Snapchat is seeking to distance itself from social media rivals in its new campaign, positioning itself as an “antidote” to other platforms.

“We’re not social media, we’re Snapchat,” the company’s chief creative and marketing officer Colleen DeCourcy tells Marketing Week.

The platform, launched in 2011, is first and foremost used for messaging close friends, she states, citing statistics that three in four 13- to 24-year-olds in more than 25 countries are using Snapchat everyday to privately talk to their friends.

Snapchat’s message of difference has become particularly relevant in recent times, DeCourcy says. While there was a great deal of optimism and excitement about what social media could offer in its early days, she notes some drawbacks have become apparent in recent years, such as the pressure young people feel to accumulate likes and followers.

When Snapchat launched “people thought [it] was crazy” to focus on messaging rather than building a followership or soliciting reactions.

“We have made business choices around maintaining that,” DeCourcy says. “We felt that this moment was a moment where that difference was so clear, and the space that we were holding is so helpful and necessary.”

This seemed like a good moment to raise our flag and say, look, there is a place for you.

Colleen DeCourcy, Snapchat

There is also something of a “friendship recession” occurring, she says, where people are reporting fewer close friends in real life, with social media exacerbating feelings of isolation.

In recent years, the issues that social media can pose for users have become more apparent, and people have become more disillusioned with what those platforms offer.

“This seemed like a good moment to raise our flag and say, look, there is a place for you,” DeCourcy says.

The way Snapchat is doing this is through its first brand campaign in three years, ‘Less Social Media. More Snapchat’. The TV ad will first air during the Grammys in the US on Sunday (4 February). In the UK the campaign will be rolled out across out-of-home, digital and other social channels.

‘Breaking through with our ethos’

When it comes to judging the success of the campaign, Snapchat will firstly be “listening into the conversation” to gauge whether it is “breaking through with the ethos” of the platform, DeCourcy says.

It will look at traditional measures like brand lift and message breakthrough, but ultimately it wants users to turn to Snapchat more.

“We really do want people to do less of the other things and more of this, it’s to show people that there is an alternative to traditional social media that offers connection, happiness, and fun,” DeCourcy notes.

With its brand campaign, Snapchat will look to speak to users to remind them of the reasons they are on the platform in the first place.

“Our community is always first and foremost… we want them to remember proudly why they’re there and we want other people to understand why they’re there,” says DeCourcy.

Snapchat’s “community” skews young. The company claims that in more than 25 countries, Snapchat reaches over 90% of 13- to 24-year-olds, and more than 75% of 13- to 34-year-olds.

It’s not just the younger generation that Snapchat is looking to reach with the campaign, with DeCourcy stating that it wants to “talk to everyone”.

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“We want the people around [Snapchat’s users] to understand that there’s real support and benefit you can bring by being there with them,” she says.

While the platform has sought to set itself apart from social media, a campaign essentially calling attention to the shortcomings of a category that most would class it in is not without risk.

“We just think that the net benefit is worth the risk,” says DeCourcy. She is confident that Snapchat, a brand set up to be different, can withstand scrutiny.

“We invite those questions. We know that this is a campaign that will make people go ‘wait a minute’, which is exactly what you want when you’re trying to help people change behaviour and make something better,” she says.

Bigger than a campaign

While Snapchat is using its first brand campaign to place emphasis on its differences versus competitors. The goal of creating “something better” goes beyond just one brand campaign, DeCourcy stresses.

“The company will continue to work really closely, like we always do, with law enforcement, with parents to let people know that we’ve designed Snapchat with protections and the goal of making it safe for the vast majority of teens who use our app, so we’re doing more than just an advertising campaign,” she says.

The goals of the campaign are in line with the ambitions of the organisation, she states.

“This is the mission that drives us. We have a goal as a company, to enhance real relationships between friends, between family and that world that they inhabit together,” DeCourcy states.

Fundamentally, if a company is being responsible to its users, if it’s doing something that adds value, then that company will thrive.

Colleen DeCourcy, Snapchat

In terms of how this “mission”, and Snapchat’s decision to emphasise it in this campaign, ties into commercial goals for the business as a whole, DeCourcy says it makes sense that a company sticking to these values will drive success.

“Fundamentally, if a company is being responsible to its users, if it’s doing something that adds value, then that company will thrive,” she says.

The choices that the business has made since 2011 have prioritised its “values”, she says.

“We have made our choices […] we have limited in some instances, or at least, carefully tracked our business growth, in order to stay in compliance with this set of values that we held from day one,” she says. “We do combine this mission with our business success and we balance both things in the mix all the time.”