4 top brands on Snapchat that are having just as much fun as their followers

IHOP, Bloomingdale's, National Geographic & Taco Bell share how they are taking advantage of the Gen Y and Millennial-centric platform.

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Snapchat has grown into the ultimate social playground for Millennial and Gen Y users. If you go to the site’s FAQ page for advertisers, one of the first things you read says it’s “… the best way to reach 13 to 34 year-olds.”

The social media network claims more than 60 percent of Millennial and Gen Y smartphone users are Snapchatters. With such a key demographic within its reach, brands are joining the platform almost as quickly as teenagers are.

“For 58 years, IHOP has been a place where moments are celebrated and shared with family and friends, so it seems like a perfect way of capturing what makes the IHOP experience so special for our guests,” says IHOP’s VP of Marketing, Kirk Thompson. His brand has been on the platform for two years now.

Thompson says Snapchat has provided IHOP a unique opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with its fans, heightening the connection between the brand and its followers in a fun and creative way.

Bloomingdale’s joined Snapchat fairly recently, launching in September of last year for Fashion Week. The brand’s operating VP of social and paid media, Jonathan Paul, says, that as much as Snapchat is a tool for young people, it’s also a relatively complex platform to learn to use as a marketer.

“Fundamentally, Snapchat is a bit of a confusing platform to use,” says Paul, “Snapchat has lots of hidden tricks and tools; obviously, the platform is constantly evolving with the Lens[es] that seem to change every day, and the Discovery channels — to say nothing of the paid products that are constantly changing.”

Paul says that for his team, Snapchat is about inventing completely new processes, new measurements and new benchmarks.

Along with Thompson and Paul, we asked National Geographic’s VP of social media, Rajiv Mody, and Taco Bell’s social media lead, Ryan Rimsnider, how their brands are taking advantage of the platform — from what they’ve learned since joining to all the ways they are having fun with their Snapchat followers.

Here’s what they had to say.

IHOP Kirk Thompson

Kirk Thompson, IHOP’s VP of Marketing

IHOP has been on Snapchat for about two years now [username: IHOPrestaurant]. We’ve learned that thanks to the real-time aspect of Snapchat, we are as much a part of the conversation with a guest as the friends or family sitting next to them — and we enjoy that!

Snapchat is immediate — and in the moment — so for IHOP, we’re taking advantage of that unique way Snapchat helps our guests capture, share and revel in the moment while they are enjoying being with friends and family at IHOP.

IHOP’s audience on the platform is made up of mostly Millennials, along with a large number of post-Millennials or Generation Z.

Snapchat provides us a unique opportunity to join in one-to-one conversations with our fans that heighten our connection with them, in a way that is fun, playful and creative, like the custom geotargeted filters we created for guests to discover and “snap” in-restaurant.

We’ve also used the platform to elicit feedback from our fans around in-restaurant experiences and to drive demand for new IHOP locations. For example, when we recently opened a new location on the campus of West Virginia University, we created a Snapchat Story specifically tailored toward college students — which not only drove traffic to that location, it helped drive demand for IHOP locations in other campuses around the country!

Snapchat also allows us to share behind-the-scenes video that gives our fans insight into how we create some of the dishes they love and how to really enjoy their time at IHOP with friends and family.


Jonathan Paul, Bloomingdale’s Operating VP for Social & Paid Media

We launched Snapchat in September around Fashion Week; that was our first big push [username: bloomingdales].

The reason why Snapchat is a good fit for Bloomingdale’s is because it allows us to tell our brand story in a way the other channels don’t. There’s a real authenticity to the kind of stories you can tell organically on Snapchat.

Snapchat is really the unfiltered, real-time lifestyle experience channel. And allows us to bring energy and animation and the vitality of our brand which, again, is very much captured in our stores and aligned with NYC. We’ve been bringing our followers into the store and having real fun inside the store — whether it’s having a burger and shake at our restaurant, Flip, or going behind the scenes and exploring our flagship.

It allows us a much more behind-the-scenes, and less precious, viewpoint on our brands.

I think that within the continuum of organic social tactics and channels, Snapchat is certainly one that [has] clearly penetrated in Millennials and Gen Y users, so there’s a real advantage to being on that platform. The challenge, I think, for a brand that has been around for a century and a half is speaking the vernacular of that platform, and the vernacular of those younger users.

The second prong that’s really key to our Snapchat strategy is our paid Snapchat filters, which appear in all of our stores. You can swipe over and get the time, or the temperature, and all those other filters, and of course you have geofilters. One of the geofilters is our sponsored filter, which changes depending on the month. And we’ve seen people loving that and sharing that.

It’s an incredibly fascinating example of [a] truly omni-channel marketing moment.

You have to be on this platform, in our stores, and then people are creating content — user-generated content in your store — and then they’re adding your branded, contextual creative on top of their own image, and then they’re sharing that with their followers and friends.

National Geographic Raj

Rajiv Mody, National Geographic’s Vice President of Social Media

We see Snapchat Discover as a great way to reach young people and have some fun with the brand — and for a 128-year-old organization these are not always easy things to do [username: natgeo].

At National Geographic, we believe in the power of science, exploration and storytelling to change the world, and Snapchat has helped us advance this belief.

Our content is a compelling mix of incredible photos, videos, articles and quizzes. We cover a wide range of topics — nature/wildlife, science, exploration, travel, adventure and more. We’ve also developed themed editions around important initiatives and occasions such as World Lion Day, Photo Ark, International Women’s Day and World Water Day.

Snapchat has stepped up promotion on occasion to help us raise awareness of important issues that we cover. Also, our sales team works closely with them to integrate advertisers and help drive revenue.

Our audience is a balanced male/female mix and skews 13–24, which is younger than some other social platforms. This is a new audience for us and it’s critical to present content in ways that are relatable – whether that means different packaging, more concise stories, etc. Discover is a daily dose of everything you could ever want and didn’t know you want.

Each day, we want to spark curiosity and make it a place to discover something new.

Taco Bell Ryan

Ryan Rimsnider, Taco Bell’s Senior Marketing Manager

We’ve been on Snapchat for close to three years and pride ourselves on being the first brand in the space. It’s really blossomed into such an awesome community — everyone seems to be having a ton of fun with it [username: TacoBell].

While there’s a much larger social ecosystem that we contribute to given the size of Taco Bell’s overall audience, Snapchat is definitely a lead channel and we consider our followers to be our most engaged fans.

The content is expected to be lightweight and humorous, and the platform empowers you to be nimble and efficient in creation. Bottom line — you’re expected to be your “real self,” have fun and not come across as overly polished. Snapchat commands authenticity, which translates perfectly for who Taco Bell is as a brand.

That doesn’t mean it’s not an artful craft, however — my team puts a ton of thought into story development. Whether it’s providing a behind-the-scenes look for fans at events, hosting quizzes or games (including one of our all-time best performers, “Taco Bell Coloring Book”), or even just serving up simple product-focused stories like Taco Bell Menu Hacks, Snapchat affords us a ton of latitude to be ourselves and connect with our fans in unique ways.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Amy Gesenhues
Amy Gesenhues was a senior editor for Third Door Media, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land, Search Engine Land and MarTech Today. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs, SoftwareCEO, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy's articles.

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