J. Walter Thompson
Delicious imagery is key to what you ‘like’
Flowers, tiles, catchy taglines in neon light, raw materials, colourful cakes and drinks. What do they have in common? They’re all key components of a successful Instagram post.
Instagram has more than 800 million active users (November 2017), and 80 percent of these people use the platform to follow brands, while 60 percent discover new products through the app. Such has been the success of Instagram that it has become an adjective: “Instagrammable”, which the Urban Dictionary defines as: “A picture or photo that is worth posting on Instagram”.
When it comes to Instagramming food, you can’t just design for a happy palate; you need to consider all five senses, and especially sight. Liberty, Benoît Castel’s famous French bakery, foresaw the trend in 2014. Their manifesto was avant-garde for its time, stating clearly their desire to “reconcile craft and sales”. When you buy a loaf of bread or a croissant at Liberté, you can witness the process, from the kneading to the box.
Supermoon Bakehouse in New York opened last autumn with some inspiration from its French counterpart. Luminescent boxes, a glass window allowing customers to watch bakers à l’œuvre, and visual experiences specifically designed to be photographed, are driving Instagrammers crazy. With its 55,000 followers, the bakery sells more than caramel salted croissants and soft ice creams. “Each serve comes in a hypercolor color-changing cup and spoon that change color with heat and cold,” the Supermoon website explains, illustrated with shots that make desserts look as luxurious as jewelry. The bakery stands as a perfect example of a successful marriage of design and food-porn.
This phenomenon is mainly true for the food and beverage industry, but it’s not limited to it. As long ago as late 2016, we saw how Apple was using a minimalist, back-to-nature theme in its stores, planting trees between long wooden tables displaying their latest MacBook Pros and iPhones. The past year has seen an increasing number of similarly styled so-called “hipster” restaurants, cafés and bakeries all major cities. London’s Elan Café and Sketch are probably the most representative examples of this up-and-coming global trend. Pink velvet chairs, egg-shaped toilets, flowers and picturesque neon wall lights are attracting Instagrammers with their hashtags at the ready. These two hotspots alone have generated 15,700 and 46,000 posts respectively.
Michael Tran, creator of the food center HWKR, opened last February in Melbourne, knows a fair bit about Instagram-friendly aesthetics. The place has been shortlisted for the Australian Interior Design Awards 2018 in the hospitality category. Tran says designed the center with the needs of Instagram and Instagrammers top of mind.
Reflecting on this trend, it’s important to remember there are risks involved in betting everything on superficial factors. When consumers consider brands, authenticity still rules, so it might not be worth risking your brand’s point of differentiation just for a few extra likes on Instagram. Yes, if you want to sell food, you need to cook for the eyes – but not at all costs.