05 Sep 2018 20:11 IST

Why ephemeral marketing is the next big thing

When marketers share brand stories and contests all the time, it forces consumers to stay tuned in

Remember the World Wide Fund for Nature’s #LastSelfie campaign on Snapchat where pictures of endangered species were posted with captions such as ‘Don’t let this be my #LastSelfie’ and ‘In seven seconds, I’ll be gone forever. But you can still save my kind #LastSelfie’? The highly emotive content created a huge impact among relevant target groups. This is an example of ephemeral marketing.

With the advent in 2011 of Snapchat — where messages and pictures disappear after a day — content marketing turned disruptive by becoming ‘ephemeral’. By definition, ephemeral means temporary or short-lived. Ephemeral content need not always be produced on Snapchat; any message routed through social media with a short shelf life qualifies.

Striking a chord

Why are marketers taking to this strategy so rapidly? One obvious reason is that it keeps pace with media user habits. People would rather not spend time monitoring what they say online and deleting old content (people are perennially concerned about what they say on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter). It is perfect when a message disappears after 24 hours — it makes it more exclusive. If one doesn’t catch it in time, they have missed it forever!

This means the frequency of ephemeral content generation needs to be high. Live streaming videos, and stories on Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram are ways of producing such content. An organisation better have a full-time content generation team if they want to keep up. The content must strike a chord with users and be original if it is to create an impact. It helps if the content is in the native language of the user, and is funny and candid, as this helps create a connect. The choice of taglines and visuals can make all the difference. When one opens Snapchat, they are greeted by a camera and not an endless newsfeed. One can start creating and posting visuals instantly.

Instant content

Another important reason why ephemeral content is popular is that it takes into account the psyche of the user. The fear of missing out drives many youngsters to divulge sensitive information, including their live location, to marketers. So, even if the content is irrelevant to a person they keep track of it and might even be tempted to consume it.

Marketers share brand stories, run contests, and announce winners all the time. This forces consumers to stay tuned in. Take, for example, the movie Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation; before its release, the creators took to Snapchat to connect with people. Fans sent in pictures and videos, and interacted with producers directly. It was an amazing amalgamation of technology and marketing.

The ubiquity of smartphones has made ephemeral marketing imperative. Technology, such as QR codes, helps make it easier to connect to such information. And the larger the followership, the better. One can create continuous brand engagement with ephemeral marketing. This results in brand likeability and relevance.

The downside

It is the nature of this marketing strategy that is also its downfall. Unless it is deeply impactful, and built diligently and steadfastly with a continuous thread, a campaign may well be lost in the clutter of visuals one is exposed to. And ephemeral marketing, with its frequency and amount of data that is shared, may not suit every brand. Speed and communication noise are not always equity builders for brands— some, such as Rolex, base their image on exclusivity and long periods of silence.

As a marketer, when you want to take a break from producing long, formal, creative works of communication, try this. Ephemeral marketing adds to the informal, casual charm of a brand that is required to forge close bonds with consumers. After all, no marketer can afford to ignore the millions of Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook users. Only the ephemeral is of lasting value!