Snapchat has surprised me. I mislabeled the platform way back as just a method to share nude selfies (although there is definitely a market for that). They are more popular than ever, valuation is through the roof and they are totally altering the way how millennials communicate and consume content.
As a company they have been really refreshing and bold on their approach in their business. Take the following lessons with a grain of salt, as they might not be right for you:
1.Ask for (too) much
Google made advertising accessible for pretty much anyone and Facebook followed a suit. Snapchat has taken totally different angle. Its ads are expensive, so essentially available to only big advertisers (even though they have reduced their prices). For example branded custom lens costs 450,000 USD. Almost half a million of branded puking rainbow! We will talk about puking rainbows later. They also provide sparsely data about the ad performance and target audience (which might improve in the future). Essentially Snapchat is expensive because it can be expensive. What they offer is that you can be part of the party if you pay the premium. If you don´t, you will be left out. The choice is yours.
Major key to success: Set your price high, as it is easier to go down than to go up.
2. Don´t try to attract everyone
Snapchat is not for the old people; expect if you are Dj Khaled. We will talk about him later.
“I’ll be honest, I had no idea what they were talking about half the time”
– David Gaines about Snapchat training sessions (Chief Planning Officer, Maxus Global)
If you are CMO, it is likely that you are not on Snapchat. Or if you are, you don´t understand anything that is happening there. However, your kids or younger colleagues probably are and that gives you signal that your brand should probably do something there. Snapchat is the ultimate access to one of the hardest target audiences in the world: teens.
If you are not teen, the interface of Snapchat looks messy, complicated and hard-to-use. Essentially they defy all the traditional belief of user design and the users love it. Rest of us don´t understand it but that does not matter. The enigma of Snapchat has probably added to its lure. You cannot compare it to any other app. That is also the reason why they can ask premium. There is no alternative for Snapchat.
Major key to success: If your competition is selling oranges, start selling apples.
3. Embrace the irrational
If you are snapchatting like boss, you have way too much time in your hands. What the success of Snapchat has showed, teens and millennials have lots of time in their hands. And although you are complaining how busy you are, in reality you have too much time in your hands.
The biggest star of Snapchat is Dj Khaled, who has six million followers. He is something like a Paulo Coelho for millennials and his stories are celebrated throughout the Internet. His days “walking on the journey to the path of more success” are filled with eating, drinking Ciroc, jet skiing and sharing his wisdom through major keys (for example key to success is to have lots of pillows).
Whereas Facebook is introducing utility (ordering Uber etc.) to Messenger, the hit function of Snapchat is filter that makes you puking rainbows. The success of Snapchat has prompted Facebook to acquire Masquerade. Its hit function is the ability to switch selfies. And yes, Facebook tried to buy Snapchat back in the day with three billion. Everyone thought Snapchat was crazy to decline the offer. Now they are valued for 16 billion.
Although Internet has transformed our life in many ways, you should never underestimate the irrational and random aspect of life. Our attention span is short and that short span is increasingly filled with puking rainbows and major keys to success.
Major key to success: People will favor mindless entertainment against thoughtful utility. Always.
Could you apply some of these lessons in your own business? Maybe, if you are attracting millennials. The challenge with certain successful businesses (that Snapchat is not yet even is, only with high valuation) is that their competitive advantage is hard to be duplicated. Truly phenomenal firms go against the grain and pretty much ignore what other competitors are doing.