This page is older archived content from an older version of the Emerald Publishing website.

As such, it may not display exactly as originally intended.

#BrandSelfie: 4 ways selfies enhance the consumer brand experience

By Caterina Presi, Leeds University Business School, UK

As our social lives become more digital, selfies have evolved into visual tools that enable us to communicate and connect with others.

The brand selfie is a particular type of selfie that shows an everyday consumption activity involving a brand. As a mainstream phenomenon of brand culture, brand selfies inform and expand our understanding of consumer-brand relationships, while driving loyalty and advocacy for the brand. A sample of the brand selfies can be seen here, with a selection showed below.

What makes a brand selfie?

Brand selfies on social media usually consist of at least four heterogeneous and interacting elements, including a person, a brand logo or physical product, different types of physical surroundings, and technology. Some appear simple with only the brand and the person’s face included; others look messy with many things included in the frame. A few show high levels of photographic skills, whilst others are less staged.

How do selfies enhance the consumer experience?

Brand selfies are much more than pictures of people with brands. They are important tools which allow consumers to engage with brands. As mobile devices integrate with consumer everyday life activities, they create a hybrid space in which virtual and real words merge.
Four ways selfies enhance the consumer brand experience:

  • Extending the brand territory - A brand’s physical territory becomes extended through selfies taken by consumers in their everyday lives. Brands are taken from a marketing-controlled environment into a consumer-controlled social network.  This can be seen in the selfie examples shown above.

  • Express yourself - Emotions and thoughts about a brand are put on display and acted out in the selfie. Pouts, smiles, kisses, etc. are captured and shared on social media. In other words, if you are happy or sad with a brand, say it with a selfie! This can be seen in selfie 4.
  • The secret life of brands - As consumers snap selfies in their kitchen, bedroom or bathroom, they are putting these private spaces and all their contents on display. Often small details carry extra meaning, they reveal a lot about the owner’s life (e.g. a messy room) and how the brand fits into it. This can be seen in selfie 1.
  • Storytelling – Consumers visual stories are told more effectively through brand selfies. In more sophisticated selfies, the visual elements (multiple brands, pictures, objects and colours) are combined deliberately to express a story (e.g. selfie 3). Brands used in selfies such as this may attract fans of the brand which therefore adds value to the selfie. Recognising your favourite brand in a selfie creates a more personal connection as opposed to seeing no brand.

While brand selfies can express many different things about brands, these visual conversations can potentially champion or damage existing brand meanings. For example, luxury brands in mundane settings (see selfie 4), or products being used in alternative ways and/or by consumers that do not fit the description of the intended target audience could potentially damage the brand meaning and perception.

The bigger picture…

Brand selfies deliver a qualitatively different way to engage with brands. In hybrid spaces, consumers brand experiences are not just preserved, but extended in space and time. Intimate details of the brand experience are revealed, being those emotions, thoughts, or one’s messy bathroom. Brands are companions of real-life experiences and brand selfies allow consumers to tell your brand story in a virtual space. As a result, and collectively, brand selfies can shape marketing brand image in different and sometimes unexpected ways. Therefore, have you Googled ‘your brand’ and ‘selfie’ yet?

The full-research paper provides a detailed typology of brand selfies, a framework to analyse them and a detailed view of the above processes. Presi, Caterina, Maehle, Natalia and Kleppe, Ingeborg A. (2016) "Brand selfies: consumer experiences and marketplace conversations", European Journal of Marketing, 50 (9/10), p. 1814-1834.

Caterina Presi is a Senior Teaching Fellow at Leeds at Leeds University Business School, UK. Her research interests are in the area of consumer culture, in particular consumer communities, consumption through social media and visual consumption. Her research has been published in international refereed journals such as the European Journal of Marketing and the Journal of Business Research.

Caterina Presi is the corresponding author and can be contacted at [email protected]

Don’t forget to take a look at our selfie special for more selfie research.