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The selfie: Is it here to stay, or just a fad?


With selfie-love attracting everyone from President Obama to Pope Francis, more brands are baking selfie references into campaigns, in some cases centering the pitch on the taking of a selfie. The pastime?s emergence as a viable mobile-marketing tool highlights the importance of user-generated content (UGC) in maximizing the reach and impact of campaigns.

?Consumer advocacy through user-generated content is a macro-trend that is gaining momentum as we head towards 2015 campaigns,? said Tom Edwards, senior vice-president for digital strategy with The Marketing Arm. ?The core behavior of sharing and the ease of access to devices that enable capture and sharing means the selfie will not be going away anytime soon.? 

Selfie-friendly
Smartphone makers are increasingly launching selfie-friendly mobile phones. For instance, Samsung on Wednesday announced its soon-to-be-released big-screen flagship smartphone, the Note 4, which has front and back cameras, for the selfie-taking world. 

Telecommunications company AT&T and snacks and beverage maker Frito-Lay also have launched selfie-based campaigns. Selfies have also starred in marketing programs in the retail, automotive, travel and media and entertainment industries. 

Selfie-based campaigns are expected to be a viable trend heading into 2015, experts say. 

To get an idea of just how globally pervasive the habit of using a smartphone to take a photograph of oneself (and often others) and sharing it via social media has become, consider these statistics: Android users capture and share almost 93 million selfies daily. 

Add in iPhones and other devices and the number of selfies captured and shared for all of this year could reach more than 50 billion, according to Neil Shah, research director, devices and ecosystems, at Hong Kong-based Counterpoint Technology Market Research. 

For marketers, the selfie is seen as one of the best tools for showcasing a product, especially when combined with the participation of a famous personality. 

?Instagram has been a great platform to do exactly that,? Mr. Shah said. ?It?s a very unique and focused form of marketing which could go viral very easily. 

?According to research, selfies get more social interaction on the social networks,? he said. ?So a clever product placement in the selfie which is about to go viral should be a clever mobile marketing strategy.?

The mobile phone?s ubiquity allows marketers from a wide range of brands to board the selfie bandwagon. Smartphones makers have been especially active in the space. 

?Most of the brands have already jumped in improving the quality of front-camera sensors and baking in more technology akin to the rear camera to capture magnificent selfies and also ?wefies? [panoramic group selfies],? Mr. Shah said. ?We believe by end of next year, each brand will have at least one selfie smartphone and related selfie accessories in their portfolio.? 

Most of the selfie and UGC campaigns The Marketing Arm, a Dallas-based unit of Omnicom, has produced highlighted the technology?s ability to capture consumers in a natural state. 

?They were about self-expression and showcasing their passion, such as our AT&T #BeTheFan campaign that featured selfies of college football fans showcasing their fandom,? Mr. Edwards said.

Samsung's Note 4 caters to a passion for selfies.

In the months and years ahead, selfies are expected to play an even bigger role in smartphone launches. 

?I already see telecom providers focusing on making the selfie capture process even easier,? Mr. Edwards said. ?Nokia just unveiled what they call a selfie-friendly smartphone. Which basically has a better front-facing camera for better self-shot group snaps.

?The advances and focus on making the hardware selfie-friendly will enable the behavior to extend beyond just selfies to include group shots as well,? the executive said. 

Lowering barriers
To maximize the benefits of a selfie campaign, marketers need to lower the barrier of entry for consumers to allow them to easily submit their creations through their preferred channel. ?This includes physical to digital consistency for the campaign and call to action,? Mr. Edwards said. 

?Association of products in a natural way, based on actual behaviors is key. It is not about inventing a new behavior,? he said. 

?Align with what consumers are already doing and align the brand in a way that creates a relevant connection.? 

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York