Want Performonks in your inbox? Make me smarter

Rashi Goel

From Tactical to Mainstay: Can Instagram Build Brands?

From tactical to mainstay: can Instagram build brands?
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Which means we have completed one year together! Thank you for being part of the Performonks community.

After #24, I took a break to decompress. With this newsletter, we begin the regular newsletter cadence again!


In an earlier newsletter on Automation Bias, I had put forward a thesis on brand building. I had said that:

  1. TV for brand building: a brand can appeal to consumers’ intuitive System 1 brain through thematic advertising (TV); this creates brand pull by tugging at emotions, and memories, because System 1 brain automates decisions
  2. Tactical mediums for trials: a brand can appeal to shoppers’ logical System 2 brain through point of sale material: this gives rational product based messages and discounts, that pushes the shopper to try the brand, because the rational System 2 brain could overrule System 1 if it is not satisfied
  3. Consistency between mediums: a common visual identity and brand voice help make the brand consistent in the consumer’s mind and recognizable anywhere
  4. Pull > Push: The best end-state for all brands is to become part of the intuitive System 1 response, so that the consumer (and shopper), automatically picks the same (your) brand each and every time
Marketing Content Continuum – System 1 to System 2

Read the newsletter on Automation Bias for more context, before moving onto the next section.

One right, and one wrong assumption

The thesis above, makes one right and one wrong assumption:-

  1. only emotionally rich content appeals to System 1 brain – True
  2. only video can bring emotionally rich content alive – Not True

In this edition, I hypothesize that we are limiting our brand building canvas by narrow lensing on video. And that it is possible to create emotionally rich content (not long videos) that fires up System 1 on Instagram.

First, let’s see what kind of content brands are putting out on Instagram today.


Most brands are leveraging Instagram for tactical content

Most brand led Instagram feeds tend to appeal to the right side of the continuum (diagram above) – rational messaging that appeals to System 2.

Most classical marketers spend millions on TV advertising and hence use Instagram as a secondary channel, mainly focused on tactical content on social media channels- consumer promotions, Red Letter day posts, Influencer posts, contests.

Cadbury Instagram
Maggi – Instagram
Garnier – Instagram Feed

Startup brands tend to be digital first, and focus their Instagram feed on product benefit centric messaging.

The Whole Foods – Instagram
Mama Earth – Instagram
Yoga Bars – Instagram

Apart from visual identity, there is no material difference in the Instagram feeds of start up brands and established brands.

Classical brand building on Instagram

Channels to reach consumers may have changed, but there are some classical brand building principles that never go out of style:-

  1. Differentiate within category
  2. Live the big idea, don’t just amplify it
  3. Communicate core values, not just product benefit
  4. Resolve a consumer tension
  5. Be aspirational and create desire
  6. Invest in big celebrity endorsement

I share how four brands have applied the classical brand building playbook on Instagram and built compellingbrands (that veer to the left side of the marketing continuum).

What’s more, each of these have done so while staying true to Instagram audiences’ addiction to dramatic, interesting, delectable, visceral and thumb stopping visuals.


1. Lemonade

Lemonade (Insurance) is disrupting the Insurance industry.

WHO: We disrupt everything that symbolizes Big Insurance. We are an InsureTech company for underserved Millennials and their needs. We remove the pain from insurance process buying and claims. And do good along the way – we give back unclaimed funds to a charity of your choice.

HOW: “Dip items in pink paint.” Invites local artists to share their own creations on the same idea.

WHY IT WORKS: Items dipped in pink paint is as far away from selling insurance, as snow is from the Gobi desert. Lemonade spends the least marketing dollars in Insurance industry. It does not simply extend the brand idea to Instagram. Instagram BECOMES the idea.

  • It does one better than break every boring rule of the industry; it dips it Magenta Pink! Lemonade stands out in a staid, predictable, pinstripe industry and this Magenta Pink feed is a strong signaling device to Millennails that things work differently at Lemonade.
  • It stays away from boring product messaging and appeals to visceral emotions through visually dramatic content – a must have on Instagram
Source: Lemonade_Inc on Instagram

2. SugarBearHair Gummies

WHO: Sugar Bear Hair Vitamins are the most trendy, fast-growing vitamin brand, particularly among millennial and Gen Z consumers. They have converted a boring health supplement to an aspirational, must have accessory.

HOW: Spending millions on celebrity endorsements for Instagram, and breaking the visual codes of the health supplement category

WHY IT WORKS: marketers generally cough up millions for celebrity endorsements; but only for television advertising. SugarBearHair signed up expensive celebrities only for Instagram endorsements. While their supplements are not any different from any other brand, they are able to charge a significant premium because of the aspirational brand pull.

  • Gorgeous celebrities create desire for SugarBearHair supplements
  • Millennial blue and candy pink color scheme disrupts health supplements category and is Instagram and audience friendly
  • They talk about what goes into the product, but in a fun, unboring way
Kim Kardhashian endorsing SugarBearHair
Source: SugarBearHair on Instagram Making health supplements ‘unboring’

3. King Arthur Flour

WHO: A company born in 1790. Sells commodity – Flour.

HOW: Appeal to “Bakers at heart”. Celebrates local bakers and their recipes.

WHY IT WORKS: 231 years later, they have embraced new communication channels, but have kept their values constant – wholesome, honest to earth cooking.

  • Delectable food images tickle System 1 brain and create desire
  • Resolves a tension for amateur bakers. Builds their culinary confidence, they feel supported and that they can count on King Arthur the way countless other bakers have
  • Moves beyond just the product, and opens up vistas of the magic it can create
Source: King Arthur Baking on Instagram

4. Go-Pro

WHO: The world’s most versatile cameras.

HOW: Life’s most exciting experiences can be captured by Go-Pro

WHY IT WORKS: The product is built for Instagram. Go-Pro has become The aspiration of travelers and even arm chair adventurers.

  • This camera is not everybody’s camera. It goes where no other camera has gone before, strapped onto daredevils who live to capture extreme adventures. The brand embodies the value of adventure and non-buyers feel a seductive tug for this life. Possessing this camera takes them a step close to it.
  • What makes this even more unique though, is that Go-Pro gets free crowdsourced content from their adventurer community
  • Photographs and videos shot on Go-Pro demonstrate product excellence
Source: Go-Pro on Instagram

Are we ‘Instagramming’ our work life?

Do we wait for the grand work events, big presentations and CEO visits to put the best version of our self out there?

How about we put our personal brand out there in full glory, even in daily, ‘tactical’ meetings?

SHARE: