Instagram Brand Awareness among fitness minded female millennials. Do values behind the company increase follower base more efficiently than mere advertising? by Polina Kantola
The subject of my research was consumer brand awareness on Instagram – fitness industry and millennials. I chose this subject as I am a runner myself and I have seen many fitness companies trying to catch the attention of followers. I started to wonder how they make them aware of what their brand stands for, and how they differentiate themselves on the market. I was also interested how it affects female millennials. The research aimed at answering following questions:
How can brand awareness among female fitness millennials be increased through Instagram?
What specific actions and techniques increase brand awareness and recognition?
Instagram has changed the marketing and advertising landscape. Marketing on social media is highly cost efficient compared to traditional means of advertising and its impact on consumer behavior has increased the competition among companies. Instagram provides the perfect opportunity for companies to nurture relationships and manipulate perception of a brand. Instagram has more than 100 million active users, which translates into abundance of paid advertising and competition for users’ attention. Making audiences aware of a brand is challenging. Creating brand awareness is a time-consuming process. Instagram is a visual platform, which feeds of beautiful images; therefore, it represents an ideal platform for first encounters with fitness-minded millennials. The fitness industry creates large revenue streams. Millennials rely on thorough comprehensive research and feedback of other consumers before making a simple purchase, so creating brand trust is crucial for companies.
I conducted three semi-structured interviews in order to get an insight of Instagram brand awareness strategies. The companies that were chosen for interviews were Finnish brands Népra Activewear and WeekendBee and Swedish brand NinePine. The interviewees stated that they find creating brand awareness important but challenging. It became clear that a higher number of followers correlate with increased engagement and higher sales. It means that posts, which are exposed to a wider audience, increase the reach of the brand. Engagement is an important metric of the sales funnel, which provides means to count users and consumers who engage with the brand. It suggests that more people see the advertising, which converts into more exposure, which can lead to higher sales. An engaged consumer will have higher brand recall than one who was only exposed to the brand.
Engagement is however seen as a controversial metric to increase awareness. Interviews revealed that it does not automatically mean that followers of a brand on Instagram make a purchase even if they follow a brand page and like company posts. Writing and producing content is considered to be a time-consuming and inefficient process to increase awareness and brand reach. Hence, some companies focus on Instagram advertising and paid marketing. Instagram represents an ideal platform for subtle marketing and less overwhelming advertising. Companies can use native advertising such as user-generated content and influencer collaborations to promote their service or product without being too aggressive. It enforces brand trust, electronic word-of-mouth and feeling of authenticity. Interviews reveal that fitness brands must post content, which is honest and “human” to gain millennials’ trust. Collaborations with influencers are beneficial for building brand awareness. However, interviewees stated that it is vital for them to choose the “right” influencer who can spread their brand message and represent brand values.
All three interview subjects stated that having a strong brand message and promotion of that message to their followers is their highest priority. There is a strong inclination in the market among female millennials towards sustainability and mindfulness. Promoting sustainability: making responsible choices for environment, buying less and higher quality are brand values, is said to be differentiating factors from other big fitness brands in the industry such as Nike. It is important to note that information shared during interviews might be subject to bias and the values of the companies needs to be interpreted critically. For example, companies state that they promote sustainability and encourage consumption of durable, long-lasting garments. However, this approach might not be the most beneficial. Selling durable items will reduce revenue.
Despite brand values, companies still need to use visually appealing quality photos. Interviewed companies say that authenticity and transparency is an essential element for building a brand on Instagram and a loyal customer base. All companies stated that they try to abstain from overwhelming their followers with posting too frequently, however, they are still forced to publish content daily in order to attract new followers. Additionally, educational content that supports brand values is another process to achieve awareness. Topics include such subjects as wellbeing, fitness, nutrition and outdoor lifestyle. It is vital to note that Instagram is an evolving platform and these techniques are useful for the time the study was conducted and might change overtime.
The results of the thesis are useful and important for fitness companies, which are present on Instagram and want to increase their brand awareness and increase their revenue. Generally, the results will be useful for the social media marketing research field and brand/marketing specialists. The results also hold significance for the MA in Media Management at Arcada as it affects the field of social media and contributes to the body of knowledge in the field of Brand Management. The author’s understanding of social media marketing strategies and brand building in the online environment has increased and will affect the professional development in the media field. The research has made the author’s thinking more critical towards the authenticity of company messages and online advertising in general.