All about the #selfie: a brand-marketing win

By Emily Rubin, WGSN, 13 May 2014

Calvin Klein, French Connection, Vero Moda and more are encouraging shoppers to shoot selfies branded to their collections as part of a social media marketing drive.  

Ellen DeGeneres' epic Oscar celebrity selfie


  • The word 'selfie' was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013
  • Selfies are at the forefront of pop culture. They are referenced in songs, spoken about on television and used by celebrities to share their personalities with fans
  • They also now make up 30% of images photographed by those aged 18-24
  • Brands are learning to use them as a marketing tool, with everyone from Calvin Klein to French Connection jumping on board. By October 2013, 884 brands were running selfie contests over Twitter

Today there are some 125 million-plus images on Instagram tagged with the word 'selfie', which gained entry into The Oxford English Dictionary in November 2013. Every day, more than a million selfies are estimated to be taken worldwide, with everyone from First Lady Michelle Obama to top model Cara Delevingne, and of course the A-list celebrity crowd at the Oscars (as pictured), jumping on the bandwagon.

A craze based very simply on taking a photo of oneself and sharing it on social media (often at an angle deemed to be the most flattering, then enhanced with the help of a good filter), selfies now make up almost a third of all shots taken by people aged 18-24.

There is a lot more to those numbers than mere popularity, according to Sarah Gervais, assistant professor of social-law psychology at the University of Nebraska. "Instagram offers a quiet resistance to the barrage of perfect images that we face each day. Rather than being bombarded with those creations in popular magazines, television and web pages that feed our discontent, we can look through our Instagram feed and see images of real people," she wrote for Psychology Today.

The selfie, as a part of the visual-based social media world consumers now live in, centres around the notion of being able to regulate what we're exposed to and how we expose ourselves to others. According to artist Simon Foxall, whose work looks at individuality and self-expression: "The selfie blurs the line between 'reality' and the performance of a fantasy self".

It is precisely this blurred reality that has the selfie gaining legs in the marketing world. By October 2013, 884 brands were running selfie contests over Twitter, according to social media benchmarking company, Unmetric. Among them, retailers particularly have seen the benefit in a tool that enables consumer interaction, all the while subtly encouraging the most organic of social sharing. As with a previous report on hashtag marketing, selfies are front and centre in a wave of consumer-generated content fit to enable e-commerce conversions.

Calvin Klein

Nicole Richie for the #mycalvins campaign

Vanessa Hudgens for the #mycalvins campaign

Neil Patrick Harris for the #mycalvins campaign

Trey Songz for the #mycalvins campaign

Kendall Jenner for the #mycalvins campaign

Leandra Medine for the #mycalvins campaign

Calvin Klein tapped into the selfie phenomenon with its spring/summer 2014 underwear campaign. The brand invited fans to snap a shot of themselves in their underwear and brand it #mycalvins. To encourage them to do so, it enlisted a series of prominent celebrities, models and bloggers to pose for the new line of Dual Tone underwear. Included were Australian model Miranda Kerr, musician Trey Songz and Man Repeller blogger, Leandra Medine. The best of those selfies can be seen in a gallery on the brand's website.

French Connection

French Connection UK's #canthelpmyselfie campaign

French Connection has introduced a campaign called #canthelpmyselfie, which invites shoppers in five of its UK stores to snap shots of themselves in the new collection to then appear on large-scale screens in the windows. The interactive initiative simultaneously enables consumers walking by (as well as those online) to engage by voting for their favourite 'model' by placing their hand in front of sensors in the windows. Jon Carney, creative partner at digital agency Somewhat, which collaborated on the project, said: "Mobile and social channels are an essential part of how millennial consumers interact with brands, and especially how they can experience fashion brands. As consumers' physical and digital worlds are increasingly converging and colliding, brands need to respond with campaigns that bridge both worlds seamlessly".

Karl Lagerfeld

Karl Lagerfeld's London flagship selfie booth

The WGSN team pose in the Karl Lagerfeld London flagship selfie booth

In the new Karl Lagerfeld London flagship, iPads are installed in the dressing rooms in a bid to encourage store-branded selfies. These 'virtual mirrors' come equipped with a variety of Karl Lagerfeld-inspired filters to ensure the images hold to the Lagerfeld aesthetic. Upon sharing, the system automatically posts the message: "Shopping Mania @KarlLagerfeld 145-147 Regent Street, Mayfair, London, W1B 4JB #KarlLagerfeldStore #KarlParfums".

Matthew Williamson

Chloe and Poppy Delevingne and Mary Charteris for Matthew WIlliamson's #ohMW campaign

Olivia Palermo and Matthew Williamson for Matthew WIlliamson's #ohMW campaign

Matthew Williamson's #ohMW campaign

Matthew Williamson's #ohMW campaign

The autumn/winter 2014/15 catwalk show from designer Matthew Williamson saw a 'Twitter Mirror' installed backstage – essentially an iPad prepped to take selfies – inviting the models to snap pictures of themselves and autopost them to social with the hashtag #ohmw. This tool had already been used at events such as The Grammys, The Oscars and even NBA games, but was the first time it was seen during Fashion Week. The aim was to give fans a VIP pass to the goings-on backstage while building some pre-show hype in much more of a natural way than before. "We wanted to strip away the camera and the photographer, so it was just the models left, and see what we ended up with," said the brand's head of digital, Rosanna Falconer.

Vero Moda

Vero Moda's #veramodamo campaign

Vero Moda's #veromodamo campaign

Vero Moda's #veromodamo campaign

Vero Moda's #veromodama campaign

Danish label Vero Moda used the selfie forces for good this past 'Movember' – an annual event during the month of November that sees men growing moustaches to raise money for prostate and testicular cancer. The campaign began when the retailer gave the mirrors in its stores a moustache makeover. Consumers were then invited to snap a shot of themselves with the signage and share it with the hashtag #veromodamo for a €0.10 donation to the Movember Foundation.


Zappos' #Nextootd campaign

Zappos' #Nextootd campaign

Zappos' #Nextootd campaign

Zappos' #Nextootd campaign

With its #nextootd campaign, online retailer Zappos uses selfies as a means of offering a styling service to its current and potential customers. The online retailer asks Instagram users to use the word 'next' in front of their usual 'outfit of the day' hashtag to invite the Zappos stylist into their virtual closet. The Zappos stylist will then scroll through all public images on that account to make personalised shopping suggestions for the user.