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Why Selfies Sell: The Science of Influential Marketing

Ten years ago, if you had told me there would be these things called selfies in the future, and that common, everyday people would be using these selfies to, among other things, promote their favorite brands and make a name (and, for some, a comfortable living) for themselves on the Internet as a result, I probably would have thought you were nuts.

Okay, I definitely would have thought you were nuts.

Because for as long as there have been things to buy, sell, barter, and trade, there have been professionals who have dedicated their careers to figuring out how to buy, sell, barter, and trade these things to their profitable benefit. 

Heck, entire industries were born to do just that. And the successful ones have made brands from Coca-Cola to Band-Aid household names.

But selfies have changed everything. Selfies have turned the advertising world on its ear, challenged the norm, and made the marketplace a more democratic place to do business.

There’s a reason for that. And it all has to do with the science of influential marketing.

It’s all about visual content that is symmetrical, simple, and — most important of all — authentic

As many marketers are beginning to realize, a brand’s best social media campaigns (the ones that drive sales in a powerful way) all feature — at least in part — visual content that share three characteristics in common:

  1. It is authentic;
  2. It is symmetrical; and
  3. It is simple.

Let’s look at each of these three aspects in greater detail.

Authenticity is a must-have

When it comes paradigm shifts, I can think of few other things as radical as social media and the global impact it has had on the marketplace.

Without social media, the marketing world would have continued on much as it has, using symmetry and simplicity to stimulate desire in the brain and move products off the shelf.

But social media is bending the rules. And the first order of business these days? For a brand to be successful in the social media marketplace (where, let’s face it, much of their target audience spends its time), every marketing effort must be viewed as authentic.

Without authenticity, even the most compelling of campaigns will fall short of the mark.

That’s something KFC seems to get. According to Rick Maynard, KFC’s Senior Manager of Public Relations, “We try to celebrate our real fans, engage in real talk and encourage real consumer-generated content,” favoring ‘man on the street’ images over staged shots of food. As Maynard says, “That’s what being authentic means to our brand. And the great thing about being real is it’s also really easy. It’s much more difficult to try to be something you’re not.” (Source: Digiday)

That’s where authentic social content — selfies, video, and the like — really shines. When a fan is truly excited about a brand’s product and share that enthusiasm with her followers, it shows. It’s real. 

And that authenticity is rewarded — in a big way.

How big? According to this report, a full 74 percent of consumers report that their buying decisions are influenced by word-of-mouth marketing.

Authenticity: major game player, not to be ignored.

Symmetry is beauty

Ad professionals and artists alike know just how powerful a compelling image can be in making us want whatever product that image is promoting. 

In fact, the most successful of images are ones that use symmetry to draw us in, tapping into a primal part of our brains where pleasure drives decision making.

The more symmetrical an image, the more its perceived beauty.  And with beauty, according to Ellen Dissanayake, an anthropologist at the University of Texas, comes pleasure. “If you create beautiful things,” Dissanayake says, “you stimulate minds and deliver pleasure.”

In the world of marketing, the more pleasure a product stimulates in our brains, the more we identify with a brand and desire the product on offer. And when desire kicks in, there’s a good chance we will be moved to make a buying decision.

Whether they know it or not, the best influential marketers — those selfie-generating sirens — often create some of the most compelling imagery when sharing their favorite brands with their social media followers. Take a closer look, and you’ll see that many of these images satisfy our sense of symmetry.

Simplicity is key

When it comes to influential marketing campaigns that drive sales, symmetry itself is not enough. Symmetry may stimulate pleasure in the brain, but simplicity seals the deal.

In fact, often when we see something that is attractive to us, there’s a good chance that it is both symmetrical in its look and simple in its presentation.

Once again, it’s social media’s influential marketers who (instinctively or otherwise) showcase those brands and products they love in a simple, direct way that are the most successful.

Think about it: Rihanna models a pair of socks she herself has designed, and socks fly off the shelf. Nothing in the photo except a beautiful woman wearing a cool pair of socks. (Full disclosure: Stance is a ReadyPulse client, and we are thrilled to be a part of the social campaign that promote her designs.)

Authentic, symmetrical, simple — and so powerful.

Celebrities carry their own influence, of course, but many average social media users also know how to create equally powerful images to promote their favorite brands. Small wonder, then, that more and more brands are tapping into these influencers to showcase their products and drive sales.

Putting the science of selfies to work for your brand

When it comes to moving product, these days, nothing compares to powerful influential marketing. 

If you’re looking to harness this power in a big way, look for fans of your brand who are starting conversations around your products. What are they saying? How are they saying it (with images, video, blog posts, etc.)? And how big is the audience that they’re saying it to?

Remember, the best influential marketers are those who create content that not only appeals to our sense of pleasure (in its symmetry and simplicity), but — and this is most important of all — that also comes off as real. Inspired. Authentic.

Find these social media gold mines and squeeze every bit of marketing mileage you can out of them, and watch your revenues skyrocket as a result.

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