3 Reasons why Snapchat is the ideal app to elevate a consumer-brand relation.

Written by Amber Gulamali

A strong consumer-brand relation is a win-win situation for both the brand and the consumer. Through active participation on social media and meaningful interactions with the consumer, the brand can obtain a better understanding of its audience and form a better response (Hudson et al., 2015). In return, through the creation of participation, consumers feel more connected and attached to a brand which generates more brand loyalty (Enginkaya & Yilmas, 2014). Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have been researched from different perspectives and even the basics of how Instagram can help marketers have been widely discussed. However, Insights on how and why Snapchat can leverage the consumer brand relation, appears to have been given little attention. Blogs like Hubspot do provide marketers with articles such as “10 of the Best Brands on Snapchat Right Now (And Why They're So Great)” but barely explain exactly, from a research perspective, why and how Snapchat can help a brand.  Thus, this e-paper aims to answer the question of “How can Snapchat help leverage a consumer-brand relation?”  in 3 steps and provide marketers and brand managers with a better understanding of the app and the function it could have in building the brand’s personality.

1.   Snapchat users are interested in connecting with people, thus using Snapchat forces a greater brand anthropomorphism.

In reality a brand is an abstract, intangible object that has been given existence through a process of anthropomorphising. This means that human beings have given it familiar and meaningful personality traits to be able to interact with it (Louis & Lombart 2010). This is important as research has found that a relationship can only come to formation when a brand possesses human characteristics (Fournier, 1998).

To aid the formation of a brand personality, thus giving it human characteristics, a brand can choose to pair up with a real person, i.e. a celebrity or even corporate employees or the CEO. A study by Fleck, Michel and Zeitoun (2014) found that when brand advertisements include ordinary people similar to the viewer, such as employees or even the CEO of the company, viewers are able to relate to and identify themselves with the “would-be-peer” (p.87) which will result in feelings of empathy towards the brand.

Although Snapchat is more raw than advertisement, as it is filmed through a mobile phone and less scripted, it could (and should) be used to introduce the brand’s Snapchat followers to the brand’s employees to whom they can relate to and which facilitates the attribution of personality traits to the brand.  Naturally, videos of employees can be shared on other social media platforms as well though it is found that Instagram for example is mostly used to follow fashion brands as a style guide and Twitter users follow  brands for brand community identification (Joe Phoa, Ji & Kim, 2016). Snapchat on the other hand is used to follow brands for entertainment and improvement of social knowledge, i.e. knowing more about the brand and the people behind it, to facilitate the attribution of personality traits to a brand.

Example: Warby Parker

A brand that has been praised for its usage of Snapchat is Warby Parker. The sunglasses and optical glasses brand uses Snapchat to interact with their followers, instead of to their followers like is often done on other social media platforms. This became highly obvious when one of their Snapchat followers uploaded a Snapchat Story of how he tried to fix his broken Warby Parker glasses with superglue and asked his Snapchat friends how long it would take to dry. Warby Parker saw his Snapchat story and send him a message on Snapchat as well as a Tweet saying it would take 4 hrs and provided him with a video tutorial for more information (Sheehan, 2016).

Besides the interaction with its Snapchat followers, the brand provides weekly stories on events and insights into the workplace and the employees. All this together facilitates the attribution of personality traits to a brand, more than a photo of their product on Instagram for example could do.

2.   Snapchat facilitates the evaluation of self-congruity which allows a consumer to evaluate the role of the brand in their formation of self.

The attribution of human characteristics to a brand is not just to facilitate the interaction between a brand and a consumer. Research has found that the congruence between the brand ‘s personality and the consumer’s self-concept is critical in the formation of the consumer-brand relationship (Kim, Lee & Ulgado, 2005). This notion can be explained by two theories: the self-congruity theory and the self-expansion theory.

  • The self-congruity theory states that people actively strive for a consistency in what they belief and how they behave to reduce unpleasant feelings caused by inconsistency (Malär, 2011). Thus, they tend to align themselves with people or even brands with similar personalities to avoid tension (Su, Mariadoss & Reynolds, 2015).
  • Self-expansion theory, on the other hand, denotes that human beings incorporate others in their self-concept to expand, grow and ultimately feel satisfied with their life. This satisfaction is linked to the motivations of accomplishing one’s goals such as self-actualization or self-improvement (Konrath, 2012).

Thus, for a brand it is important to demonstrate personality traits that are similar to those of the target audience so that consumer feel comfortable with having a relationship with the brand, and to offer other characteristics that will allow the customers to grow and bring them closer to their life goals.

Example: Cotton On Body

A good example of a brand on Snapchat that does just that is Cotton On Body. Cotton On Body is an Australian lifestyle brand that sells active wear, swimwear, pyjamas and loungewear. Their target audience are girls between 16 and 25 years old who are fun, optimistic, fresh, open-minded and genuine” (Cotton On Group, n.d.).

The company’s Snapchat stories are often focussed on the characteristics of the audience. For example, when the new Brazilian bikini line was launched, the brand shared snaps of Brazilian dancers and a samba band dancing in the middle of their Head Quarter via their Snapchat story. This was later updated with more snaps of a DJ in their courtyard and employees enjoying healthy food and drinks. These are in congruence with the notion of their customer being fun and fresh. They also have regular take-overs by their models during photoshoots or social influencers who go to events that are focused on mindfulness and health.

These insights provide their Snapchat followers with information and insights into the brand’s personality which, when deemed congruent can leverage their relationship with the brand and develop a significant preference towards it (Su, Mariadoss & Reynolds, 2015).

3.   The nature of snapchat provides bonding opportunities between the brand and the consumer.

Research in Uses and Gratification Theory, a theory that seeks to determine why consumers use mass media to satisfy their needs (Hsu et al., 2015) has found that people go on social media to connect with other people (Zhu & Chen, 2015). Additionally, they seek out different social media platforms to satisfy different needs such as entertainment, obtainment of information, socialisation and escapism (Joe Phua, Jin & Kim, 2016). When doing so, a person thus forms networks on different platforms with different productive benefits (Claridge, 2004).

The “glue” (Cao et al. 2013) that connects these social networks and keeps them together is called social capital. The definition of social capital is very context specific but one could suggest that it regards the value a network has for a person (Claridge, 2004); whether it allows for a bonding experience which usually occurs in strong-tie relations like with family and close friends or is closer related to a bridging experience based on weak-tie relations where people don’t have similar backgrounds (Piwek & Joinson, 2015). Although both have benefits (Piwek & Joinson, 2015), the intense communication and interactions that take place in a bonding social capital encourages the creation of trust (Cao, et al. 2013).

For brands the deeper exchange of affection is important to leverage the consumer-brand relationship. Research has found that attempts at bonding induces a considerable augmentation of the core product or service and involves affection, social support and self-disclosure (Price & Arnould, 1999). Especially the latter can be done through Snapchat. When brands self-disclose facts, feelings and emotions through snaps, consumers increase their knowledge of the brand which in return leverages their sense of trust and closeness (Hudson et al. 2015)

Joe Phua, Jin & Kim (2016) did a study on the satisfaction users derived from following brands on different platforms and found that those who followed a brand via Snapchat felt most involved with the brand than those who followed a brand via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Though no research has been done on the social capital of Instagram and Twitter, Ellison, Steinfield and Lampe (2007) found that Facebook is mostly used for bridging social capital and serves to accelerate the intensity of relationship but is less useful for creating strong-tie relations. Oppositely, Piwek & Joinson (2015) were able to find out that Snapchat offers a bonding experience due to its “more intimate, private and conversation-like mode of communication” (p.364) which created a deeper exchange of affection.

Example: Everlane

A brand that has been very successful at adapting to Snapchat is Everlane. Everlane is an online retail store that emphasises transparency in its production process and sales. For example, when shopping on Everlane.com you can see an exact breakdown of production costs to provide you with information regarding the price of the item. Additionally, the core value of transparency also comes forward in their social media approach (Pathak, 2015)

Everlane was one of the first brands to emphasise its presence on Snapchat and uses the platform to give consumers a behind the scene look and get to know its employees. Rather than trying to sell something the company tries to foster and leverage its consumer-brand relation by answering messages from consumers, sending back a selfie when they receive a snap of a costumer who just bought an item or even providing fashion advice on their items when a Snapchat follower asks for it. Though not every message can be answered according to the social media lead of the company, they try to be as interactive as possible to create a sense of familiarity and friendship with their customer (Heath, 2016).

(Click here to find an interview with tips and tricks from Everlane on how to create a bonding experience with the consumer.)

As can be observed from the example, Snapchat can be a great way of giving a brand’s customers the opportunity to bond and to transform the relation into a commercial friendship with an increased brand loyalty.

So, in a few words How can Snapchat help leverage a consumer-brand relation? 

From the examples given above it can be seen that Snapchat gives the unique opportunity to showcase the brand’s personality which is essential for a consumer to interact with the brand, relate to the brand and ultimately bond with the brand.  Snapchat is used to create a bonding experience and when a brand plays into that it could leverage the consumer-brand relationship and create a stronger brand loyalty.

However, brand managers and marketers still need to analyse their target audience to ensure they are on the right social media platform. Though Snapchat offers great opportunities, it has less followers than other platforms. Additionally, Instagram has recently added a new feature where users can upload stories like on Snapchat which could be preferred for brands with a large following on the platform. Though it should be questioned whether it will be just as effective in creating an intimate/ private like communication channel as is found with Snapchat. And if so, are consumers on Instagram who use it for inspiration interested in using the app for entertainment and increase of social knowledge?



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