Snapchat’s Geofilter: The New Age of Social Media Marketing?

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The mobile application Snapchat received an update today that has the potential to be very lucrative for Snapchat and marketers alike. The update allows for a fantastical feature called Geofilters. These Geofilters are small, artistic, location-specific designs which pop up in the picture when the user swipes the screen to the side. This new feature allows users to apply sentimental meaning to their photos. Unfortunately, this new feature is only available in select locations, but will hopefully be coming to a town near you. Although this new feature was made for the enjoyment of Snapchat users, it has the potential to bring in some big marketing bucks for the application, should they choose to jump at the opportunity.

During the commercial, a couple can be seen taking pictures in front of Disneyland’s picturesque Castle with fireworks exploding in the background. The picture on the camera says “Disneyland” in a decorated fantasy font. When users send pictures of themselves having fun at a specific location via Snapchat, their friends will see the Geofilter design for that location. If Snapchat can create Geofilters for the happiest place on the planet, then they have the ability to do so for just about any brand as well.

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The benefit of the Geofilters for brands comes down to the idea of classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is a type of learning where a conditioned stimulus is paired up (and later associated with) an unconditioned stimulus. The best example if this is Pavlov’s Dog. In 1901, Ivan Pavlov and his assistant Ivan Tolochinov ran tests with dogs and their rates of salivation. It is well known that hungry dogs have a tendency to salivate when in anticipation of being fed. Pavlov and his assistant went a step further. When they were about to feed the dogs, they would ring a bell (conditioned stimulus). After a while, when the bell had sounded off, the dogs would salivate without food (the unconditioned stimulus) being present.

This same principle can be applied to humans as well. For example, Michelob ran a commercial in the mid-1980s that used classical conditioning to encourage individuals to drink their beer. The commercial takes place at night in a lighted city. People are at a night club drinking and having fun while music plays. At the end of the commercial there is a flythrough of the city at night and text line reading, “The night belongs to Michelob.” The commercial was using classical conditioning to get potential customers to associate the Michelob brand with night, music, and fun.

How can Classical Conditioning help brands through Snapchat?
When users send pictures of themselves to other users with the Geofilters, the recipients are more likely to associate fun with the brand in the Geofilter. Snapchat currently claims to have no plans to generate revenue from potential advertising of this type, but that may change soon. Brands will likely pressure Snapchat creators to allow branding which is mutually beneficial to all parties.

As of now, the Geofilters are only available in a few select cities. However, in the coming months, it is possible that this feature will become available around the country. If Snapchat allows for brands, cities, and other entities to create their own Geofilters, there is a possibility that this feature could spread worldwide.

Geofilters may add a new form of Social Media Marketing into the current mix, which will influence marketing strategies to change in the future. This feature would allow for brands to put minimal time into Snapchat marketing because content would be created and distributed by Snapchat users. Why do all the work yourself when a massive Social Media audience can exponentially distribute your message for you?

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