A screenshot of Louis Vuitton’s Snapchat story from their resort show in Palm Springs.
Since Snapchat first launched, in 2011, it’s gone from ‘that sexting service’ to a powerful social media platform that’s heading towards an IPO with an estimated valuation of well over $10 billion. Add to that hefty sum its other impressive stats: 100 million active daily users, 65% of whom send snaps every day. And the real key—most of them are that coveted slice of millennials between 18 to 24.
So it’s no wonder fashion is taking notice. Everyone from Louis Vuitton to Burberry, to nearly every fashion editor and street style star, has recently joined Snapchat to extend their reach to a new generation of young, luxury-hungry consumers and loyal fans. And yet, after the splashy announcement, teased across social media platforms and even garnering headlines in some cases, many all but disappear. Says one fashion publicist, “It’s this new thing we’re all supposed to be doing, but it can seem at odds with our messaging. You don’t always want to lower the tone of an event or campaign by scribbling some drawing all over your ad.”
As a result of this skepticism, some labels launch for a one-off event, and then go completely quiet. Others use the platform several times a year for fashion week, but then neglect to keep up with the day-to-day, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nature of the app.
In early May, for example, Louis Vuitton launched its resort collection in Palm Springs. The French brand shared the experience, which took place at Bob Hope’s former home, via Snapchat. The story captured a laid back California vibe (bumper cars, anyone?), the presence of social media-savvy celebs like Selena Gomez, and the blockbuster faces you’d expect from Vuitton—Kanye West, Catherine Deneuve. The whole thing looked informal, but they did use graphics and typography in keeping with the spirit of the venerated fashion house. And they haven’t Snapped much since.
The informality appears to turn brands off. If we’re spending a fortune to construct a carefully crafted, luxury image, why would we throw up a 10 second video? Gregory Littley, the lead creative strategist at ICED Media, a creative agency that helps brands target consumers via social media and has launched a number of Snapchat rollouts, says they just need to think outside the box. “You don’t have to use 5 million emojii or make something that’s completely raw. You can partner with a Snapchat artist with an extensive following,” he suggests. “It’s really about understanding the medium.”
But what about the companies who do jump on board, to reserve their name and announce that yeah, they know what’s hip, what the cool kids are up to, and then they just sit on their account? “I tell companies who want to explore Snapchat, ‘You have a chance to make a first impression on a new, younger demo, so don’t onboard just to onboard. That’s the worst case scenario, because whatever attention you had for one launch event, you lose it. If you haven’t taken steps to make a proper conversation, ephemeral messaging disappears, and with one swipe they’ve unfollowed you. The key is consistency.”
Littley also says that while Snapchat tends to value snaps that feel timely, unstaged and authentic (think Rihanna’s killing a bug video versus Beyonce’s ultra-polished Instagram feed), that doesn’t mean a luxury brand has to do something that runs counter to their image to make an impact. He and his team help brands to storyboard snaps that feel youthful and real while still retaining an appropriate degree of elegance.
Not surprisingly, bloggers are the ones winning Snapchat. Seven or eight years ago, fashion brands were terrified of letting their guard down on the Internet, and so regular—albeit beautiful, savvy, and very stylish—women swept in and filled the gaping hole, showing off accessible fashion, scoring lucrative advertising deals, and building epic social media followings in their place. And now, it’s those same women, Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine, Song of Style’s Aimee Song, and We Wore What’s Danielle Bernstein, who are winning the fashion game on Snapchat, giving their devoted fans even more access to their already very public lives. It won’t be long before brands learn how to use the platform to their advantage, but but at the moment, there’s still room for someone to get a head start.