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Health brands use Instagram to become part of new cultural conversations

The rise of visual social sharing via platforms such as Instagram has provided brands with a new way to examine their complex relationships with people. Here's why social watching is so important and a handful of health and wellness brands using Instagram to become part of the new cultural conversations...
Social watching involves analysing the world of User-Generated Content (UGC) to provide a rich, visual universe that can reveal the nature of people’s relationships to, and perceptions of, brands. The most culturally connected brands recognise the power and importance of user-generated content (UGC) as a means to understand what matters to people, and the role their brand should play in culture.


Health and wellness is hugely prevalent on Instagram, and the giant players in this arena are starting to take notice and adapt their communications to align with the new visual medium. It is clear they understand if you set your brand up with the right tools, people will use these tools and tell a visual story with them.

For example, fitness wear brand Lululemon runs morning yoga classes in its stores, but in order to reach out to its network, each store shares these events on Instagram for their following to tag themselves, and take part in.

By doing this, Lululemon is taking on the role of a wellbeing facilitator and encouraging people to directly link their exercise routine to the physical home of the brand. By creating great content for their followers to interact with, they have set themselves up to be shared and embedded easily in people’s lives.

The recent Nike ‘Do you believe in more’ campaign has a distinctive tagline that makes brilliant hashtag fodder. It features iconic branded pieces that will stand out in users’ photos; people with a large, dedicated Instagram following; and it says something provocative. Nike is driving the cultural conversation around health, wellness, sport and fitness by forging an adventurous path with a radical aesthetic and tone of voice.

Smartly, Nike has tapped into the power of authentic influencers by enlisting multi-talented artist and athlete, FKA Twigs, who has 1m Instagram followers, to direct and star in the advert. This ad feels like a deep and deliberate fissure with what has gone before. Through the choreography of the athletes, we are told a story about the holistic nature of sporting prowess:



Achievement in the new Nike world view is creative, not linear; it is about manifesting a physical expression of an internal feeling. Nike is taking a clear role in the cultural conversation by driving health and fitness to a brand new place with revolutionary elements of grime, androgyny and interpretive dance.

It is no accident that these elements are some of the most emergently popular in culture and on Instagram. Most importantly, though, users are picking up on this change of tone and aesthetic and sharing their own content back under the various Nike hashtags.

For example, #nikewomen has over one million authentic and unsolicited posts, with a visual world linking closely with the FKA Twigs campaign. Nike has set up a positive story around women in sport and has given women the tools to tell this story in their own way, creating an inspiring dialogue between brand and users.

A picture can indeed paint a thousand words, so imagine what a thousand pictures can tell you about your brand.

Here are a few examples to inspire you:


Lyndsay Kelly and Alice Clapp from the Global Added Value office also contributed.

About Marilyn Dutlow Munga

Marilyn Dutlow Munga has been appointed Associate Brand Director at Added Value South Africa, a member of the global marketing consultancy and research firm of the same name.
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