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InsideFMM | August 3, 2015

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Three Fashion Brands Leveraging Instagram’s API for Marketing Success

How can brands create super fresh, engaging and visual brand campaigns? Recently top companies have used Instagram’s API, and the mobile app’s 15 million registered users, to take their next marketing strategies to the next level.

In February 2010, Instagram harnessed the power of its enormous photo collection by offering developers a fully-scalable API that aggregates content in real time. The original API featured four different ways that developers could sort Instagram content: user photos, tags, locations, and geographies. This allowed designers and marketing agencies to engage with users of this visual social media platform in a completely new way, not to mention introducing the coolness that is Instagram to people who don’t have an iPhone.

Since then, many Instagram interfaces have popped up to make the platform accessible online (not to mention on consumer products), including Flipboard, Gramfeed, Instacat, Screenstagram, Instaprint, TeenyTile, Postagram, Prinstagram and Instamaker. We’re only scratching the surface here–there are many more clever, useful applications for our favorite photo-sharing app. What we’re really excited about, however, is how some of our favorite brands are using the API to power innovative, of-the-moment marketing campaigns that combine social sharing, location-based marketing, gamification and more.

1. Bergdorf Goodman, Shoes About Town

In September 2011, Bergdorf Goodman partnered with Morpheus Media, a CreateThe Group company, for its “Shoes About Town” Instagram campaign, which depicted the secret lives of shoes purchased from the luxury retailer.

Shenan Reed, chief marketing officer at Morpheus Media, told FMM that Bergdorf Goodman has been using Instagram for quite some time and loves the platform, especially the way the community responds to the retailer’s New York City, fashion-based content. “One of the trends that has inspired us most to use APIs is the ability to take existing technologies and build off of them with your own customized spin,” says Reed. “Bergdorf Goodman is very forward thinking in their use of user generated content, especially for a luxury brand. When the time came to celebrate the opening of their new Shoe Salon and their latest Shoe book, Instagram just seemed like a perfect fit. We know the Bergdorf Goodman consumer loves their shoes, and we really wanted to create an interactive program that celebrated the shoe obsessed.”

The campaign was absolutely charming and hailed as more addictive than cigarettes for the shoe obsessed. It reminds us of the garden gnome from Amelie (If you don’t know what we’re talking about, see the film!), traveling the world and having secret adventures without its owner.

Photos are submitted through Instagram using the hashtag #BGShoes, and then the image is placed on near Bergdorf’s map of Manhattan, depending on the geo-location of the photographer. The map may only represent Manhattan, but the retailer is aggregating content for this campaign from all over the world.

“We definitely wanted it to be a global campaign,” says Reed. “After all, shoe obsession truly knows no bounds. Since there is only one physical store location, the brand holds their NYC roots near and dear to everything they do. Photos taken within Manhattan were placed directly in that location on the map, but any other entries you see scattered around the page are were receive from outside NYC and around the world. The global community and mobile based nature of Instagram was actually part of what made it so compelling.”

In addition to the Instagram API, the campaign to launch Bergdorf’s second floor Shoe Salon included QR codes in print, in store and on store windows driving users to the application. Morpheus Media seeded the content with photos of the latest shoes for their Shoe Book around New York City.

Bergdorf Goodman also revamped a very similar campaign for their Instagram map, #BGDogs, to support their holiday video, Unleashed. Besides the fact that dogs are cute and fun to look at, comparing these two campaigns should give you an idea of how easy it is pull themed content from Instagram. And this video they did to promote #BGDogs is just cute.

2. A Is For ALDO – Frangrance Moodboards

ALDO’s Moodboard campaign is a stellar example of a highly-curated, extremely engaging Instagram campaign that allows users to tell their own version of the ALDO brand story. The campaign was developed by ALDO, the company’s Montreal’s graphic design agency Dynamo and New York-based multi-platform marketing firm ALLDAYEVERYDAY to support the release of the brand’s fragrance collection.

Phil Leif Bjerknes, digital director of ALLDAYEVERYDAY, spoke with FMM about the project. “ALDO came to us with the idea for a photography-driven campaign using Instagram’s photosharing API,” says Bjerknes. “We built a tool to share images, focusing on content that was sexy and playful. Initially, we have tried to keep it very curatorial. Our creative team picks the images, and they change every month.” In addition to stunning images, this campaign successfully leverages principles of gamification to keep users engaged. The Moodboard functions as a personality test of sorts–it asks users to pick nine photos that represent them, and then picks the correct fragrance for their personalities.

“The campaign has gotten great critical reception, people love the site. We have plans to evolve the site, add more of a social group, upping the level of engagement,” said Bjerknes. “People are compelled to play a game. It’s a compelling call to action. The hardest part is telling people how to play the game, revealing the complexity slowly.”

We loved the interface, found it very intuitive. In addition, the photo selection refreshes each time you play. You will find some familiar images, and some you haven’t seen before. (For more examples of how to incorporate gamification into retail and brand campaigns, read Macala’s article on gamification.)

3. Levi’s Intgrates Instragram in Social Marketing Strategy

Levi’s has kicked-off its 2012 Instagram brand campaign with a truly innovative use of the API –a nationwide talent search. On December 27,2011, Levi’s posted a casting call on Instagram. To enter, Instragram users upload photos with the hashtag #iamlevis.

The brand’s global casting call for the faces of their 2012 brand campaign used Instagram into a crowd-sourcing tool, which is honestly brilliant. Not only can they aggregate the entries to create stunning photo collages (see above), but they are encouraging worldwide participation in their brand, offering people of all races, colors, ages and walks of life the chance to be a star.

Tips for brands using the Instagram API

So now you’ve got the idea. When you build your own Instagram API, you can apply elements of gamification, high or low levels of curation, you can tell a story with pictures or search the far corners of the earth of talent and beauty, all while promoting your brand. It is important to remember, however, that this wealth of content that you’re mining technically belongs to someone else. A lot of other someone elses, actually.

“Pay close attention to the terms of service,” Bjerknes told FMM. “This is important from a ‘good web citizen’ point of view. Remember that there are actual people behind the photographs that are posted, and that they are being mediated by another company.”

While sharing is in many cases caring, it is important to respect things that belong to others. That said, most Instagram users would be thrilled to be included in one of their favorite brand’s campaigns. We know we would.

As a consumers, What’s your favorite Instagram brand campaign?

As an Instgram user, How would you like to use your Instagram photos in the future?


  1. These are great examples. People love very visual websites, and they love sharing, so these campaigns are really making the most of that. It will be interesting to see if there are future issues with the sharing of images of people, especially as people become more wary of sharing personal information.

    I think the idea that marketing a brand can become truly global, with images of people from all countries could really break down some barriers to our perceptions of each other as consumers. I’m sure some of the branding gurus are scared silly at what this could mean for them in the future too!

    Great article.


    • Marguerite Darlington

      Thank you for the comment, Phil. I completely agree! The main challenge with a campaign like that would be promoting it globally–getting the program’s hashtag in front of eyes all over the world. You’d need a solid platform or a creative digital campaign.

      If you see any more examples of the Instagram API, or launch a campaign yourself, please let us know!

      - Marguerite

  2. Really great article. I think the 2012 Olympics will be shown through the eyes of Instagram.

    • Marguerite Darlington

      That’s a fantastic idea! The Olympics are a perfect candidate for this application.

  3. MGRoy

    I really like what companies like StoryDesk are doing for fashion. deal a lot with their buyers, who now all have iPads, and have a custom app built in

    How cool, and so much easier than dealing with tear sheets catalogs etc

  4. Brittany

    Instagram is an amazing tool to use. Loved this article it really helped me out with some great information. Tell me what do you think about this new book called “The New Stock Market” The book talks about looking at content marketing like the stock market. Serious stuff.

    I already have my copy.

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