Brain Chatter: A Snapchat Exec's Unfiltered Advice on Marketing in Social Media

November 23, 2017 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai

It’s hard to guess how old the average attendee was at the 2017 Data Marketing conference this week, but I wouldn’t have anticipated so many Snapchat fans.

Even Joe Strolz was surprised.

“This is clearly a group of progressive marketers. We don’t always get all the hands going up,” the social media service’s Canadian leader admitted during his keynote, in which he asked who in the audience was on the platform.

Those marketers are apparently in good company. According to Strolz’s data, Snapchat in Canada has grown 300 per cent this year to six million daily active users who spend an average of 30 minutes a day putting filters over their selfie pictures or creating short-form disposable videos with lens that use augmented reality imagery.

Before you say anything, I am aware that Instagram is the bigger platform.

Everybody I talk to for a story about marketing lately salivates over Instagram. There is a seemingly limitless number of people who love to cite numbers about Snapchat usage stalling globally.

This isn’t really about Snapchat, though.

This is about changing the way you think about our relationship to cameras and its impact on consumer marketing.

As Strolz pointed out, for instance, the camera has evolved from a tool for documentation -- capturing, categorizing and storing a moment. Thanks to services like Snapchat and Instagram, the camera is a tool for the masses for visual communication.

“Understanding the camera and having it as a core workload of your campaigns and strategies is critical,” he said. “Being able to marry the data assets with the context of the camera and camera-based execution is now a core practice of the modern marketer.”

Or at least it should be.

I suspect many brands simply take a knee-jerk reaction to thinking they have to quickly establish a presence -- any kind of presence -- on these visual platforms before they think about how consumers use them or how they might be willing to tolerate marketing on them.

Instead, they might want to look at brands like Gatorade, which launched a filter on Snapchat during the Super Bowl that let consumers create videos dowsing themselves with a bucket filled with its sports drinks.

“Would it be as interesting if it didn’t have the Gatorade logo on the bucket?” Strolz asked. “No. It’s most relevant and most resonant to talk about that experience in the context of the brand.”

Another example was Warner Bros., which created a Snapchat filter amid the premiere of Wonder Woman that let consumers put on a digital tiara and other armor to send out Mother’s Day messages, along with a short video from Gal Gagot teasing an exclusive first look at the film. Strolz said the campaign drove a 40 per cent increase in ad awareness and a nine per cent increase in watch intent.

If the camera’s role in our lives has truly changed, maybe the way brands approach creativity will also shift. Instead of just offering the final version -- a 30-second TV spot, a billboard -- marketing will also need to include more digital creative prompts that kick-start the creation process among consumers. Snapchat filters or lenses might merely be some early examples.

On the other hand, Strolz also said brands need to be part of conversations where they become as close to consumers as their best friends. That’s a tall order.

In fact, there is probably a threshold in terms of the number of brands we’re willing to have next to us in a given medium. No one has figured out exactly what they number is, because it may depend on a particular consumer. If they’re cool about it, we’ll let a few in.

The rest will be filtered out. 

Shane Schick is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine. He tells stories about technology, marketing, innovation, fashion and more at

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