From established brands to aspiring labels and wannabe entrepreneurs, or even the WFH hobby meisters, the power of Instagram as a marketing platform is on a high, more so in a pandemic-hit world.

Ever since iconic fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee launched his premium jewellery line on Instagram using the social media platform as a fashion retail outlet, the trend has caught on. It was quite the in thing earlier too but thanks to the pandemic it is now almost a must-do for brands, vendors aspiring to be brands, the WFH hobby meisters – in fact anyone looking to go entrepreneurial with minimum costs.

With zero investment and just the product to speak for, budding businessmen and women who may not be able to afford a store in a high paying retail street or a mall can still reach the same audience, thanks to the democratic nature of social media.

On the insta wagon

Says Komal Panchal of footwear brand Kanvas, which aspires to nurture the art of hand-painting and encourage people to value handicraft and traditional techniques of intricate design: “We have stopped all our physical operations and are operating online since July 2020.” Agrees Adarsh Makharia of brand Vaayu which was launched a few years back and makes conscious--clothing for everyday wear. “Like every business, we too were hit hard by the pandemic and the nationwide lockdown. Our online presence wasn’t prominent back then as we had just started to step into the online world. But the pandemic pushed us to take the next step and we utilised that time to strategise and plan ourway to the online platforms. Our online strategies worked for us and today we can say that compared to last year the scenario is very different. Our numbers have also jumped up. We are still working to push further with our online presence.

“Do we have an option not to be online? And Insta is our best bet,” chuckles Panchal. The rise of Instagram brands has indeed been levelling the fashion playing field in recent times. According to Mansi Bagree, owner of Peach & Pip, online was a blessing not only for sales but also for procurement. “During the last lockdown, the first thing that got affected was the sourcing of materials; however, thanks to everything available online nowadays, that was also managed.” She confirms that for her brand, “Instagram is the most used social media. It has become a hub for businesses, big or small.” What is very interesting is that Instagram often turns out to be a platform for wholesale or global launch as it allows budding and established entrepreneurs to reach out one on one to customers whom they would usually have no access to.

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Guneet Kaur, founder of the company Amarta, a brand whose USP is affordable luxury in natural fabrics says that they are an online fashion brand and for them digital media is of upmost important. “Our preferred platform is Instagram,” she affirms and on being asked why Instagram she responds: “Instagram has a huge audience and for a fashion brand this is the key platform to connect with your target audience. Stakes are much lower than conventional marketing as you can pause and stop the money flow any time. You can review results much faster in terms of ads insights.” Adds Bagree of Peach and Pip: “I think Instagram is like a big catalogue book. If something is Insta-worthy it will sell. All bloggers and stylists are there on Instagram which makes the marketing of products easy.

Consumers are constantly looking for new trends on Instagram and that’s what tempts them to buy new things. “What is interesting is that not only new age brand owners but also traditional top retail players have taken the Insta route. Says Mayank Agarwal, director Sasya Fashion Pvt Limited,awell-established fashion brand in Kolkata: “Instagram and fashion will be going a long way together. Trends in fashion are so dynamic and Instagram as a medium just captures all the dynamics of fashion with so much fluidity. In future, fashion companies have to take Instagram alongas their first tool of marketing. We at Sasya and Simaaya love Instagram and are going to spend more on Instagram marketing than other means.”Says Ruchi Kasera, creative director at Poonam Kasera, a well-known menswear brand in the city: “We had always relied on word of mouth publicity but as the pandemic eases out the focus is more on online, especially Instagram. We get a lot of queries on Instagram and not on Facebook – so Insta for sure is the way to go.” So is every brand on Instagram an overnight success?

Click reel baits

A group of people in white dressesDescription automatically generated with medium confidenceTraditionally, launching a clothing line has always been prohibitively expensive. But not any more. While star and stylist collaboration and media coverage are still essential, yet the basics can begin as soon as you have a decent social media presence. Answering the question why Instagram, Makharia points out that this social media platform helps brands to communicate directly with their clients, promotes various events and initiatives and also creates brand awareness. It is an effective way to boost sales and build a loyal city of followers without spending a lot. Panchal adds: “The future looks like e-everything! So like all the other brands we have made our presence more prominent on the digital media. Instagram is the fastest growing platform as the medium of photos and videos drive more attention than anything else. A platform that gives you content and entertainment in less than a minute is what Gen Next is all about. People do not have the time or patience to deal with lengthy content with words, and Insta proves to be the most used platform for short content. As a company, we do not focus on a particular platform; though Instagram is the most influential we also try to tap Google ads, Facebook, etc.”

What is the success formula that a brand follows?

Content is king, and therefore the correct concept, photo and content on Insta will take you a long way. Like fashion, in social media too, you need to know the trends and capitalise on it. However, consistency or posting in a certain frequency is a must. “Consistency is the first rule of social media and Instagram is no exception. Analysing content performance is another important strategy that we used. It helped us to understand better what kind of content is working for us and plan ahead accordingly,” says Makharia. Agrees Bagri. Revealing her brand’s Insta strategy she says: “If you are active, then only your consumers will reciprocate.

A picture containing person, standingDescription automatically generated Second is connecting with the customer or connecting your brand to them. And the way to do it is to be true and show yourself. Let your brand be a person. It helps people connect better. Also make content that not only showcases your products but also shows its usage.”Panchal of Kanvas informs: “We don’t have a strategy and now because of the pandemic we are just going with the flow and experimenting with things.” Ritumanity who owns Pertho which considers itself more to be an art platform than a brand, echoes this thought. “Our pieces are sold only via Instagram and the focus is content – tell unique stories and produce content accordingly. You don’t really need a genius marketing strategy.” Kaur avers: “Instagram marketing, collaborations are the key for any fashion brand to succeed. We too follow this road map.” Makharia also talks about the importance of hashtags. “The use of hashtag is the most underutilised strategy. It has often been used incorrectly as well. So that is where we put our focus on. And the final one would be utilising all the features that Instagram has to offer and putting as much information out there for our clients to connect better with us. Transparency is key.”

Ace men’s fashion designer Surbhi Pansari says: “Through Insta stories when we show our collection-making, creation of new lines and also clips of our shoots — it deepens our fans’ connection, builds trust and nurtures a loyal community. Instead of posting random pictures on our feed we carefully craft a narrative that gives an essence of our brand and builds trust with our clients. A critical cog in the fashion industry are the influencers. We bring these popular industry figures and trend-setters on board to share our product lines. This gives our brand access to an already established and relevant audience, boosting our presence in the fashion world.” So how easy it is? Like every other marketing activity, it involves planning and execution and of course having the right social connects help. While traditional brands and marketing strategies have always focused on celebrities, Gen Z, who are the major consumers of Insta content respond more to “real influencers”. However, marketing is not the only aspect. You need a product and a price point that is Insta friendly, and that coupled with the right ad targeting will make sure that your product has high chances of becoming a success What next after Instagram? “Instagram has such a strong base. It has everything. Also, with the feature of reels, it has become the biggest hub for content in today’s time,” says Bagree. However, Panchal feels that each generation “will have their own new platform, starting from Yahoo messenger, to Orkut, Facebook and now Instagram. We have continuously shifted our interests to whatever new and interesting came up and in an evolving world, everything is replaceable.” So till something new comes along, fashion must need be Insta-worthy.

This article was first published in the August 2021 edition of the print magazine.