State of the Selfie: How Self Promotion Fuels Branding

Posted by Mackenzie Zellner on July 13, 2016
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Self-promotion in the Instagram age is about as easy as point and click. And, to a certain degree, we’re all guilty. No matter if you’re “feelin’ yourself” with a Snapchat Story selfie series or marketing your brand through a promoted event, we all toe the line of self confident promotion vs. blatant, self-serving sales pitches.

With dozens of free(ish) social media channels at our fingertips, self promotion is faster, easier, and more common than ever. Unfortunately, with faster, easier, and more common, comes even greater chances of f*cking it up, especially when not enough thoughtful consideration is made to maintain brand authenticity or reflect the needs of the consumer.

Who can forget the Bloomindale’s print ad that implied date rape is chill and, go ahead, spike someone’s drink! Or Starbucks encouraging patrons to casually bring up race relations with the barista making their Grande Caramel Mocha Frappuccino (hold the whip).

As the state of the selfie further permeates the brand world, those who are pining for discovery at 15 minute intervals are more likely to incorrectly represent themselves. Too many brands focus on promoting their products, or their events, instead of how they will benefit their consumers.

Red Bull, an experiential powerhouse and all around master brand, self promotes perfectly with their slogan, “Red Bull gives you wings.” They include their title yes, but focus the message on how Red Bull benefits their consumers - not how the consumers benefit the brand. When a consumer reads it they hear, “Red Bull gives me wings”. They engage because it feels like a natural fit to their lifestyle, not just an empty marketing message.

Socially, Red Bull promotes their experiential activations and once-in-a-lifetime events first and foremost. The brand’s focus on sponsoring extreme sporting events fills their Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages. There’s no need for self-promotional, hero shots showing off cans of caffeine-laden chemicals. Of course, their logo is everywhere, across every image, but that’s the brilliance. Their consumers (fans) don’t care. They embrace the brand because it stands for THEM.

While not all brands have the budgets or the experiential marketing resources to be as x-treme as Red Bull, the brand can be turned to as a source of inspiration. The key to mastering self-promotion is engagement:

  • Have a personality and keep it fun
  • Own who you are
  • Interact with your audience

… but do all of these with a purpose in mind (e.g. an upcoming music event, charity sponsorship, etc.)

Have a dialogue, not a monologue. Easier said than done? Check out Prince Ea. Someone I’m actually a huge fan of and really admire. Prince Ea is a spoken word artist, rapper, activist, social media maven... You get it - a post-industrial Renaissance man. He’s known for stating the truth, brutal it may be, on social issues, politics, the environment, etc., but he’s also a walking irony - for our benefit I should add.

Back in the dark ages of 2014, Prince Ea released a video about social media taking over society and having some seriously negative effects. He wasn’t wrong, and just like his other videos, he introduced a thought provoking idea. The irony though, is he used social media to promote the video, and he continues to use various platforms to self advertise.

Some might say this makes him a hypocrite. Those “some” clearly aren’t marketers because if anything, this form of promotion is both intuitive and innovative. He’s embodying the perfect balance of self-promotion and message promotion. He rarely speaks in first person and always focuses his message on the wants and needs of his audience (Hello, engagement!).   


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Topics: experiential marketing, pop2life team, go beyond, experiences, creativity

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