Instagram… Creating a world of envy?

I’ve never been a fan of social media. I find it to be a nuisance. Too many times friends have stopped me from consuming my food just so that they could spend five minutes attempting to find the perfect angle. What is the purpose of halting the enjoyment of experience only to capture it on photo?

Shortly after the upload, a tiny alert pops up with hearts; someone has “liked” their photo. Their faces now gleamed with joy. What was so exciting about steak? In a recent article by WSJ profiling cosmetics brand Estee Lauder “photographs put our products in a whole new light”-Laney Crowell, Estee Lauder executive director of online global communications.

In an attempt to revitalize the brand for the younger generation, brands are now utilizing marketing strategies in the form of photography. Instagram, an online tool cataloging photographs has over 150 million active users. With such a large following, it’s not surprising the companies are looking to Instagram to build their brand capital.

But can Instagram really create enough envy to sell a product? Well, 91% of all retailers now utilize Instagram as a marketing tool (Dishman, 2014). What is it about the photographs that make people wish or want? In reality, lipstick, steak, and jeans are all very common goods. But through Instagram, lipstick is now an experience. Estee Lauder currently posts photographs daily on how their lipstick is used, in a desk drawer, on the beach, with a bikini. Lipstick is no longer a cosmetic in the photo, but rather a desire. Who doesn’t need sultry red lipstick with that teeny weenie polka dot bikini?

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10 Responses to Instagram… Creating a world of envy?

  1. pchoksi says:

    Rachel, I very much agree to your point that social media has now become more of a hindrance then a way to connect to people. I relate to the point where people around are too busy tagging/checking in/posting pictures when they are with others oh and even when they are breathing. It has been annoying me too. Clearly, Instagram as a marketing tool has flared off a set of different emotions for an everyday product.

  2. Xiaoxuan Fu says:

    Hi Rachel, since Instagram is originated from the form of app, your article reminds me of those branded apps that brand launched themselves and the public accounts they created on social media (e.g. Instagram) . Both moves are for the purpose of marketing, so maybe it’s interesting to compare through which channel will brands have more ROI!

    P.S. Some tangential facts I found: Kevin Systrom, the CEO of Instagram, has a background in marketing!

  3. Xi Kang says:

    Hi Rachel,

    I agree with you. Social media is an integral part of many companies’ integrated marketing strategy and some famous social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have strong customer base. However, I do not think it is a platform for selling products. Instead, it is more likely to be a platform adopted by companies to raise brand awareness and interact with its customers.

  4. Kara says:

    Hi Rachel,
    I couldn’t agree with you more, however, I find myself in the same situation of the people you are talking about. It is easy, it is quick it is instant. I think confidence now sadly has a lot of influence from social media, like the ‘likes’ you are talking about from Instagram. Furthermore, with the various applications one can download to manipulate a product, a person, a place, etc., what really is photography anymore? Is anything genuine? Probably not, but that matches the superficial world many of us live in and are exposed to everyday. What really aggravates me is seeing young girls with their friends posting selfies, rather than being outside and enjoying life. Those moments are simply gone, and I find it heartbreaking.

  5. Ashley says:


    Thanks for the interesting post. As the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I don’t always believe that to be the case, but in regards to Instagram, this couldn’t be more true. I wrote a paper last semester on Facebook and its effects on adolescent development and behaviors, and I discovered how fascinated people are with photos. Photos of themselves, photos of their pets, photos of their Starbucks cups and really just about anything that an adolescent’s life might revolve around. Every meal that I’ve had with my younger sister involves her taking a moment to snap a picture of her food plate. So I do believe images can be used as a form of marketing communications.

    As you mentioned, brands on Instagram post photos of products in such a way that the items seem to insert themselves into viewers’ lives. Even the casual image of a lipstick in a drawer communicates the message thae there’s a place in your life for the product. It isn’t a hard sell technique, but I can see it working on a more emotional level.

  6. Chanel says:

    I’m actually a fan if social media but I’ve always been a little angsty against Instagram. My beef is that people think they are photographers and all “artsy” by simply applying a filter. My dad is a professional photographer and it saddens me to see this art form as a dying industry. It’s such a complicated art and profession (especially with color balance and lighting–even with digital photography) that it just straight up angers me when people think all photography is point and shoot or a stupid app. Far from it. Sorry for the rant! I totally understand about the whole waiting thing while people want to take photos of the food…that’s how I always seem to have photos of me eating because I refuse to wait!

  7. Laura says:

    I think marketing has always played the ‘envy’ card since, unfortunatley, most advertisements are meant to make viewers feel that they are missing something or need something new. Why else would people buy another lipstick or another pair of jeans that they don’t actually need? Apart from advertising, I think the real frustration with social media is when people use this same tactic in their own lives. As has been mentioned, I’m sure we can all think of people who use social media to boost their self esteem by showing only the very best parts of their lives to their followers. It’s easy to feel discouraged, and like everyne else is better at this or that, when we only see their best moments. The same way advertisements make products seem amazng, it seems like people are making their lives seem perfect on social media. It’s sad and has encouraged me to take a step back from social media, including Instagram. The fact that advertisers are increasingly appearing on IG is only another reason not to log on!

  8. Yvonne Luo says:

    It’s interesting to have read your post first and then saw other people’s comments. The usage and purpose of social media have always generated debates from several sides. Some regard it as a clever tool of marketing; some view it as a way to interact with a broader audience; some use it as a platform for sharing moments of life; and some people are completely against the idea of using it. In my opinion, the reason why Instagram was created and now used by so many people is that it is a very simple way to show pictures to others. As humans, we have the need to communicate with the outside world, and Instagram serves as an outlet in this digital society for people to share pictures in an easy way. As previous comments point out, one barely needs any photography skills to make the picture look nice. The user-friendly features of this app make everyone become a “life-style photographer”. However, I personally don’t see a big problem in this. Instagram just makes taking nice pictures easier and more enjoyable for ordinary people. I don’t believe photography as an art form will die, rather, I think social media such as Instagram and Tumblr might actually increase people’s interest in photography after they realize the fun of taking pictures.

  9. Graham says:

    Indeed, envy is a powerful influence. The extraordinary thing about online photo content is it communicates ideas that are digested quickly. It also communicates a possession, experience or lifestyle that could be desired. I think the charm of instagram is in how it allows us to project our status for a confidence boost when the little reinforcing heart pops up onscreen. What I do like about Instagram and a lot of social media is with the right tracking we can see what that traffic is worth from a revenue standpoint. And that means that brands pushing to instagram for exposure won’t continue to allocate resources if the payoff isn’t there. The rising popularity of Instagram says so far, so good.

  10. sixieden says:

    I find this so true! I was looking at a bag the other day on Instagram and telling my friend how much i wanted the bag. And my friend just warned me: that’s just another technique marketers use to seduce you to buy the product. Although i know this, with the pretty images on Instagram, you just cannot resist! People are more visual and Instagram just makes pictures much more appealing with those filters! Fashion brands use this quite often. For example, when Christian Louboutin launched their nail polish. They used Instagram extensively to promote the product. They put the nail polish beside Louboutin pumps to create strong association between the nail polish and Louboutin shoes.