In every sudsy romantic movie, there's a moment when a relationship ends, and the victim of the breakup is left picking up the pieces. But rather than rush out and try to find a new mate, the best friend is always there to offer some sage advice: "No, you're not ready for that yet. For now, you need to focus on you."

Plots vary, characters interchange and situations flux – but you get the idea. You can't expect to grow until you've built a solid foundation for yourself. The same is true with brands. But there's a misperception floating around that, with all the rapid access and eye-blink gratification that technology provides, merely having a cool website and being engaged on social media should mean brand success. 

But it's simply not true. So allow us to play the role of 'best friend': You may not be ready for that yet. You may need to focus on you. 

During a recent interview we gave, a member of the press asked some questions on the relative social media success (specifically Instagram) of one major brand in comparison to another major brand within the same vertical. Both of these brands are household names and some of the biggest players in their industry. But one was performing significantly better on Instagram than its counterpart, and the contact wanted us to help identify the tactics the success story was using that perhaps others were not. 

This is a fairly common occurrence, and it's a scenario our clients are asking us about with increasing frequency. But the answer has little to do with social media or any specific Instagram tactic. The answer has to do with branding and what's at the very core of your business.

Objectively speaking, both Brand A and Brand B from the scenario described above have more than enough money to spend on top-tier agencies employing the best and latest in Instagram / social media tactics to drive engagement. The discrepancy in engagement, then, can be found by taking a giant step backward and looking at the brand itself. Brand A is simple, modern, and grounded in wholesome, ethical principles that are important to the most active and engaged demographic on the planet: Millennials. Brand B is focused on none of those things, albeit it's arguably much more recognizable, and so is struggling to connect with the Millennial crowd. And when it comes to Instagram, that's the ballgame. 

Brand A built a brand that appeals directly to the demographic with the most influence, the most social presence, and, pretty soon, the most money. Brand B has been around for more than 50 years longer than Brand A, and it shows. Millennials can't relate, and they don't want to. But more than that, understanding social media is about understanding passion. There is perhaps no more organic process of brand support than social media, where consumers can directly engage with their favorite brands, where a filtered photo of a brand's product is actually an extension of that consumer's persona. The most engaged people on Instagram tell a visual story about who they are, and to let a brand's story into their own can only mean they're proud to let that brand be a character in their narrative. 

Every story has a beginning. And like this one, a main character. If you look carefully, the main character of this story is the word I use most often: brand. You can employ all the cutting-edge, viral, strategic, targeted, insert-buzzword-here social media tactics you want... But only once the brand is solid will social media perform the way it was meant to – by reinforcing what's at the very core of the brand.

Curt Cuscino
HypeLife Brands
[a progressive brand development + marketing agency helping lifestyle startups & challenger brands engage the Millennial Generation]

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Do you have a brand or one in the making? If you recognize the power and potential in today’s millennials and want to impact tomorrow’s leaders then you’ve probably made it your mission to build them up. You seek to entertain, educate and inspire. You want to enhance their lifestyles, and even guide their lives.

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The strongest brands have a life of their own.

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