30 May 2012

Scrolling through my first page of visual posts on Pinterest, I wondered what all the hype was about. Is it a complete waste of time or a valuable asset to the world of social media? As a marketer, I asked myself how brands could participate and interact with their customers through this new medium that discourages blatant promotion.

Pinterest, now the third most popular social network in the U.S., is a virtual cork board where users pin images and videos of interest to boards that they create. It is a strange hybrid of social networking, less about the individual and more about the eye candy. It’s aspirational in a consumeristic sense, like window shopping. Individuals become virtual curators of what their dream life could look like.

Could it be a marketer’s dream as well? The answer is not necessarily for all brands. It is tailor-made for merchant and lifestyle companies such as clothing, jewelry, cooking related, home-improvement, travel and tourism. There are some claims that the network is referring huge amounts of traffic to the websites of such businesses. Banking and the medical field are examples of what industries won’t be as easy a fit. Their social media dollars and time might be spent more wisely on other sites.

Pinterest is a important tool for brands that appeal to women, since the majority of it’s users skew female, midwestern and suburban. According to the BlogHer annual study, Women trust Pinterest more and are more likely to buy from a recommendation there than on any other social network.

Like Facebook and Twitter, brands need to create content that is interesting enough for their target consumers to choose to follow them, interact and share. The challenge with Pinterest is the visual nature of the communication. The secret to marketing a brand on Pinterest is to downplay sales promotions and focus on themes that delight and inspire the target customer.

A great example of this is Lowe’s, use of boards titled “Taste of Cool”, “Sea Blue Dreaming” and “A Glimmer of Gold” which seed their products in with other images pinned from blogs, magazine sites and design sites that all work together under the overall board theme.



Some retailers such as Urban Outfitter’s  and The Gap are successfully using Pinterest as a catalog extension.

Honda recently launched a campaign built around Pinterest urging top pinners to stop wasting their life already and get outside by taking a #Pintermission.


There are some legal issues companies and brands need to consider before they start pinning away. According to Brian Heidelberger, “While consumers may be currently “pinning” images that they don’t own to their personal Pinterest page, seemingly without repercussion, a major advertiser developing a brand pinboard likely won’t have the same luxury. To be clear, just because the Internet gives a brand the ability to pin an image to a Pinterest page doesn’t mean that it’s legal. In truth, the vast majority of images found on the Internet are not “public domain” and pinning or re-pinning them on a brand’s virtual pinboard, risks of a copyright infringement claim by the original image owner.” It is important as the Pinterest Pin Etiquette states, to credit sources and link back to original sources.

While Pinterest may not be the best fit for all brands, it is worth considering as part of any social media ecosystem. The site is still at an early stage of development. For the right brands with a smart strategy, a Pinterest page will certainly boost brand image, website traffic and sales.