Snapchat is courting advertisers ahead of its IPO, seeking commitments of $100-200 million from big-name firms – two to three times what they spent last year. However, most ads still fail to resonate with the platform’s young users: a fifth of teenagers and millennials “hate” them. Should brands still sink money into Snapchat?

The answer is yes, according to L2’s Snapchat Strategy report – if they are able to post frequently and create unique content. For example, when Coach recently advertised on Sweet’s Snapchat Discover channel, the brand’s ads captured the tone of the channel’s fashion and lifestyle content. They also took advantage of the Snapchat “Read” call to action button – a tool employed by only 6% of brands.

In the absence of in-depth ROI metrics, potential advertisers can also learn what works by looking at non-advertising branded content. Winning brands share content that reflects Snapchat’s authentic vibe, in contrast with the more editorialized Instagram. That means lifestyle content such as employee interviews or city exploration, rather than the curated posts that typify Instagram ads. Lifestyle content appears in 23% of brand posts, according to the study – a sharp increase from only 15% ten months earlier.

Snapchat posts with title

The study cautions against relying on influencers and celebrities, who generate outsize engagement on Instagram but are less successful on Snapchat. Celebrity and influencer takeovers not only have unknown ROI but are also difficult to execute, as brands must temporarily hand over access to their Snapchat accounts.

Winning brands also experiment with a wide range of content, while staying true to their brand image. For example, Red Bull’s weekly SnapTV series highlights extreme sports videos, consistent with the brand’s adventure focus across platforms. Additionally, Red Bull’s snaps are typically interactive: users are asked to submit questions, participate in virtual games, and screenshot Red Bull-inspired phone wallpapers. As many as 64% of Red Bull snaps include such calls to action, compared to only 8% of all Index snaps.

But the most important thing for potential advertisers to remember may be that, despite the company’s recent embrace of new metrics, ROI on Snapchat continues to be uncertain. Brands should ultimately approach campaigns looking to drive awareness and equity, rather than sales.


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