How big companies are cashing in on your selfies

You might have thought that selfies were all about you. But you weren't reckoning on the marketing gurus at the major corporations, who couldn't let a fad pass by without working out a way to make a fast buck. Unfortunately, it now means you may be working for 'the man' when you take a selfie.

In some instances we are well aware of what we are doing, because there's something in it for us. All sorts of brands have persuaded us to take a selfie with the product and share it with our friends and followers in order to win something. French Connection, for example, recently encouraged people to put together a winning outfit in the changing rooms and take a selfie - spreading news of the new collection and getting brand endorsement at the same time.
Image recognition

However, an alternative use of selfies is far more subtle, and in some ways mildly creepy. David Rose, founder of image recognition firm Ditto, told Brand Republic that his technology is able to scan millions of photos on social networks like Tumbler and Instagram in order to find logos and brands. This might mean, for example, the Coco-Cola logo or the Nike swoosh. The brand doesn't even have to be the focus of the photo: it can be partially obscured on someone's T-shirt,wrapped around their beanie, or be a pattern on a small area of their clothes.

He told the website that brands can use this information in order to see who is actually using their products, and how they use them in the real world. They may know who they are targeting, but these photos gives them proof of the people they are actually reaching. They can identify in the photos whether individuals are using any other brands at the same time - particularly their competitors. And they can look at the context, and see the sorts of things their buyers are interested in.

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How will they use it?

This could be used to help them develop products and consider their target markets. So, for example, a brand can see whether a particular items is proving popular with a certain group of people or in a specific area, and use that information to target their advertising and promotions.

Luxury brands, meanwhile, could use it to reinforce the snob value of their brands. Take Burberry, for example, which went through a stage of being popular with people who were far from their target customer. With this technology, they could identify the exact items in their collection that are popular among the 'wrong' sort of people, and decide whether or not to continue stocking the line.

They could also use it in a way that might start to seem a little intrusive. They could scan for people using their brands, and then target them with more promotions for their items. Alternatively, they could scan for rival brands, and then target them with promotions for their own products.

It means that idly posting a selfie of yourself holding a packet of crisps could mean a weird approach from the crisp company suggesting you try a new flavour, plus another from a different company asking if you'd consider trying their popcorn instead.

There's a fine line between customer insight and creepy stalking, and it's questionable where most people will feel this lies. But what do you think? Will 'the man' stop you taking selfies?

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