It may have started out as a fad on college campuses, but erasable media is certainly making an impression. Mobile applications that let users view photos and video before they self destruct a few seconds later are putting a new spin on social. And if SnapChat’s “No thanks” to Facebook’s recent 3 billion dollar offer to buy the messaging platform isn’t clear enough, I’d say erasable media has nowhere to go but up. But don’t make the mistake of thinking photo messaging is limited to millennials. With over five million active users since April, more funding and a higher valuation than Instagram or YouTube at this stage, investors see a pretty bright future in SnapChat. For the rest of us? Erasable media may just be the sleeping giant that can round out a marketing campaign.

“Spur of the Moment” Presents Unique Marketing Opportunities

Creating an advertisement that self destructs in just a few seconds seems kind of backward considering the goal of a worthy campaign is long-lasting, impressionable content. Yet the allure of a quick, short-term visual message is strong. A recent Adobe Digital Index Report found that videos and images produce the highest engagement rate, surpassing text by as much as 600 percent. And that presents some pretty unique marketing opportunities. A sneak preview or a glimpse into an upcoming product creates anticipation, building instant enthusiasm. Couple that with discounts or coupons, and you can influence a purchase or incite users to share their own photos using your product.

The Dynamic, Responsive Nature of Erasable Media

As the photo messaging trend grows, agile companies have experimented with tapping into its potential, deepening engagement and building brand loyalty by connecting and responding in real time. UK-based Lynx body spray sent exclusive, behind the scenes pictures from a recent launch party to “fans,” and Taco Bell introduced a new product offering to loyals. But is there a downside to erasable media? In an increasingly public world, it’s attractive, but for marketers, does it make sense?

Urgency Compels Customer Action

There’s no denying it, ephemeral content is fun. What’s really exciting though is the fact that short-lived, temporary messages create urgency that can actually drive customer action. After all, if you’re “on the clock” each time you view a message with an opportunity to take action, you’re far more likely to pay attention to that content right then. With erasable media, you don’t have the luxury of relying on “mark as unread”—which has become my personal crutch for postponing things I need to get done. Besides, what retailer wouldn’t want the opportunity to interact and persuade customers who are already in the store by pushing them an enticing must-decide deal?

Experimenting with an emerging social platform is not without challenges, and communicating a congruent brand message while using several different platforms can be tricky. However, as brands become more comfortable with measuring social media engagement overall and start to see ROI increase, finding creative ways to integrate erasable media into a marketing mix may make sense.

Pew Research found that nine percent of American cell phone owners currently use Snapchat. That’s fairly significant, considering the raw numbers—350 million “snaps” per day. As marketers, if we’re not considering photo messaging, we may be missing key opportunities to bolster the power of our marketing campaigns with better, faster insight into our customers and their purchasing habits, all in about 10 seconds.

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