Fashion has become available to more and more people around the world, and entering the market has become easier. Small independent brands have limited budgets and therefore cannot invest huge sums of money into their marketing activities unlike popular international corporations like LVMH or Inditex. Brands turn to social media increasingly, and Instagram is the most popular option. This article examines how and why the platform can be used in the marketing of fashion brands.
Authors: Iuliia Kaseva and Taru Ikäpelto
Fashion is an industry with a short product lifecycle, which is highly dependent on the current trends. The digital and mobile revolutions made these trends change faster and intensified competition. Consumer behavior has also been affected, as people now rely on peer reviews or influencer posts more than plain advertisement to choose their purchases. In 2017 Instagram was used by 8M businesses, and 120M people contacted those businesses through the app every month, which proves it is an important social media marketing platform nowadays (Instagram Press 2018).
Social media marketing is an easily available digital marketing channel, it is a global word-of-mouth platform with the unique ability for two-sided interaction (Key 2017, 30-31.) Instagram is used in social media marketing for different purposes. Most importantly, for marketing campaigns and product launches to reach bigger audiences in a short amount of time. The platform is great for announcing sales seasons or sharing discount codes. It also allows businesses to communicate their brand message to their followers, and vice versa: customers can directly approach brands from the app. Marketing research on Instagram helps companies learn about their clientele, as well as track their activity, comments and opinions. The fashion industry has made the leap to implement trend research on Instagram. In addition to brands directly advertising themselves through their own channels, influencers can do so by creating IGC (influencer generated content), or customers create UGC (user generated content). (Yadav et al. 2015, 339-340.)
In addition to running marketing campaigns on their channels, brands use targeted advertisement, which was introduced on the platform in 2016. The ads could include pictures, videos or carousels (several pictures or videos in one post) posted on Feeds and Stories. Every owner of a business account can simply click on the “Promote” button and start a campaign in a matter of seconds. To reach the right audience, Instagram offers a wide set of settings. Users can be targeted by location (continents, countries, regions, cities), demographics (language, age, gender), interests (apps they use, accounts they follow), and behavior (activities on Instagram and Facebook). Additionally, the platform allows one to set up custom audiences based on users’ emails and/or phone numbers, and find new people similar to the brand’s consumers. Finally, Instagram can set up automated targeting for brands without any human input. (Instagram Business 2018.)
Image 1. Creating targeted adds (Instagram Business 2018)
The ideas mentioned above were shared with Tamara Vladimirskaya, a project manager at a digital marketing agency. Vladimirskaya (2018) has worked with over 80 clients in various industries including fashion, and suggested practices for marketing on Instagram based on her own experience. She claims that as fashion is a visual industry, all marketing content should be high-quality and the message should be short and sharp. She noted that companies tend to use pictures over videos, and always tailor the content to either feed or story-style format. Brands should act at the right time and consider time zones, sales and holidays seasons in different parts of the world. If involving influencers, her advice is that companies must choose people who can represent their values, as well as focus on diversity and inclusivity rather than standard beauty. The platform should be used to support the brand image and express the company’s voice. Finally, Vladimirskaya suggested that running test campaigns can increase the effectiveness of marketing initiatives, and that targeted advertisement is one of the key features of the app. (Vladimirskaya 2018.)
Analysis of @adidasoriginals and employees’ opinion
Instagram account of Adidas Originals was analyzed based on the collected information and an interview with Vladimirskaya. The analysis evaluated what methods and patterns the company uses on the platform. An interview with Adidas’ employees was carried out to follow up on the topic and discover how the brand uses Instagram in marketing. (Kaseva 2018.)
The analysis showed that Influencers are actively involved in Instagram marketing of Adidas Originals. The brand includes them in their posts and works with them collaboratively. (Instagram 2018b, 2018c, 2018d, 2018e.)
Image 2. Kylie Jenner’s Instagram account (Instagram 2018e)
Image 3. Stella McCartney’s, Kanye West’s and Pharrell Williams’ Instagram accounts (Instagram 2018b, 2018c, 2018d)
Originals uses the platform to announce new product launches, especially collections which are highly popular among teenagers, like YEEZY by Kanye West (Instagram 2018a).
Image 4. Announcements on @adidasoriginals (Instagram 2018a)
The brand also uses Instagram to tell stories: from supporting smaller communities to raising awareness of ocean pollution with their collaboration with Parley (Instagram 2018a).
Image 5. Examples of stories on @adidasoriginals (Instagram 2018a)
The brand can be highly creative with its announcements and campaigns. Adidas Originals uses innovative ways of presenting its products: from Instagram tools like Boomerang, to its own photo, video and animation production. Finally, the company uses in-app purchasing and invests in targeted advertisement.
Image 6. Instagram Story on @adidasoriginals which involved in-app purchasing (Instagram 2018a)
An interview with Lauren Devlin, a PR manager, and a representative of Product Marketing (2018) of Adidas Originals followed up on the topic of Instagram in marketing. Adidas Originals sees Instagram as a key social media platform for the company, however, it is just a part of the overall marketing initiative of the brand. In addition to all the practices suggested by Vladimirskaya (2018) and Yadav et al. (2015), the brand does lot of social listening, especially around campaign launches. They track comments of followers on @adidasoriginals own accounts, as well as on the accounts of influencers and consumers themselves. (Devlin & PM Representative, 2018.)
The company has a special approach towards influencers. The brand believes that influencer marketing is in the past, and creative collaboration with those who represent, shape and create culture is what is relevant now. (Devlin & PM Representative, 2018.)
Based on the research, it is clear that Instagram is the key social media channel in digital marketing of fashion brands all over the world, but it is only a part of overall marketing activity of the business. The most important use of Instagram by brands is marketing of themselves and their products. Companies should use it to deliver campaigns and to ensure communication. It is also a hub for fashion news, trends, collaboration and co-creation.
To be successful on Instagram, fashion brands should focus on both content creation and delivery. Companies have to consider the quality of the visual content supported by a short and sharp message posted at the right time. They are advised to use pictures over videos, tailor the content to either feed or story-style format and run test campaigns. Influencers should be able to represent brand’s value, which could be expressed on Instagram as well. Diversity and inclusivity are especially important for fashion businesses, as consumers look for authenticity, openness and something they can relate to.
Devlin, L. & PM Representative. 2018. PR Manager and Employee. Adidas Originals. Interview 20 Sept 2018.
Instagram Business. 2018. Build your business on Instagram. [Cited 2 Dec 2018]. Available at: https://business.instagram.com/advertising/
Instagram Press. 2018. Welcoming 1 Million Advertisers. [Cited 2 Dec 2018]. Available at: https://instagram-press.com/blog/2017/03/22/welcoming-1-million-advertisers/
Instagram. 2018a. Adidas Originals. [Cited 2 Dec 2018]. Available at: https://www.instagram.com/adidasoriginals/
Instagram. 2018b. Pharrell Williams. [Cited 2 Dec 2018]. Available at: https://www.instagram.com/pharrell/
Instagram. 2018c. Kanye West. [Cited 2 Dec 2018]. Available at: https://instagram.com/kanyewest/
Instagram. 2018d. Stella McCartney. [Cited 2 Dec 2018]. Available at: https://www.instagram.com/stellamccartney/
Instagram. 2018e. Kylie Jenner. [Cited 2 Dec 2018]. Available at: https://instagram.com/kyliejenner/
Kaseva, I. 2018. Instagram as a Digital Marketing Tool for Fashion Brands. Bachelor’s thesis. Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management. Lahti. [Cited 2 Dec 2018]. Available at: http://www.urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:amk-2018112919082
Key, T. 2017. Domains of Digital Marketing Channels in the Sharing Economy. Journal of Marketing Channels. Vol. 24(1-2), 27-38.
Vladimirskaya, T. 2018. Project Manager. Avanta Digital. Interview 12 Oct 2018.
Yadav, M., Joshi, Y. & Rahman, Z. 2015. Mobile Social Media: The New Hybrid Element of Digital Marketing Communications. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. Vol. 189, 339 – 340.
Iuliia Kaseva studied Business Information Technology at Lahti University of Applied Sciences while simultaneously working in Product Marketing at Adidas Originals. She wrote a thesis on the topic of Instagram as a Digital Marketing Tool for Fashion Brands in collaboration with the aforementioned company in Autumn 2018.
Taru Itäpelto has been teaching business mathematics and information technology in Lahti University of Applied Sciences between 2010-2012 and since autumn 2018. She has degrees of Master of Music (Sibelius Academy 2006) and Master of Philosophy (Helsinki University 2012).
Illustration: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1290636 (CC0)
Reference to this publication
Kaseva, I. & Itäpelto, T. 2019. Should fashion brands use Instagram? LAMK Pro. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2019/01/25/should-fashion-brands-use-instagram?/