OPINION: Obama's Pinterest - How brands can leverage curated commerce

By Katherine Paphitis | 9 May 2012

It's official: The President is on Pinterest.

Barack Obama's Pinterest profile has over 14,000 avid followers repinning, liking and sharing Obama's art, recipes, pets and endearing family snaps amid the purely political content for the President's 2012 Campaign. Not to mention an 'Obama 2012 Store' board, unabashedly selling garb for the most dedicated of Obama babies.

So why is this relevant?

The first article of this two-part series discussed the 'why' of curated commerce. In particular, why Pinterest has boomed beyond a burst of media attention in 2011; and beyond its ability to reach across channels and countries. Pinterest’s founders were able to tap into the innate psychological drivers that would entice a core audience; and turn those drivers into desirable action.

Sounds simple.

But is it simple for brands to leverage curated commerce for their own effect?

Obama shows it can be.

The key is to find a balance between inspiration and product sell:

In next to no time Pinterest has frogleaped Twitter to become a new leading traffic referral generator for retail brands. A study by online sharing tool Shareaholic, based on analytics from 200,000 US publishers (that attract 270 million unique visitors a month) shows Pinterest drives more referral traffic to other sites than Twitter. This places it just behind Google+, Facebook, Yahoo and StumbleUpon with regards to referral and search traffic.

This should come as no surprise. Pinterest’s premise positions the site more strongly for commerce than existing social networks, even Facebook. Pinterest is organised around users' interests and passions, which makes it easier to introduce the idea of purchasing.

Inspiration is the other piece of the pie. Crucially, Pinterest is more about curating than creating content. Pinboards need to inspire and attract, hence brands can’t get away with simply uploading their product catalogue.

And with up to 80 percent of activity on Pinterest being a 'repin', it is possible to achieve a high volume of traffic from images that capture the collective imagination.

In the President’s Pinterest profile, Obama’s people have found the right balance between endearing snapshots of the First Family and a content mix of videos, infographics and photos driving a hard sell for Campaign votes.

Similarly, luxury department stores Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus are also finding this sweet spot between curating fashion trends and providing a seamless pin-to-purchase journey to their eCommerce sites.

Invite co-curation:

As consumers gain more control over their shopping experiences, there is an evident shift in brands moving their communication models from push-to-pull-to-participation.

Curated commerce allows people to actively participate in and have control over the way they interact with brands. In return, brands should be open to showing off user-generated content by repinning or even creating dedicated boards to showcase the creative ways pinners are interacting with their content.

Harrods has invited followers to create mood boards to be the inspiration for a dedicated 'Queen's Diamond Jubilee Street Party' window.

The ‘Obama-inspired recipes’, ‘ObamArt’ and ‘Pet Lovers for Obama’ boards recognise the passion of Obama’s voters – translated into their own Obama-inspired cake recipes, art murals and pets who "Bark for Barack”.

Causes, Campaigns, Competitions:

Brands should not be afraid to tap into these three Cs. While Pinterest is not meant to be a billboard ad, it does hold the power to visually communicate a brand's personality.

Whole Foods Market have created boards that showcase their inherent values, 'We're Used to Reusing!', 'Earth Day' and "\'Whole Planet Foundation'. Similarly, online retailer Luisaviaroma has used a Pinterest board to give voice to the charity, Pug Dogs for Happy Kids.

Not to mention the biggest campaign of them all – Obama's bid for re-election, complete with up-to-the-minute voting polls and Obama cupcakes to sweeten the deal.

This ‘Age of Curation’, fuelled by Pinterest’s speedy global adoption, is opening up new opportunities for brands to engage with their audiences in more creative and bespoke ways. And if 'Brand Obama' is capitalising on curated commerce to sell an ideal, why can't brands also tap into this curated cause to sell their propositions also?

Katherine Paphitis
Strategy Planner
M&C Saatchi

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