It’s inevitable. As soon as a new social platform starts to attract an audience, brands will follow — sometimes with awkward attempts to “authentically” engage that audience. It can be a tricky dance for marketers when part of the appeal of a platform is the absence of brands.
The latest social network wunderkind is BeReal, which was created as a sort of anti-Instagram: no influencers, no filters, no algorithm, no followers, no video, and no ads. BeReal is now the most downloaded free iOS app (helping knock Facebook out of the Top 10), and recently hit 10 million daily active users, many of them from the coveted Gen Z demographic.
While there are currently no paid ads and commercial content is technically against the ethos of the app, marketers are already experimenting. Chipotle, e.l.f. Beauty, PacSun, and Trident Gum have been some of the first brands to test the waters. As e.l.f. Beauty chief brand officer Laurie Lam put it, BeReal became “unavoidable.”
Geoffrey Goldberg, chief creative officer of content agency Movers + Shakers described the typical approach:
“It’s test and learn for sure, and what we want to do is make sure we’re keeping pace with what people on BeReal actually want. We always want to be there in an authentic and genuine way. We never want to be that brand that’s crashing the party.”
This reminded me of the early days of Instagram. I once consulted for a brand that had been invited to create and pilot some of the first-ever paid ads on Instagram. Instagram worked directly with the brand on a painstaking process to help come up with ads that fit the aesthetic and ethos of Instagram. Then in 2015, Instagram dropped the minimum spend and switched on an Ads API so that brands could start campaigns without talking to a rep. Fast forward to today, and anything goes.
That’s a lifecycle that repeats with every new social platform. Early marketing experiments lead to a brand bandwagon that lead to people complaining about all the marketing. And that helps creates demand for something new.
As e.l.f. Beauty’s Laurie Lam described their approach with BeReal:
“The objective was very simple: create a space where our fans can see this unfiltered, authentic e.l.f. life. If the space ends up moving somewhere else, we’ll follow.”
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: