Milkshakes von Black Tap Burger & Beer sind kunterbunt und kitschig. Perfekt für Instagram.

A promising format for success

10. March 2017, MAXFIVE

Instagram is no longer just one amongst many marketing tools. It now provides a framework for whole companies that want one thing above all: to make a good impression.


black tap burger
black tap milkshakes
columbia room
shop now
sonic drive-in


© Black Tap

Instagram is marketing squared. When it was founded in 2010, it was just a digital photo album for friends to show off cute pictures of their holiday on Crete. Now, the social media platform is an ever-growing advertising and sales platform. Instagram takes totally normal people like us and instantly turns them into important influencers who determine which trends should matter. A small snack bar with the crazily decorated, neon milkshakes can become New York’s most fashionable hot spot overnight. The online community is willing to queue for four hours at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer just to be able to post one of the $15 shakes on Instagram – no joke. Whipped cream, sprinkles, gummy strips, chocolate bars, cookies, M&M’s. The milkshakes – which came about completely by chance – look pretty amazing in photos. The owner, Joe Isidori, says “Instagram is the number one. There’s nothing that can hold a candle to Instagram. Except perhaps, if someone were to see me on TV shaking hands with a celebrity while he’s holding one of our shakes. Otherwise, nothing else has a chance against this kind of attention. We’re definitely what you call an Instagram brand.” Although he never set out to do this.

There is no strategy for becoming successful on Instagram. But a gentle nudge can help.

There are currently more than 600 million Instagram users with more than 4 billion ‘likes’ given every day. Nevertheless, it takes more than just a unique product. It also takes luck and good timing to get ten or one hundred thousand little hearts at once. “There is no strategy for becoming famous on Instagram,” says Isidori. “You simply have to have interesting content for people; in the best case scenario, the rest then follows on its own.” Giving it a gentle nudge? That’s possible. With especially outrageous decorations, individually designed lighting concepts, or classical marketing tools: Goodies for true Instagrammers. Posts for cheaper jeans or discounts for the next shopping trip. The world is full of restaurants and bars that style their place, food and beverages to fit perfectly within the little squares of the Instagram feeds. Or fashion chains that show their customers in prettily styled dressing rooms (with hashtag suggestions). Just so they can become the next online topic of conversation. In the USA, for example, half of all companies (with more than 100 employees) already use Instagram – the figure is expected to reach 70 per cent this year. And these companies come from all industries because, basically, Instagram works for everyone. To date, about five million companies around the world have set up one of the specially created Instagram business profiles, which, among other things, have a contact button. Half of all Instagram users also follow at least one business or brand. Why wait for the next viral hit? Strike now.

“If it’s not on Instagram, it didn’t happen.” We tend to divide the world into squares. What doesn’t fit, is disregarded.

The interior architect Brian Miller is someone who knows how to use this for himself. When decorating the Columbia Room in Washington D.C., he paid attention to two things: the ‘Instagram-ability’ of the interior and the ‘feel-good’ factor – perhaps even in that order. A large mosaic behind the bar provides interesting details that would function better on Instagram than a large-scale design. Spotlights over the counter also ensure that the drinks are always well lit. Otherwise, that wouldn’t work with a mobile phone camera. And, as the ideal contrast to the dark wood, there’s a light-coloured coaster under every glass. Within just a few weeks, every snapshot became a hit and the Columbia Room was linked to hundreds of times. In the Restaurant Catit in Tel Aviv, there’s even a class on foodography for especially ambitious Instagrammers. In fact, part of the menu was designed just for Instagram. And there’s more: Specially designed plates with a slot for holding the smartphone to ensure that pictures are perfectly framed in perfect quality. And Instagram itself? It advertises with constantly new features constantly and is always reinventing itself: The former visual medium is increasing turning into a purchase medium.

For example, there’s a ‘Shop now’ button that is currently being tested in the USA. One tap on the photo and information about the photographed products pops up. Whoever wants to buy now simply clicks on it to go to the retailer’s website. The American restaurant chain Sonic Drive-In caused a sensation with this feature last year. Visitors to the Coachella music festival were able to obtain Sonic Square Shakes – created solely for the purpose of Instagramming. (The shakes were free if a photo of them was shared in one’s own Instagram feed.)

Instagram was once a photo album. Now, it’s more like a catalogue – with its own purchasing option.

But Instagram users are happy and powerful buyers in general. A third of them are among high-income earners. And five per cent buy products that they have seen on Instagram or at least tell their friends about them. Five per cent of 600 million equals 30 million purchases or recommendations. A giant market with at least as much potential as the restaurants, cafés and bars have cleverly used up until now. Of course, food and beverages aren’t the only things that can be beautifully presented. Because even though Instagram creates its own online world, the content continues to come from our own reality.

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