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.