Selfie Is The Word Of The Year. Is Your Advertising Capturing This New Behavior?

“A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

You’ve probably read the headlines of the past month regarding the word “selfie.” The Oxford English Dictionaries declared “selfie” the word of the year for 2013, and columnists far and wide have seized on that decision — and the behavior itself — as the latest example of the decline of Western Civilization at the hands of out-of-control technology. 

Regardless of how you feel about selfies, it is a behavior that is here to stay. And it goes beyond just random photographs uploaded to social media. As video-capturing technology becomes more ubiquitous, the selfie will expand to include videos as well. In fact, the brand new PS4 video game system allows users to upload video by simply touching a touchpad on every single PS4 controller. It’s our sad news to report that it took fewer than 24 hours for some knuckleheads to use it to upload sexually suggestive videos — straight from their living room couch in Middle America.



The other dangerous selfie trend that could lead to injuries, accident, or death is the rising popularity of the driving selfie. Exactly as the phrase suggests, people have started snapping photos of themselves while in motion, behind the wheel. 

Often, when someone reflexively criticizes social media use, their resistant response cites the common behavior that has led to the popularity of selfies. “I don’t need to tell people what I’m eating for lunch, and I certainly don’t want to read 140-character updates from people about the sandwich or salad they’re eating for lunch either,” some people will respond, referring to a resistance to using Twitter. And as those fans of Twitter know, Twitter conversations and information sharing go well beyond updates about what people are eating for lunch.

If we’re talking about engaging men with your brand, how can the selfie be understood or incorporated into your social media/marketing strategy and plans?

Selfies are so new as a widespread phenomenon, most brands are lagging behind this fast-spreading consumer technology. 

Here are a couple of things to consider, though:

Self-quantified fitness — there’s a reason that Under Armour just opened up its wallet and spent $150 million to buy the MapMyFitness app company. Self-quantified fitness, as pioneered by Nike’s early efforts with Apple, is a growing trend. Certainly, there are many amateur athletes who will track their fitness results via apps or wearable tracking devices, and will never share that data publicly. But the reality is that many, many consumers and fitness buffs will share that data publicly via numerous social streams — Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.

The same behavior that drives people to share a selfie is driving this behavior to share fitness data. Sure, some friends and family will grit their teeth when they see the latest running pace of a friend or family member show up in their feed. Yet, an equal number of people will endorse that person’s info and cheer them on in their fitness goal.

While we’re discussing fitness, selfies, and sharing self-quantified fitness data, we can’t not discuss CrossFit, the recent sports/fitness craze that has latched onto social media oversharing to drive its brand.

CrossFit is a fitness trend based on high-intensity workouts, designed to push athletes of all levels to their breaking points. CrossFit aficionados will often joke about workouts that drive athletes to vomit from the intensity. As Crossfit-affiliated gyms have opened across the U.S. and internationally over the last 5-6 years, many affiliate owners are super active on social media. They share photos and videos of participants drenched in sweat or collapsed on the ground at the end of a workout. And most affiliates actively encourage their members to freely share selfies via social media.

Can we definitively state that there’s a 1-to-1 connection between that selfie-social media approach and CrossFit’s success? No. However, there’s certainly a reason behind CrossFit’s booming popularity. Yes, it’s a great workout, but we’d argue that there are numerous people who have walked into their first CrossFit box (their word for gym) after seeing a friend’s or family member’s numerous CrossFit selfies.

Are you studying the selfie phenomenon? As stated at the outset, some might grit their teeth and dismiss selfies as horrible, technology-driven narcissism. We’d argue that that’s too easy a dismissal. We think it’s a morphing of self-identity—a self-identity created via photos that are shared by, and accessible to, friends, family, and acquaintances. 

Aren’t the majority of non-essential brand purchases based on some type of self-identity? We think so. That’s why the late Steve Jobs was credited as a genius. While Bill Gates and his compatriots were satisfied with ugly beige boxes, Jobs created works of art that handsomely tapped into consumers’ wants and desires.

How is your brand going to market to the new generation of men creating their self-identity via selfies? It’s something to think about.

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