It was the year 1839. Robert Cornelius, an American pioneer of photography, was in his family’s store and did, what is believed, to be the first of what is now a global phenomenon.

What did he do?

He took the first ‘Selfie’.

Cut to January 27th, 2011. This day will go down in history as the day the hashtag #Selfie was used for the first time on the photo sharing website, Instagram , by user Jennifer Lee.

US President Barack Obama took one with British PM David Cameron and Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt. Justin Bieber launched a mobile app last year, dedicated exclusively to taking and sharing Selfies, called ‘Shots of me’. Pope Francis took the first ‘Papal Selfie’ with teens at the Vatican. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Oxford Dictionary named ‘Selfie’ as its 2013 ‘Word of the Year’.

One of the biggest reasons why a simple self shot has become such a rage is because of the fact that these pictures are ‘shared’ on social networking sites. Sharing pictures gets people attention which is a big motivation for them.

Brands have taken note of this and are using it as an opportunity to build a personal connect with consumers. The advantages of using Selfies as part of a brand’s campaign are numerous, ranging from user generated content, to the fact that they are more real and personal.

In addition to this, the Selfie trend shows the growing focus on visual content. According to a study from market research firm, GlobalWebIndex, the top three fastest growing apps in the world in 2013 were Vine, Flickr and Instagram (in that order), all of which are visual based apps.

Here are some snapshots of how some Indian’s brands have used the Selfie:

 McDowell’s Signature #SignatureSelfies campaign

The objective of this Selfie contest was to upload Selfies which have the WOW factor. For this contest they roped in renowned fashion photographer, Atul Kasbekar. An Android and iOS app called ‘The Signature Selfies App’ was also launched which had filters to enhance the look of the Selfie and tips from Atul Kasbekar on how to take perfect ‘Signature Selfies’ and more.

The campaign was started in November last year and the winners were announced in January this year.

The winner won an exclusive photo shoot with Atul Kasbekar.

Given that advertising alcohol directly is banned in India, such campaigns can go a long way in creating brand awareness and recall with consumers.

 Acer India

Acer India’s Twitter handle  ran a Selfie contest for Valentine ’s Day, with the hashtag #AcerLoveBytes, asking users to tweet Selfies with their partners or family members  Winners received bags from Puma.

Oriflame India

In December 2013, cosmetics brand Oriflame ran a Selfie contest asking users to tweet pictures of them wearing red lipstick. You can read more about the contest on the Oriflame blog.

Philips India #StyleTurf with MTV India

This campaign encourages couples to style each other and upload a self shot with the hashtag #StyleTurf on social networking sites (@StyleTurf) or the MTV India micro site .

It’s not just consumer brands that are going the Selfie way. Even the tech world is adopting it to create user engagement.

For example, the recently concluded TCWorld conference in Bangalore (TCWorld is one of the biggest conferences for technical communication) ran a Selfie contest wherein event participants were asked to tweet Selfies with the hashtag #tcwselfie.

The Selfie trend is here to stay (for how long- that is a different question). Brands can’t choose to ignore this and need to develop campaigns around it.

So, as Madonna sang in her famous nineties song ‘Vogue’- ‘Strike a pose’!

Featured Image courtesy: Angelo González

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Shruti is a currently playing out her role in the great Indian e-commerce story at a leading Indian e-commerce and transactions company. An avid marketing and communications enthusiast, she has also worked on image management for leading players in the technology, consulting and research space. Follow her on Twitter @thisisshruti
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