Previously, I’ve discussed the rising popularity of Snapchat, the ephemeral 10-second photo-sharing app that teens are absolutely crazy about. While Snapchat’s user base has been growing by the millions, unfortunately, only a tiny fraction of its active users are brands. This is because Snapchat presents a few unique challenges to brands looking to leverage the app as a marketing tool. Despite its lack of an advertising platform, some brands are successfully using Snapchat to reach the coveted teen demographic. With this guide, your brand can, too.

The Stats on Snapchat

Exactly what audience can you reach through Snapchat? Here’s what the stats have to say:

  • Snapchat has an estimated 26 million active users in the U.S.
  • About 400 million snaps (photos and videos) are sent per day.
  • The core audience on Snapchat is ages 13-25.
  • Women make up 70% of Snapchat’s user base.
  • 18% of people who own an iPhone are on Snapchat.
  • From May 2012 to April 2013, the number of snaps sent per day grew from 6 million to 150 million.

These statistics show not only that Snapchat’s core audience is the same audience that many marketers are trying to reach, but also that its audience is ever-expanding, making Snapchat a prime target for your brand’s social media marketing strategy.

The Snapchat Challenge

Snapchat is an app with a massive, growing audience, but unfortunately for brands, poses significant challenges for marketers:

  • Snapchat is almost entirely visual. Other than the doodle function, Snapchat does not provide any space for marketers to add text to their messages, eliminating the ability to add context.
  • It lacks editing capabilities. Marketers cannot edit the images they send out to improve their quality.
  • Discoverability on the app is extremely limited. Your audience isn’t likely to find you on Snapchat unless they make the choice to add you as a friend.
  • Snapchat offers basically zero metrics. With a lack of in-app metrics, Snapchat does not allow you to track the success of your campaign.

With these massive obstacles standing in your way, is Snapchat really worth it? Depending on your brand’s audience, it may not be. But for brands looking to catch the eye of the teen demographic, it’s time to look at how others are overcoming these challenges.

How Brands Are Using Snapchat

Although there aren’t many brands on Snapchat, a select few are taking the app by storm. Brands are using a range of strategies to reach their audience, including:

  • Hosting contests
  • Providing sneak peeks & exclusive content
  • Offering coupons & discounts
  • Going behind-the-scenes
  • Using the Snapchat Stories feature
  • Introducing new products
  • Inviting fans to participate



Taco Bell

An early adopter of Snapchat, Taco Bell used the app to send out an exclusive announcement: the Beefy Crunch Burrito comeback. As shown in the Twitter response above, many users were excited to receive a snap from the well-known brand. In addition, Taco Bell was the first amongst major brands to leverage the Snapchat Stories feature, which allows you to put multiple snaps together to create a story that can be viewed for 24 hours rather than the typical 10 seconds.

16 Handles

A frozen yogurt chain located in New York, 16 Handles successfully used Snapchat to target its core audience with a delicious deal. In return for sending a snap of yourself enjoying one of their tasty treats, 16 Handles sent snaps of coupons for either 16%, 50%, or 100% off your purchase. They reported over 1,400 engagements with customers through the app. 16 Handles chose Snapchat for this promotion not only because the coupon couldn’t be shared with friends, but also because they noticed that many of their younger customers were using it.



While many disapprove of Snapchat due its reputation as a platform for sexting, clothing retailer Karmaloop chose to take advantage instead. They target their college-aged audience through Snapchat by sending risqué snaps of models in addition to new products and coupons. They also encourage audience participation, and they now have over 2,000 friends on Snapchat.


Acura took advantage of the video feature on Snapchat, sending a six-second clip of their new NSX Prototype. They made the content even more exclusive by only sending this clip to the first 100 users who added them as a friend through the app.



GrubHub took a similar approach to Acura, offering exclusive content to the first 100 users to add them as a friend. Like many other brands, they also promoted their Snapchat account on Twitter to jumpstart their campaign.


MTV UK created a successful Snapchat campaign to promote season six of Geordie Shore, the British version of the popular reality show Jersey Shore. They sent exclusive cast footage as well as reminders to catch the premiere on air.


The New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints are another brand to take advantage of the Snapchat Stories feature. They plan to send snaps that go behind-the-scenes with the team as well as sneak peeks of the Saints’ weekly uniforms and pictures of new team merchandise.

The Co-operative Electrical

A retailer based in the UK, the Co-operative Electrical targeted a student audience on Snapchat. They offered promotional codes for £30 off the purchase of a laptop to those who added them as a friend. Because the snaps only lasted for seconds, their audience had to be ready to copy the code down immediately.


Rebecca Minkoff

Just moments before the Rebecca Minkoff Spring 2014 collection was set to appear on the runway of New York Fashion Week, the brand sent exclusive snaps of the full line to anyone who added them as a friend.


ChatSports, a personalized website and app for sports fans, used Snapchat to promote a contest giving away free baseball tickets. To earn tickets, fans had to have five friends not only add ChatSports on Snapchat, but also send a snap containing their username and a hashtag.


Wet Seal

To gain a following on Snapchat, Wet Seal took a very unique approach: they had a 16-year-old take control of their Snapchat account. Meghan Hughes, also known as MissMeghanMakeup online, is a beauty blogger who has 200,000 subscribers on YouTube, 101,000 followers on Instagram, and 49,000 followers on Twitter. Meghan ran the account for two days, during which she used the Snapchat Stories feature to document herself not only wearing Wet Seal clothing, but also playing with the family dog and making cookies for Christmas. The story was viewed 6,000 times, and Wet Seal gained 9,000 friends on Snapchat.

Unilever’s Lynx

Unilever’s brand Lynx is another brand that provided exclusive content via Snapchat. They “leaked” the news of a secret launch party, including photos that went behind-the-scenes with Charlie Webster, TV presenter and host, on a photo shoot. Lynx also took advantage of the risqué nature of Snapchat, responding to some questionable snaps from their followers with a photo of their Deep Space Shower Gel and the suggestion of a cold shower.

Your Snapchat Strategy

Having trouble coming up with ideas for your Snapchat marketing campaign? Try taking advantage of someone else’s. Recently, Tongal ran a contest that drew 584 ideas for how top brands can up their Snapchat marketing game. Some ideas included “sexts” from Victoria’s Secret with coupon codes, a city naming contest for free airfare through Southwest Airlines, and cheat codes for EA Games’ most popular video games. Head on over to the project page to view some of these great ideas.

Will your brand add Snapchat to its social media roster?

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