Selfie: The History And The Own-Kind Community

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In the 1990s, the emergence of new technologies such as digital cameras led to the revolution of photography (Lim, 2016). When smart devices with front-facing cameras were introduced to the world, a new trend of taking ‘selfies’ became an important cultural phenomenon. A selfie is a photograph taken of oneself by the use of a smart device, which can be exchanged and shared on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram (Oxford Dictionaries, 2013). In contemporary society, more than 17 million selfies are being uploaded and shared within a week (Suk, 2014; Winter, 2014). They are particularly popular among the younger generations. In 2014, the Pew Research Center reported that selfies were used by 55% of millennials (Taylor, 2014). There are constantly new selfie-taking trends that appear, such as selfies showing off stylish, exclusive streetwear, and extreme selfies (Iqani and Schroeder, 2016). In light of this, marketers need to understand their significance in how they may affect consumer behaviour and consequently marketing strategy. Own-Kind is a digital wardrobe and second-hand resale app that helps young females mobilise and organise their closets effectively. This is achieved by the user taking a selfie or uploading those images of clothes from the camera roll, Instagram posts, iCloud and WhatsApp. This essay will start with a discussion of the factors that motivate individuals to take selfies and how individuals use these images. Furthermore, this essay will examine the connection between selfie-taking behaviour, attitudes and consumption decisions. Finally, to analyse how marketers can capitalise effectively on this behaviour, and to provide recommendations for marketers from the digital wardrobe app ‘Own-Kind’ because its business model is based on consumer selfie-taking behavior. Please see Appendix 1 for a list of vital terminology and definitions that will be used throughout this paper.

What motivates individuals to take selfies?

Selfies were introduced in 2004, initially appearing as #selfie underneath photographs of people on Flickr (Lim, 2016). However, it was only in 2010 that they became widely used due to social media platforms that allowed easy photo-sharing (Lim, 2016). These new technological developments provided people with opportunities to share moments of their daily lives and present themselves digitally (Gannon and Prothero, 2016) with others through social media posts (Worthan, 2011, cited in Pounders et al., 2016). With the photo-editing tools, filters, and deleting functions, selfie-makers can improve the quality of an image, enhance individuals’ facial features, and connect images and themselves to a disposable yet intimate relationship (Lim, 2016). Therefore, it can be regarded as a way that people manipulate their “looking glass self”.

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Selfies are a way of expressing oneself. There are two sub-themes within self-expression: (1) happiness and (2) physical appearance. Individuals’ selfies frequently feature their hairstyles and outfits to show the self in a specific context or event (Pounders et al., 2016). This provides individuals with an opportunity to present their physical appearance to their followers. When individuals feel confident about their physical appearance, their self-happiness increases. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, people also seek to fulfil belongingness needs and self-actualisation needs. Selfies are an interactive tool that can satisfy these needs when they are posted on social media platforms. A connection is established between the photographer and the viewer, leading to social acceptance through ‘likes’ of selfies. Participants of a study reported that receiving likes in their content would make them feel positive, and accepting likes is related to improving social status (Hayes et al., 2016 cited in Pütten et al., 2019). Therefore, the photographer gains positive self-esteem and self-efficacy boost (Tiidenberg and Gómez Cruz, 2015; Kedzior et al., 2016).

How do individuals use these images?

According to Kantar’s 2015 research, approximately 50% of 18-24 year-olds are most likely to share their selfies on social media platforms among all age groups. Generation Z use selfies to record their daily lives and their association with others. They do this by posting personal or brand selfies. Personal selfies are a popular medium to record and share experiences, for instance, users may record a volunteering activity that they participated in, or share their new vegan diet by taking a picture of their food. Moreover, with a carefully constructed pose, personal selfies are attractive and can gain a large amount of attention from viewers (Eagar and Dann, 2016). Viewers interact with these selfies by commenting on them, especially those depicting direct actions (Farace et al., 2017). Regarding Own-Kind, users need to take personal selfies that depict their clothes in order to mobilise their wardrobes. This creates a fun and interactive experience for Own-Kind users, as they tend to enjoy taking selfies. However, Lobinger and Brantner (2015) argue that personal selfies are inappropriate and are unlikely to receive comments on social media platforms, especially those that are constructed with the snapshot style. Brand selfies portray everyday consumption activities involving a brand or product (Presi et al., 2016). Users take them to share brand experiences, for instance, they take selfies that feature drinks from Starbucks more than 10,000 times in 24 hours on Instagram (Farace et al., 2017). People also use their selfies to participate in online selfie contests and challenges hosted by brands to gain attention or prizes. As well as personal selfies, Own-Kind users tend to have a high number of brand selfies existing in their camera roll. This is a way of enhancing users experience, as they have the option to upload brand selfies via their camera roll. Kress and van Leeuwen (2006, cited in Farace et al., 2017) state that uploading photos to describe what is going on could be explained as “narrative representations”. A storytelling selfie could inadvertently have an impact on brand success because people like to follow narrative selfies for shopping references (Kedior et al., 2016; Lim, 2016; Farace et al., 2017). Bloggers in the fashion field, in particular, are experts at utilising the “megaphone effect” and “snapshot aesthetics” when posting brand selfies to attract and influence followers (Kedior et al., 2016).

Links Between Selfie-taking Behaviour, Consumer Attitudes and Purchasing Decisions

As mentioned previously, taking selfies is a popular trend among the younger generations. According to Kantar’s (2015) research, millennials and Generation Z are constantly being exposed to new apps and social media platforms and are more likely to take selfies and share them more frequently than other generations. This is particularly important for Own-Kind, as their target segment is millennials and Generation Z. Thus, Own-Kind needs to provide value to its target users to persuade them to use its app and not its competitors’ app. According to Lim (2016), many observations found that selfie-taking behavior is a way of self-discovery, self-expression, social calibration, and social feedback. Furthermore, people may take selfies to generate more likes and comments to gain self-validation, leading to greater happiness (Lim, 2016).

Brand selfies are an effective tool for people to develop relationships with brands or products (Gannon and Prothero, 2016) and can express opinions about products that related to a value-expressive function in where consumers express self-concept. They may post selfies with fashion, food, or any product they have an attitude toward and tag the brand (Gannon and Prothero, 2016; Rokka and Canniford, 2016) or hashtag the popular trends featured in the selfie when they upload it on social media. The action of posting a selfie with the product or the brand on social media platforms is an effective way to advertise to a personal social group and provide ideas and advice to followers. Consequently, the consumption decision of the person who posted the selfie is indicated, and this could affect other users’ liking attitudes and buying habits. For instance, when people take a selfie with a product to depict how useful it is, their followers would consider the product the next time they go shopping. In particular, celebrities that post brand selfies have a massive impact on changing their followers’ consumption preferences because they are opinion leaders. Ultimately, this helps reach the goal of improving the brands’ market performance (Lim, 2016). Nevertheless, celebrity-endorsed photos can sometimes be portrayed in a similar way to traditional corporate advertisements and do not come across as truthful. According to Presi et al. (2016, p.1817), consumers prefer to see “snapshot-like aesthetics with high authenticity and staged spontaneity”, hence some consumers may not appreciate celebrity selfies. Additionally, it is important to consider that consumer decisions could also be affected by many other factors, such as price and shopping experience.

The action of taking selfies can be categorised into active customer participation and passive customer participation. Consumers are no longer passive recipients of corporate communication but active contributors to marketplace conversations. This is beneficial for Own-Kind, as it requires active users to take selfies and upload them on the app. Users of Own-Kind can upload their photos to be edited and these selfies can be further spread on social media platforms. Moreover, the increase in consumer-taken brand selfies not only affects followers but also contributes to brand image (Ehlin, 2014; Rokka and Canniford, 2016). However, they elicit a consumer point of view and are a tool to increase engagement between the consumer and the brand (Kwon and Sung, 2011; Tsai and Men, 2013). The more the brand responds to the consumer’s post, the more likely the selfie-taker will post about the same brand again. Nonetheless, these selfies could interfere with brand meanings that have been carefully constructed by marketing managers (Kedzior et al., 2016). This can result in the consumer’s posts about the brand contradicting the original brand strategy, which will affect how consumers view the product and make decisions about it.

How can marketers capitalise effectively on this behaviour?

To reiterate, there has been an increase in consumer-controlled technology and active participants online. Therefore, more consumers are contributing to building brand communication and meanings by taking selfies (Kedzior et al., 2016). Marketers need to understand that the role of the consumer has changed, and that selfie-taking is a crucial part of this. Consequently, they need to incorporate this change in their marketing strategies and capitalise effectively on it.

Factors that are highly associated with selfies include self-esteem, happiness, and narcissism and are prominent in the fashion industry. Therefore, fashion marketers can take advantage of selfie-taking behaviour by developing strategies for selfie-based apps such as Own-Kind. Since 16% of millennials are more narcissistic than Generation X and baby boomers (SYZYGY, 2016), and therefore Own-Kind marketers are targeting millennial consumers. Own-Kind also targets Generation Z, as they are the first generation that digitally integrated into mobile marketing and engagement with brands online (Priporas et al., 2017). Furthermore, Generation Z enjoys taking selfies regularly and has similar values to the brand. The main concern for females is that they take a long time deciding what to wear each day and they aim to be stylish. There is also a concern about how the fashion industry is detrimental to the environment. Hence, Own-Kind’s mission is to maximise products in the closet and reduce the pollution of the fast fashion cycle. The proliferation of the digital environment allows consumers to utilise their social networks and achieve online communication (Belk, 2013). Therefore, Own Kind should leverage selfies as the leading element in product optimisation and content strategy.

Brands act as social indicators for what a person believes in and associates with. Since consumers prefer to use products that help construct and validate their digital identity, Own-Kind marketers should create a community environment on the app and its social media platforms, where users’ online profile and consumption choices will be validated by others. On the other hand, as Own-Kind marketers developing their business strategy, it is essential to take into consideration to relate selfie-taking behaviour into further decisions.

What recommendations would you give the client?

Based on the selfie activity in the Own-Kind community, data about what brands users like and dislike can be gathered. Consequently, Own-Kind should garner partnerships with successful sustainable fashion brands to deliver personalised content to its users. This is an advantageous arrangement for both parties because the brands will be confident that the right target is approached, and Own-Kind will be certain that the brands it is in partnership with will be attractive to users.

In addition to brand partnerships, influencer marketing should be part of the strategy because it adds to the online brand community. By building partnerships with influencers, Own-Kind will develop strong relationships with the influencer’s followers. However, Own-Kind marketers should be selective in their celebrity choices and ensure they are a suitable fit for the brand otherwise they could harm the brand image. Marketers must also be careful when deciding how to deliver influencer content. Consumers prefer to see high-quality, personal and spontaneous content, so the celebrities could take selfies that are deliberately out of focus, taken in a personal setting, or framed in an interesting way to make the image appear authentic (Kedzior et al., 2016). This type of selfie gives viewers a window into the private lives of public figures, making celebrities more accessible and relatable, which appeals to consumers. Particularly, Own-Kind should create relationships based on the core value of the company; sustainability. On Instagram and YouTube, influencers should publish content portraying sustainable outfits they have created with the app. By doing this, Own-Kind’s brand image could be used to enhance the reputation of the influencer, while consumers have the opportunity to access content that raises environmental awareness.

Selfie-taking contests on social media platforms are another beneficial way to increase consumer engagement with the product because it would motivate the target to take selfies and tag the brand using handles and hashtags (Gannon and Prothero, 2016; Rokka and Canniford, 2016). Own-Kind should launch its own “Own-Kind Challenge”, for which consumers must take a selfie featuring an outfit consisting of the most exciting items in their digital wardrobe. The person with the winning post should receive a private styling session or a similar reward. This would be mutually beneficial for the brand and the consumer because the consumer’s need for attention and exposure would be satisfied, and the brand would gain greater brand awareness.

Finally, Own-Kind should frequently post content on its Instagram page, which is aesthetically pleasing, easy to understand and highly authentic in order to appeal to consumers (Presi et al., 2016). It should portray the different online and offline Own-Kind events, various styling tips, and a testimonial video. Marketers should recognise the significance of storytelling (Farace et al., 2017) and use the content to tell the brand story in an engaging way. This can be in the form of first-person stories or third-person narrative representations. First-person stories result in greater electronic word-of-mouth, for instance, captioning (Gannon and Prothero, 2016; Farace et al., 2017) and tagging in selfies (Gannon and Prothero, 2016; Rokka and Canniford, 2016). In doing this, followers may be encouraged to take more selfies of items in their wardrobes and consequently use the Own-Kind app more frequently.


All things considered, the development of photo technology and social media platforms has prompted millennials and Generation Z to express themselves and share special moments of their lives online. A selfie as a symbolic motivation influences interaction among people and manipulates their “looking glass self”. Selfies can also be regarded as an extension of reality, which expands people’s presence in the digital environment as well as triggering a group-on phenomenon. Moreover, people use selfies to portray their beliefs and shopping preferences through storytelling and narrative representations. These selfies generally include a specific brand or product that users are closely associated with. Advanced communication has a value-expressive function that can help Own-Kind oversee and improve its brand market performance, by developing strategies based on selfie-taking behaviour. It is recommended that Own-Kind should create a sense of community in the app to allow users to interact with others. In addition, it should capitalise on user preference data in order to focus its resources on the development of social media content and Instagram challenges. This will result in attracting prospective consumers, which helps expand the target base of Own-Kind.


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