What’s ‘Instagramable’? Visual identity in an Instagram world

A… picture… tells…

It’s no good.

I can’t make myself drag that old cliché out again.

Instead, I’ll go for something obvious.

  • Pictures of different things look different.
  • Different pictures of the same thing have things in common.

The point is to understand why they look different and what is it that makes them the same?

When lots of people take and share photos of the same thing (or types of thing) you can see a set of visual cues that form a common thread. Similarities in the images

For example, some work we did for a hotel brand showed how people tended to capture and share similar aspects of each hotel. It showed the meaning the experience had for them. The role it played in what was happening in their life at that time. We saw how these changed depending on the hotel brand and location. It clearly showed which aspects of the hotel were connecting and what became “Instagramable”.

If you look at these images in the right way you start to get a sense of the visual identity of each of the things you’re looking at.

It works for chocolate. It works for emotions. It works for ideas and cultural concepts (like ‘green’ or wellbeing). It works for many things.

It’s really useful.

It gives you a completely new way to think about how people perceive, experience and feel about brands. It can give you a sort of ‘dictionary’ of the visual language people use to express themselves.

In another project, we saw how most of the social conversation about a brand was very functional. However, the images in Instagram showed a completely different side – a much more stylish, aesthetic positioning. A different viewpoint on how these products are being used, the role they play in people’s lives and how the brand ID was adding to consumers ‘ID’.

Let’s work through an example.

We looked at the pictures people shared about their experiences with different brands of sheet mask.

We started looking at the images to explore the different ways people were sharing their experiences – and what this all meant.

It’s what’s in the shot, the composition, the colour palette, the emotion, the objects, the icons, the purpose and a whole host of other factors.

After a while, you’ll start to see recurring themes (e.g. natural, posed, playful, scene-setting, pack focused and my favourite – serious, no smiles).

It can look a bit like this:


The next stage is to think about what these themes mean and how they relate to the brands you’re looking at. Here’s where you can start making comparisons between them.

I love this bit.

It’s where you start to see the visual identity of each brand or concept start to emerge.

You can start doing fun things like plotting them on a grid, like this.


Which is super helpful for thinking about the position your brand is in, why and where the competition is.

It’s a way to see if the brand identity you want to portray is being picked up, internalise and then played back by consumers.

It’s also pretty good at showing where the gaps are in the category

This then marries nicely with your more experiential and transactional data to give a joined-up picture of how brands perform in the market.


That was a quick fly-by.


If that sounds useful, remember, a first step is better with company.

I love talking to people about what can (and can’t) be done with this sort of visual analysis.

No pressure. No sales talk. Just a chat about the possibilities.

Drop me a line if that sounds good.

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