call them selfies. It’s not a psychiatric diagnosis.  Selfies let you experience being both the photographer and the subject. You are mugging for yourself; you are celebrating yourself; you are experiencing yourself. I know, I know, they end up on Instagram. But long before that happens comes the psychological switch that happens when you flip the lens on your iPhone. You are in control of both sides. That’s pretty significant power shift and quite new.

breakfast-tiffanys_200-square Are you hesitant to ask a stranger to take your picture in a restaurant, in front of Tiffany’s or at the Eiffel Tower? Would you ever do that when you’re alone? Selfies not only let you take that picture when you’re alone but they let you vamp like Audrey Hepburn at Breakfast at Tiffany’s and have this mini-story experience all by yourself. Tiffany’s knows about story. Where are the selfies? Selfies allow you to frame the experience for yourself with your own sensibility no matter where you are. It turns everyone into storytellers.

So why aren’t brands enlisting all these visual storytellers? There are, admittedly, a few clever campaigns happening around selfies besides the Selfie Shoot-out I mentioned above (JCrew for one) but few capture the emotion or experience that comes from selfie control of the lens. (Let me know of ones you’ve seen!). So far most have following the new “selfie norm” about a decorated self. It’s a way. But, as the Turkish Airlines campaign shows, selfies can also about experiencing self, life and time. There’s a huge amount of energy to be unleashed here that’s about those distinctly and positive human experiences, joy and playfulness, that have nothing to do social validation.

Check it out on YouTube: Kobe vs. Messi: The Selfie Shootout

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhFqSlvbKAM

About Dr. Pamela Rutledge

Pamela Rutledge is Director of the Media Psychology Research Center. She consults on a variety of media and marketing projects bringing together the ancient art of storytelling and cutting edge science of human behavior.

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