11 Marketing Tips You Can Learn From Selfies

by Cydney Hatch June 21, 2018

On #NationalSelfieDay, I only felt it appropriate to write an article on the social media phenomenon and how it has changed our lives as marketers forever!

The selfie has transformed modern life starting as a simple self-portrait but has quickly developed into a social and cultural phenomenon. In fact, a million selfies are taken daily across the globe and sadly, death by selfie is a real thing.

Selfies are everywhere, almost at an annoying level. Everywhere you go, there are people constantly snapping selfies in travel locations to even coffee shops with their morning cups!

We cannot escape the phenomenon! In 2013, “selfie” was named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries, selfie sticks were banned in Disneyland in July 2015 and you could argue that the world would be seeing a lot less Kardashian if selfies were never born.

Millennials are expected to take over 25,000 selfies in their lifetime, making the selfie marketing gold!

Businesses have tapped into this social marketing technique and have seen great success. Like them, you too can use creative social media campaigns to create not only brand awareness but surging sales!

In this article, we will learn everything you need to know about the selfie and look at some top examples of successful selfie marketing and learn what you can do to harness the power of the selfie for your business’s social marketing campaigns!

Let’s dive in, but first, take a selfie!

Do Selfies Matter?

So, you might not be sold on the idea of millenial time-trashing selfies. To many people, selfies just seems like a self-centered time-waster. Whether that’s true or not is a matter of opinion best discussed on social media. As a marketer, however, there are a lot of reasons you should consider using selfies in your marketing.

First and foremost, human beings are social animals. We spend large portions of our waking hours communicating with others and the possibilities for conversation are seemingly endless—especially now with social media.

But shockingly enough, we prefer communicating about ourselves…

On average, people spend 60% of conversations talking about themselves—and this figure jumps to 80% when communicating via social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook. People love themselves and selfies feed this internal need.

Aside from psychology, selfie use in marketing keeps your brand relevant to what’s trending. It also keeps you aligned with how people use photography and how you can use that in your visual marketing effectively so you can reach relevant audiences. 

Selfies also humanize brands. Faces—or better yet people—interacting in an intimate and emotion-driven scenario make your marketing messages more personal and relatable. Selfies also create a sense of accessibility which makes customers feel they are at the center of your brand (again, this feeds their sense of self).

What We Can Learn From Selfies: A Marketing Study

If you are looking for ways to reach a younger audience and help them connect with and humanize your brand, selfies are a great tool to put your ecommerce business on the map! Let’s take a look at some businesses who have done this beautifully and what we can learn from each campaign.

1. Lays Chips: #SmileWithLays Campaign

Lays Chips says: “We believe that smiles are powerful. So we’re on a mission to spread smiles and make a difference along the way.”

Lays is on a mission to spread smiles in 2018 with their catchy hashtag #SmileWithLays. The brand is releasing specially designed bags featuring infectious smiles to create a ripple effect of smiles across the country in support of a life-changing cause.

For every purchase of Lay’s specially designed bags, a donation will be made to Operation Smiles, an international children’s medical charity.


Shoppers can find Lay’s specially designed bags on store shelves in retail locations nationwide starting February 12 through April 7 and starting in late February, they will have the opportunity to purchase custom Lay’s bags featuring their own smile at www.Lays.com. They reached their goal of a $1 million donations to Operation Smile through the support of thousands! Lay’s literally put a smile on the faces of millennial snackers!

The bags are infectiously hilarious, but pairing them with a charitable cause and Jordan Sparks’s influencer marketing makes it a genius campaign!

What We Can Learn: 

The brand is throwing in a dash of personalization to try to tap into a young audience as well, letting internet users upload a new or preexisting photo of their faces to its website to get their grins printed on a bag of original plain Lay’s chips starting later this month.

In addition, Lay’s is encouraging snackers to share photos of themselves with the specialized packaging on social media via the hashtag #SmileWithLays. All of those combined together create the customizable and ownable experiences many millennials and people want these days!

On top of that, people are always looking for ways to give back and to be positive. This campaign encourages people to smile and spread positivity in a crazy world, which psychologically fills people with feelings they are looking for online.

Creative visuals also matter with the success of this campaign. Although this campaign did not change a lot of the bag’s original design, a creative design made all the difference.

Every person could match up with the bag, find their skin tone and eventually create customized bags. People love creativity and admire things they can personally interact with, hence selfies! This was a genius design that did not require a lot of designer manpower to create. It was impactful, snappy and just downright creative genius!

2. Disney: #ShareYourEars Campaign

In honor of Disneyland’s 60th birthday, the company invited Disney park fans to engage in a month-long push to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The campaign promised $5 to the foundation for every post on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram where fans modeled their iconic Mickey Mouse ears and posted the image with the hashtag #ShareYourEars.

Originally, Disney planned to cap the donation at $1 million, but upped it to $2 million after meeting their initial goal.


Disney also encouraged fans to pledge $5 of their own money to the foundation by hosting a #ShareYourEars sweepstakes.

Those who donated were entered to win prizes, such as a Swarovski crystal-bedazzled set of Mickey ears, a two-night stay at the Disneyland resort and a private tour of the Walt Disney Imagineering offices. More than 200,000 people heard the message and shared their ears as shown above on Instagram!

Crazy huh? I mean, it is the happiest place on earth!

What We Can Learn:

Disney capitalized on product. They promoted their iconic Micky Mouse ears which droves sales, visual interest and evoked an emotional reaction as people reminisced of time spent at the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

Since most photos and the theme of the campaign asked to feature moments in the park, the attractions and pictures of friends and family, it further promoted the Disney experience and park. This was free self-promotion and social proof for Disney!

Honestly, who doesn’t feel a little bit of FOMO seeing Disney photos?

On top of the personalized experience and tapping into people’s personal experiences, joys and lives, the #ShareYourEars sweepstakes also added a bonus level of engagement, as it donated directly to a charitable cause.

The charitable donations and relationship was authentic to many Disney lovers because Disney has been involved heavily with the organization for years. This gives a sense of security and honesty because Disney is not using a cause for sales or promotion—they have created long term content to show they truly care.

3. Hooters: #StepIntoAwesome Campaign

Ignore the iconic hunter orange short shorts, tanks and “well endowed” women—the attention should be UP HERE, the marketing strategy!


To celebrate its 30th birthday, the Hooters chain invited its former waitresses to come back to Hooters to shoot selfies with the hashtag #stepintoawesome, with a website for customers to upload their own Hooter selfies—a marketing strategy that doesn’t take into consideration that some Hooters customers would rather no one knew they were ever there.

The campaign is a genuine look at what happens when guests walk through the door at Hooters.

“Rather than tell consumers, we show them the authentic, awesome experience,” said Jeremy Skiver, chief executive officer at Skiver Advertising. “The campaign arose from key insights brought on by consumer research and a brand vision developed with franchise partners, showcasing what has been refreshed at Hooters, from an expanded menu to more contemporary and comfortable surroundings. We invite viewers to share their awesome moments through social media channels.”

Digital media provided opportunities for viewers to interact with one of the world’s most iconic brands by sharing their personal “awesome” moments at Hooters via social media with a #StepIntoAwesome hashtag campaign and the “Step Into Awesome” website, where fans will be able to vote for the most awesome moments at Hooters.

Who knew that a place focused on “hooters”, sports and wings could create a decent marketing campaigns?

What We Can Learn:

Honestly, besides the obvious “sex sells” mantra, Hooters tapped into what matters most, which is the customer experience.

Through beneficial marketing research from customers, they decided to remind customer’s what is at the heart of the Hooter’s experience: Freedom. This is a place to come, kick up your feet and enjoy the simple things in life: sports, beer and attractive people.

Reminding people of those positive experiences is a smart way to “rebrand” as what people already know about the restaurant…it’s almost nostalgic! People love to remember the good old days or memories and this campaign taps into those personal emotions of “looking back” and familiarity.

Hooter’s also used this campaign as a way to also create a community. They called the “Hooter Go-ers” as well as all Hooter girls past and present to become involved and engaged in the campaign. Just like Hooter’s in-restaurant experience is a relaxed one, they also want to create a sense of acceptance, family and community with their marketing.

Like other humans, people want to be apart of something, even if it’s wearing the badge of a Hooter’s girl which is virally known as “hot chicks.”

4. The Walking Dead: Dead Yourself Campaign

People love zombies. It’s a motif that continue to recycle itself throughout time, but The Walking Dead took people by storm. On top of creating a hit show, The Walking Dead has done an excellent job of marketing themselves, too.

AMC has tapped into its brain-craving zombie fans and the selfie craze with a “dead yourself” app that helps you know what you might look like seven-to-ten days after you stop breathing.

People were posting these selfies all over their Instagrams and other social media platforms!

What We Can Learn:

This campaign speaks to all of the millions of fans clenching their fists and the edge of their seats from week to week, but it can also appeal to the obsession with social media face filters that is rampant all over Snapchat and Instagram.

Just like we talked about above, people love themselves: they love seeing and talking about themselves. Everyone wants to see themselves reflected in the content they consume whether its through visual representation, written content, advertisements or actual personal reflection. People want to feel personally connected to and represented in their brands, entertainment and experiences.

The Walking Dead helped fans become a part of their favorite TV fantasy. They could reflect their own faces and experience in the world of something they love. That is really powerful!

On top of that, people want to share their own content with a sticker, tag or filter associated with an experience. Just like The Walking Dead, social media users love to connect their personal experiences with brands. As seen above, many locations have personalized stickers that can share an experience with social media users.

Both examples are ways you can tap and slap your brand on user’s social media for free promotion!

5. Tarte Cosmetics: #KissAndMakeUp

Eco-friendly cosmetics company Tarte partnered with anti-bullying group Bystander Revolution to launch the #KissAndMakeUp campaign. The idea originated when Tarte executives noticed negative interactions among followers in the comments section of their social media posts, where women were bullying other women (boo for mean online trolls).

After some research, they realized that cyber bullying on Instagram was common and decided to do something about it. Make-up artists, beauty bloggers and celebrities were some of the first to get involved by planting a lipstick kiss on the back of their hand and posting a selfie using the hashtag #KissAndMakeUp.

Tarte CMO Candace Craig Bulishak discussed their marketing strategy. “Our goal has always been to use our social platforms and reach to encourage our fans to spread positivity rather than judge someone’s appearance, which is why this initiative is so important to us. We know that cyberbullying is a constant cycle, so anything we can do to slow it down and make the Internet a more peaceful, happy place is a success for us.”

The #kissandmakeup campaign has garnered over 277 million social and media impressions. More importantly, since the launch of the campaign, they’ve brought the topic of cyber-bullying to the front lines of social media, proving that even the smallest acts of kindness can make a difference, brighten a day, or change someone’s outlook.

What We Can Learn:

The power of social influencers and human connection is incredible! More than 15 of beauty’s biggest influencers, with a social reach of over 20 million, participated in sharing their own personal stories of cyber-bullying and encouraging their followers to join the movement towards spreading kindness and positivity. Authenticity was crucial in inspiring others to participate and share their personal and at times painful stories.

Those two things alone sparked a social fire and everyone wanted to become involved.

As you see with many social problems of today, people want to be apart of some positive social cause, so sharing personal stories and photos can be a powerful tool in your customer’s promotions of your products. Authenticity is something everyones craves these days, along with body image causes! Selfie marketing for a cause doesn’t have to involve fundraising—it can exist simply to raise awareness for an issue that impacts its followers.

The campaign did not stop there, Tarte did an incredible job streamlinging the cause for campaign consistency through cross channel promotion, contests and sweepstakes, custom collateral, live activations and more.

6. ALS IceBucket Challenge Campaign

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a tremendous event in the Association’s history, raising $115 million in just a summer. Not only did it bring awareness to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) but it more importantly spurred a huge increase in their research budget. Since the challenge they have committed over $96 million to research projects!


The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge demonstrates the power of social media to influence cause marketing on a national scale. The Challenge was a perfect storm of social media, celebrity and grass-roots philanthropy, producing crazy participation during the hot summer days of 2014!

According to Facebook, between June 1 and August 17, over 28 million people joined the conversation about the Ice Bucket Challenge including posting, commenting or liking a challenge post and 2.4 million videos related to the ice bucket challenge have been shared on the social network.

What We Can Learn:

Timing is everything! Like any marketing strategy, timing is an important piece to launching a successful campaign. The Challenge got underway in June and peaked in August. Its timing was perfect and it was a feel-good counterpoint to the images of violence in the Middle East and in Ferguson, Missouri that dominated the nightly news cycle.

Summer is a popular time for water activities for every age group because school is out and people have extra time. Plus, the nature of the Challenge matched the timing—an Ice Bucket Challenge in a hot summer? Yes, please!

Another successful part of this campaign was not only celebrity involvement, but the new idea of FOMO and middle school teasing of ” I bet you wouldn’t.” This challenge created a personal touch of social stigma and self-consciousness to the cause marketing campaign.

Who could possibly turn it down? Everyone succumbs to peer pressure, which is why fundraising events do so well—you get caught up in the moment! Plus, if you participate in the challenge, you put a profile picture frame or other socially relevant inclusion, you have a pride and good social standing.

How Can You Use Marketing Selfie Power?

Looking at a lot of the success from the above social campaigns, you might be wondering how you can make selfie magic happen for your ecommerce business who is not a huge corporation like Lay’s or Disney.

That is okay. A lot of these examples are marketing unicorns of campaigns, but there are basic fundamentals you can implement for your marketing efforts.

The basics are what will matter. Here are the basic ingredients you will need:

  1. A successful selfie campaign leverages social media in a hyper-engaged, low-budget and viral advertising way by getting followers of a brand or movement to post photos or videos of themselves interacting with a product or engaging with a concept. So, if you have a social following: Check!
  2. The motivations behind selfie campaigns vary wildly—from the political to the commercial to just-for-fun movements. If you have a brand purpose, mission and clear goal there is motivation for people to get involved. Look for local charities or bigger charities that can go hand-in-hand with your products and look for influencers or groups to partner with! Most of the above campaigns were attached to some type of “giving back” action.
  3. Selfie campaigns are a staple of modern advertising. Leading forward, selfie campaigns will become increasingly creative, asking participants to do challenges and creative posts in a hashtag movement will be key. Look for ways to create a creative experience, not just a post a picture holding your product! Get people excited and get their creative juices flowing!

Again, although a lot of these marketing campaigns are marketing gold mines, you should not let that stop you because even if it doesn’t go viral, your customers and followers are having fun along the way. Interacting with your services and products will be the key to success, because if they like the experience, they will tell others about it!

Customer experience is key, so if they love your creativity and have a fun experience that is only going to help you. If you want to see how selfies can help your marketing, here are some quick ways you can use selfie campaigns:

1. Create a Contest: Take a Selfie

Hold a contest that encourages your followers to take photos of themselves with your product. To take it a step further, think about creative ways your product can be used and design a selfie campaign theme around it.

Get them to not only post the photo on your Facebook wall, but use a coinciding hashtag that can be snappy and creatively tied back to your business. If you are struggling with coming up with creative hashtags consider the following:

  • Make it Brief and Unique
  • Make it On Topic and Related to Your Brand
  • Make it Have Emotion
  • Make Hashtags for Promo Events
  • Make it Have Humor
  • Make it Consistent

Tarte didn’t ask makeup artists to just take photos with their products, they asked for kiss marks! Like them, you can create a visual campaign where followers can actively be involved in sharing your content!

2. Create a Business Selfie: Influencer Involvement

Social proof matters to people. These days, brands have trouble developing a strong trust with their targeted audiences. Nielsen reports 92% of people trust recommendations from individuals—even if they don’t know them—over brands.

That online trust equals sales for you! So if you get influencers in your ecommerce market to share creative selfies using or with your products, that will really boost your online reputation and sales.

3. Create a Selfie App: Customize the Experience

Just like we talked about location Instagram stickers and tags above, you can create an app featuring a unique selfie filter, frame or sticker specific to your brand. Creating an “insert yourself into the selfie” app can be a fun and profitable way to get some attention for your brand.

For example, if you are a fitness company at a fitness expo conference, you could have an influencer at the booth taking photos with customers that can be placed into a customized frame, filter, etc for your business! Ask customers to share the photo, so combining social influencer and business branding in a sharable way is powerful advertising for you!

4. Create a Promo: Exchange for Selfie

Everyone loves a discount and everyone will do something for a quick 10% or 15% off. That is why there are email signups at most resturants and store now!

But the question is, how much is a slight discount worth to you? Enough for simple exposure from customers? If it’s worth it to you, offer a discount to your customers or clients with a selfie they post on your wall or posted with a relevant hashtag on Twitter or Instagram. By having them create brand awareness, people might click on your site links and take a look for themselves!

Social proof is powerful these days!

5. Create A Cause Campaign: People Care

As you see with the majority of the campaigns above, a successful selfie involves giving back. If you are looking to raise public awarness about an issues or cause that is related to your business while expanding your reach to new customers a selfie cause campaign might be a good choice or you!

Do not worry, you don’t need to have your customers or followers dump ice buckets on themselves to get the world out!

Let’s look at the New York Public Library 2013 selfie campaign where they installed photobooths outside two of their locations and encouraged visitors to take photos and share the results. In light of severe budget cuts, the library staff got the idea they needed to do more than send paperwork to their representatives, social action can help bring awareness and can go viral.

What Have We Learned?

Surprising eh?

Selfies can be a powerful tool in attracting attention for a cause and bringing socially-obsessed Millennials to ecommerce brands. The most successful cause-marketing selfie campaigns are those that have the following as a recap:

  • A  snappy and creative hashtag
  • A clear connection to the cause the brand is supporting
  • Multiple ways for users to engage
  • Clear Directions for Selfie Contests
  • Consistent branding on all campaigns

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should be flexible with your goals and intentions using social campaigns. ROI is not as clearly defined for social campaigns like is so although selfies are not going to immediately rake in the cash, they significantly help with brand awareness and traffic to sites! Take advantage of this social phenomenon and you can get high numbers of people interested in your business!

If you want help with your social media marketing planning, let me know here or in the comments! I would be happy to help!

What do you think? Do you think selfies deserve a serious seat at the marketing table? If so, why? Comment and share below!

  • Marketing

  • Social Media

Cydney Hatch

Cydney Hatch

Cydney is a polka dot wearing business owner, photographer, cupcake enthusiast and writer, who through her work, shares her personal passions about visual marketing, branding and business strategy.

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