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Lenses, Discover & Video, Oh My: Snapchat Marketing Roundup

Snapchat’s marketing star has had a meteoric rise. Here’s how brands are making the most of the platform young consumers can’t get enough of… 

Remember when the world scoffed at Snapchat for turning down Facebook’s $3 billion buyout offer? The app’s meteoric marketing rise has proved that they could be worth much more, as brands race to the platform to engage with Millennials and teens—some paying what once seemed like exorbitant prices for Snapchat’s unique ad tools.

Last year, we reviewed what were at the time the new ways to market to young consumers through the app—lenses, Discover, and Snapchat influencers—and told readers, “Native content on the app is earning some brands millions of viewers, and new marketing options are quickly developing.” Since then, Snapchat’s brand-attracting stats have only increased: our most recent social media tracker shows that 55% of 13-17-year-olds and 45% of 18-33-year-olds use the app. Almost half (45%) of teens tell us they use Snapchat every day. According to Piper Jaffray’s annual survey of 14-19-year-olds, 28% consider Snapchat the “most important social network,” compared to 27% who chose Instagram, which had held the top position for the past two years. Another study reported this week that Snapchat has surpassed Twitter in daily use. Users are now watching eight billion videos a day on the platform, up from two billion video views daily last May, according to source at a Snapchat closed conference earlier this year. Sources also say that daily users spend an average of 30 minutes a day on the app, and more than half of new users are over 25-years-old.

The International Business Times wrote that Snapchat’s CEO Evan Spiegel’s ability to “speak Millennial” has been key to the app’s success, and the platform’s appeal lies in the “less demanding” content it encourages. According to TechCrunch: “Snapchat has figured out how to pull every way humans communicate into a single interface…Instead of having to choose how you want to connect before you start, conversations can evolve on the fly.” For brands, it’s an opportunity to “engage audiences in a meaningful way,” and allow for interaction around live stories and content.

All that to say, Snapchat is the marketing darling of the moment, and with every update and increase in user engagement, it becomes more attractive to brands who want to connect with Millennials and teens in a more authentic, fun way. Today, we’ve rounded up some of the recent best in class examples of how brands have tapped into the Snapchat’s biggest offerings—lenses, Discover, and influencers—to reach out to young consumers:


It’s hard to believe Snapchat introduced Lenses just last September—they’ve quickly become a favorite feature of young users, and perhaps the most popular feature with brands as well. For those who are Snapchat novices, lenses recognize faces during selfies, and allow users to quickly add a lenses that add animated effects—like vomiting rainbows, dancing sprinkles, and, of course, branded content. Lenses are limited-time entities, with the menu of filter options changing regularly. Branded filters are the first option to appear in the Lenses menu, so Snapchat users are sure to notice them—and they come at a hefty price. The original prices set by the app were $450K per day on a weekday, $500K on a weekend, and $700K on a holiday. But they could be worth the price of admission. Since Snapchat sponsored lenses launched last fall with a Snoopy dancing filter promoting The Peanuts Movie, more and more stats have suggested that these branded filters might be one of the best ways to engage with marketing-averse young consumers right now.

Gatorade’s Super Bowl themed sponsored Snapchat filter drove 160 million impressions—more than the 115 million viewers who watched the game. The minimally branded animation let users drench themselves with a digital Gatorade cooler in video selfies. In March, Fox’s Empire Snapchat lens, which overlaid a pair of headphones, sunglasses, and a microphone over users’ images, not only garnered 61 million views, it also upped brand awareness for the series. Snapchat reported that the Empire lens ramped up brand awareness by 16 points and increased tune-in intent by 8%. The lens was played 33 million times and used for an average of 20 seconds before snapping. More recently, Taco Bell’s Cinco De Mayo sponsored lens campaign broke the record for most views on Snapchat. The filter allowed users to turn their heads into giant tacos, and resulted in 224 million views in one day. The creepy (but fun!) imagery inspired an average 24 seconds of play for users before snapping. 

High engagement numbers like these have brought entertainment brands running, with sponsored lens takeovers appearing for Batman V Superman, the most recent X-Men release, and Deadpool, among others. The super-lenses all allowed users to transform themselves into the film’s heroes—shifting film marketing from pushed messaging to interactive play. This past weekend, L’Oreal launched the first makeup lens, which will add cateye eyeliner, mascara, foundation, blush, and lip color to selfies. When a user raises their eyebrows, camera lights will flash around them, and the L’Oreal logo will pop up. The effort hints at the variety of brands that can tap into the technology.


Snapchat’s Discover platform is the exclusive media club that every brand suddenly wants to join. Snapchat won’t let just anyone on Discover. In fact, Yahoo was booted off the platform because their videos “didn’t appeal to the young Snapchat audience.” Yahoo’s clips consisted of newscaster Katie Couric reading to the camera like an “old-school news broadcast”— an approach that did not interest viewers. BuzzFeed replaced Yahoo as a Discover channel, and according to Fast Company’s Millennial review, immediately stood out as a “clear frontrunner,” of content. Now, brands are in competition to gain a coveted Discover spot, despite Snapchat’s expensive ad offerings, and lack of reporting.

MTV which joined the platform with their own channel to connect with young audiences in February, is putting out a slew of original, native content on the app. Their comedic series Pants Off will put a new spin on sex edwith mini-episodes covering topics like “bad advice, dating apps and even ‘butt stuff.’” It will be hosted by YouTuber Laci Green, who also starred in MTV’s sex and health YouTube series Braless. Trojan condoms will weave 10 second ads into each episode. The network is also using Snapchat Discover to play into Millennials’ nostalgia, reviving legendary the MTV Cribs to run exclusively on their channel.

Currently, Discover channels also include Vox, Vice, Mashable, Food Network, Refinery29, National Geographic, Cosmopolitan, and Comedy Central—but other brands have made appearances via pop-up channels to reach the coveted Discover audience for a limited time.

In November, AOL ran two 10-second videos in the Discover section showing behind the scenes footage of employees working at AOL, and information on their Built By Girls program, which “invests in women-led start-ups.” The content was viewed 17 million times and reached eight million users in a week. According to AOL, application intent rose about 18% and there was a 4% increase in brand awareness as a result of the campaign. During the holidays, Google sponsored a pop-up Brit + Co channel to provide exclusive holiday hack content to users, and the media brand reappeared around Mother’s Day for another limited-time run of content. Seventeen Magazine is currently hosting a Snapchat Discover pop-up channel to cover all things prom, and earned 6.5 million unique visitors and over 500,000 content shares in the first 36 hours the channel was live.


When we first outlined the Snapchat marketing tactics to know, influencers on the platform had already helped make the Star Wars BB-8 an instant toy hit, with videos focusing on the BB-8’s arrival earning over 10 million views in 24 hours. Influencers’ presence on the platform has only grown, both as creatives from other apps and sites have begun to migrate over to the app, and as Snapchat-originals have gained massive followings. In fact, Millennial women are reportedly using Snapchat more than Millennial men—a dramatic shift in gender use since last August—and according to one Millennial specialist, the influx of fashion bloggers and celebrities may explain the change: “These VIPs are using Snapchat to capture their busy days, trendy clothes and fancy lifestyles—with them comes the Millennial female—eager to get what feels like a behind-the-scenes look at their favorite celebs and personalities.” Meanwhile, luxury fashion brands like Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton, and Burberry have been targeting teens through Snapchat, running campaigns on the platform using teen influencers like Kendall Jenner and Brooklyn Beckham.

Shaun McBride, is one of the original Snapchat influencers, and one of biggest creators on Snapchat The 29-year-old has hundreds of thousands of followers and millions of views on the platform, and he prefers the social network because “everything is instant,” and he can communicate with fans in real-time. Brands like Red Bull and Samsung have partnered with McBride—Shonduras on Snapchat—because of his “relatability,” “fun-loving nature,” and “relatively family friendly approach.” While influencer content on other networks is scripted, McBride says “the best approach to branded campaigns on Snapchat is to simply be conversational.”

Another Snapchat-influencer that brands are jumping on board with: Rap mogul DJ Khaled. The musician has found his new calling: dishing out advice on Snapchat. Regularly receiving 2 million views for each Snap, 500,000 of which are within the first five minutes of posting, DJ Khaled has become a social media sensation, and perhaps “the first true Snapchat celebrity.” Khaled’s “Keys to Success” posts feature tidbits on healthy eating and aspirational guidance for life, and the music producer’s positive guidance is a hit with young consumers. Las Vegas recently gave Khaled the keys to the Strip, to tap into his influence and promote the city. Now, Khaled is in a big-budget Apple commercial with Ray Liotta, signifying that Snapchat influencers are being seen as worthwhile investments by big brands.