Instagram ad success points to the rise of visual content, but marketers don't have to pay for results with strong graphics strategies.

Instagram recently began selling ad space to brands, helping companies get their visual content in front of customers who use the platform.

Initial results show this strategy is paying off in terms of awareness and reach. While participating brands are seeing success with sponsored images, marketers must take a step back and see that visual content is the wave of the future.

Brafton covered the introduction of Instagram ads a back in November 2013, at which point Levis and Ben and Jerrys were piloting the program.

Levi’s sees awareness lift from Instagram ads
Levi's visual content strategy is generating leads and awareness.

Instagram conducted case studies to measure initial results and found that over a nine-day period, Levi’s pictures reached 7.4 million members of its target audience (American consumers between 18 and 34). The brand also saw ad recall triple, as 24 percent of users who saw the Levi’s posts of people in front of striking scenery remembered they came from the company.

“The metrics clearly show we engaged with them in a memorable and authentic way,” said Levi’s Director of Digital Julie Channing.

Ben and Jerry’s increases exposure with brand posts

While Levi’s was distributing images that fit in perfectly with the Instagram aesthetic – photos of attractive people in front of impeccable sunsets – Ben and Jerry’s was sharing high-res pictures of ice cream cartons and cones o promote it’s newest flavor. Four sponsored images were shown in users’ news feeds once each over the course of eight days, exposing 9.8 million users to the images.

Ben & Jerry's Instagram content is educating customers about new products and generating awareness.

By the end of the reporting period, Instagram measured that 17 percent more people were aware of Ben and Jerry’s latest ice cream offering and associated it with the brand. The company’s Digital Marketing Manager Mike Hayes said the Instagram ads were an effective way to share brand stories visually.

Marketers don’t have to pay for results

These case studies definitely demonstrate Instagram’s potential for marketing success where paid ads are concerned. However, brands have equal opportunity to generate leads and increase awareness through organic posts. They just may need to work harder and produce stronger visual content.

If the success of sites like Instagram, Vine, Snapchat and Pinterest are any indicator of consumers’ interest, images will become an essential part of the recipe for web marketing success. This means branded graphics, stunning pictures and engaging videos.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.