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New and exciting ways brands can use Pinterest

New and exciting ways brands can use Pinterest Rebecca Sleeman
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As Pinterest celebrates its fourth birthday, the platform has firmly cemented itself within the social media matrix of many large brands. The site, which was born of the vision to facilitate discovery and inspiration around user interests, now ranks just behind Facebook and LinkedIn with 21 percent of online adults signed up for the social scrapbooking service. Among this growing audience, 87 percent are women, driving the greatest activity in home, arts and crafts, and style/fashion categories; but this activity extends beyond pinning. A new study from Piqora on mobile activity on the site revealed, "Mobile users are buying more and buying more expensive products." The ROI of marketing investment in the site is developing and, as such, so is Pinterest's user experience to facilitate further growth. Brands savvy to this marketing potential are leveraging the site to generate creative and engaging experiences for consumers.


New and exciting ways for brands to use Pinterest


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Leading the charge with innovative user experiences are many CPG, fashion, and retail brands, particularly those that stand to benefit from the e-commerce traffic that Pinterest helps to generate. However, exploration and success is not limited to these categories -- here are just some of the highlights from brands starting to experiment on this emerging marketing channel.

Exclusive previews


One industry with some of the most exciting experimentation on Pinterest is retail and fashion. Many designers, stores, and online retail sites already leverage the platform to curate new looks and generate brand appeal through visually enticing style boards. However, others are taking it a step further, giving their followers an exclusive first look at new collections or a behind-the-scenes glimpse at runway shows. One brand quick to experiment was J.Crew. In late 2013, it launched its entire fall collection as a Pinterest board and gave valued followers a chance to pre-order items before they showed up online or in-store. As hungry shoppers jumped at the opportunity to put these items on their shopping list, the brand was also benefitting from an early glimpse into what styles might become the most popular as inventory hit stores.


Similarly, another brand testing the potential buzz of Pinterest is high-end fashion designer Oscar de la Renta. The fashion house, which is especially popular in the "Weddings" category for brides-to-be pinning their dream day start-to-finish, gave users an exclusive first look at its 2013 wedding collection. "Oscar PR Girl," the Pinterest account representing the brand, photo documented its 2013 runway show through "live pins," from backstage preparations to finishing touches and the big event. Users online could view the pin stream from their feed in real-time, while others exploring Pinterest post-event could access the board for the complete feed of inspiration.



New product launches


Pinterest is strongly positioning itself as a platform driving transactions for brands. A report from Piqora blog.piqora.com/pinterest-roi-study/ in November 2013 revealed that one pin generates, on average, 78 cents in sales, up 25 percent from the same time the previous year. Fashion retailer CUSP by Neiman Marcus leveraged this user activity for the launch of the Rebecca Minkoff "Elle" bag, creating an exclusive product available only through Pinterest for a limited time. Pairing exclusivity with an existing engaged audience on Pinterest can stimulate heightened interest and buzz, while connecting the purchase funnel end-to-end.


Influencer collaborations


Internet celebrities, or those that people love to follow for their unique advice, tips, stories, inspiration, and/or debate, also offer huge potential for brands that appeal to their lifestyle or interests. These partnerships help brands share their message, reach new or reconnect with consumers, and generate increased affinity with their label, which extends to Pinterest and how brands are marketing in this channel. However, unlike other environments where brands might be able to collaborate with influencers without restraint, Pinterest is very specific about what activity it will and will not allow. Staying within these guidelines means ensuring that compensated pinning is authentic and transparent.


Whole Foods Market and Etsy are two brands that work closely with influencers to curate inspiration on Pinterest. Whole Foods Market has established boards with collections of Pinterest users to share content, such as recipe ideas and DIY "reusing" tips. Meanwhile, Etsy works with its site members and guest pinners to build boards that represent the diverse interests represented on their site. For example, "Brooklyn Bride" is a board curated by Vane Broussard, author of bklynbrideonline.com, and features "stylish picks from Etsy and the web." The benefits of these collaborations are two-fold. While they bring added credibility and an endorsement to the brand, they also allow the brand to reach an expanded audience with the group board also being shared via the influencers' Pinterest profiles with their followers.


Another brand leveraging Pinterest influencers is Target, but with a slightly different approach. The department store has identified three top Pinterest influencers and is working with them to create limited edition party products that will be sold both in-store and online. The influencers, identified for their significant Pinterest followings, blogs, and work in design, created their own unique collections, from party hats to tablecloths and decorations. These collections were unveiled on Target's "Party with Pinners" Pinterest board and went on sale starting March 16.


Rich pins


Within Pinterest's recent product evolution was Rich Pins, which allow sites to automatically attach information to content pinned from their sites. This functionality is available for movie, recipe, article, product, and place pins, and has gained increasing relevance for brands with every new iteration, improving search functionality and providing greater utility to users.


In their latest release, product pins, which pull in price, availability, and retailers, are now integrated to a new "Gifts" category feed where pinners can browse items and filter by price. If a product is pinned to a user's board, they will receive a notification when that product goes on sale. One online retailer incorporating the feature is ModCloth -- users that discover its products through the "Gifts" feed can immediately see if they're in stock, their price, and click through to purchase on site. Once there, pinners can also browse "Most Popular Pins" from the ModCloth site, a feed aggregated through the Pinterest API.



While implementing rich pins greatly improves a brand's ability to increase discoverability within Pinterest, Place Pins stand out for the deeper level of creativity they afford. For example, Four Seasons gave followers a "gastronomic" tour of their favorite restaurant meals around the world. At a glance, users can see pins on the world map or zoom in on specific locations to find recommendations in a particular area -- which is especially relevant for the travelling consumer. 


However, the power for Place Pin inspiration isn't just limited to travel brands. Starbucks, a brand that uses store design to create a welcoming and relaxing environment for its customers, shares its favorite café interiors from around the world on its "store design" board. This activity helps the brand share one of its core values through a visual lens and also helps new followers discover the brand through new categories (e.g. design or home décor), which they wouldn't typically associate with Starbucks.



Contests and sweepstakes


Many brands are experimenting with contests and sweepstakes on Pinterest as a way to engage users and curate inspiration around brand relevant themes, and they are seeing great success. When a 360i client, Kraft Cheese, wanted to inspire users to fire up their barbeques and get grilling last summer, it invited followers to create boards featuring their favorite recipes for different occasions. With new themes curated by the brand each week, participants were able to get ideas while generating significant spikes in repins and engagement around Kraft Cheese. Also experimenting with the power of contests, Burt's Bees leveraged Pinterest to launch its new Red Ruby Groovy "morning" scent. The brand asked contestants to curate their "Perfect Güd Morning," with winning boards being turned into a reality. To kick it all off, they took one lucky Pinterest user to Tulum, Mexico to make her "Good Morning" a reality.

Robust content strategy


While exciting activations can generate a lot of buzz and awareness for brands, having an interesting and brand-own-able content strategy, supported across various channels, is an effective way of growing an engaging Pinterest presence. To generate broad appeal across interest groups -- from science to machinery, design, and food -- General Electric is a brand that consistently experiments with new media and types of content. One of its most recent boards, "Brilliance in Motion," leverages GIFs to illustrate science and machinery through moving imagery. Its experimentation with content types across a number of different Pinterest categories helps GE increase its discoverability and relevance to different users.


Philadelphia Cream Cheese, a 360i client, is another brand constantly innovating and exploring different ways to inspire users with fresh, seasonally relevant pins. As a CPG brand, its content is focused on recipe inspiration, but the brand taps into diverse occasions and interests to reach new consumer groups. For example, in the lead up to Father's Day, it created a board specifically tailored to father's day recipe inspiration. For "Thanksgivukkah, "it curated the perfect holiday menu. The brand complements its activity on Pinterest by sharing trending recipes on Facebook and Twitter and driving new traffic back to its Pinterest page.



For retailers that have an in-store experience, there is even greater potential for Pinterest trends to influence marketing activities. Nordstrom leverages its nearly 4.5 MM strong Pinterest audience to influence its in-store merchandising. The retailer incorporates "top pinned items" signage on displays and incudes the Pinterest logo on popular items throughout the store, helping to create a unique shopping experience for its customers.



(Image via Huffington Post)


As a visually centric social media platform focused on providing users with authentic inspiration and unexpected discovery, Pinterest provides brands with unique marketing opportunities. From exclusive previews and new product launches to influencer collaborations, Rich Pins, contests, sweepstakes, and innovative content strategies, brands are exploring and experimenting with Pinterest to help drive ROI and achieve their business objectives. Meanwhile, as the platform continues to grow and move into its next phase of innovation, the potential for creativity and exploration is only just beginning.


Rebecca Sleeman is supervisor of digital communities at 360i.


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