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In many respects, product marketing seems to have grown only inexorably more expensive. Bigger, louder and more over-produced commercials and web content are being made to capture the publics attention. Its rather a significant relief, then, that certain emerging marketing platforms have practically levelled the playing field, providing simple solutions that can be executed rather impressively, even on a modest budget.

So-called self-destructing apps, such as Snapchat, Wickr and Telegram, offer one such unique opportunity. Each of these apps provides exciting ways for marketers to take advantage of no-trace communications, which is to say that once a certain communique has been viewed, its only available for a pre-set amount of time. It might sound gimmicky at first glance, but there's a great deal of potential here for emphasizing exclusivity and time-sensitivity.

Even though each of the above apps has unique advantages and challenges, were going to focus on Snapchat here, since its unquestionably the most successful app of its kind; a reported 32% of individuals between the ages of 13 and 17 use Snapchat on their mobile device of choice.

Snapchat is obviously a big deal, and only getting bigger. So how have brands been capitalizing on all of this marketing potential? Lets take a look.

Snapchat Done Right

One of the earliest adopters of Snapchat was Taco Bell. The restaurant chain encouraged their Twitter audience to follow them on Snapchat as well, just in time for an exclusive announcement about the long-awaited return of the Beefy Crunch Burrito. This was not only earth-shattering news for some, but for marketers, it introduced the notion of exclusivity; Snapchat offered a new way for customers to be the first to hear big news about the brands they care about.

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Another brand that has more-or-less mastered the ins and outs of Snapchat is Karmaloop, an online retailer that specializes in fashionable clothing, shoes and accessories. They've used Snapchat to engage with their audience by providing a glimpse behind the scenes and exclusive news about new products.

In order to increase their sales after the rush of Black Friday, they started sending snaps to their fans, like this one:

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Not only does the drawn-in tree really give it the feel of a Snapchat you might get from a friend, but the medium lends a feeling of urgency to it. Use this coupon code quick, before its gone (or really, before you forget it).

The Challenges…

That said, there are still a number of challenges to overcome as this type of marketing gains popularity. For starters, Snapchat doesn't offer any photo editing features. For some, this may be seen as a positive thing; it means that users are encouraged to take part in a more candid — some might say natural — form of communication. In other words, there's no chance for Photoshop to enter the equation at all.

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This might be a stumbling block at first for brands that are used to editing the heart and soul out of every image they post, but it might actually come to feel like a much-needed breath of fresh air.

Probably the most significant challenge, however, is the fact that your brands discoverability will be extremely limited, at least for right now. Users must make the deliberate effort of adding someone as their friend on Snapchat, which could create a number of challenges.

In Taco Bell's case, they made great use of their existing Twitter account to get the word out about their efforts on Snapchat. With a few cryptic hints about upcoming news, they managed to get a rather sizable portion of their existing fan base to join them on yet another social networking site. It was a risk, but it worked out.

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Karmaloop posted on their blog and other social accounts about the social site, with the tagline "Don't sleep, you never know what were gonna drop next"

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…And the Opportunities

Its estimated that about 400 million Snaps are sent each day. This is obviously a big opportunity, provided more brands like Taco Bell prove willing and able to think outside the box and use it constructively. Of course, native advertising on this latest smash hit in the social networking world is only a matter of time, but the sooner brands can come up with a more organic approach, the better off theyll be.

At the end of the day, though, marketing on Snapchat would seem to be a solution aimed squarely at existing customers — that is, those whose place in the purchase funnel is already assured. Since brands on Snapchat need to convince their followers to join them, this would seem to be the ultimate form of permission-based advertising. That said, the right creative gesture might be all it takes to make that leap of faith just a little bit less imposing for consumers.

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Adrienne Erin

Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer and blogger who specializes in social media marketing.

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