Aspirational Marketing: Does It Actually Work?

Instagram has changed the face of marketing for good. Since its inception as the aspirational, inspirational platform favored by millennials and even a few Baby Boomers, Instagram has become a go-to for aspirational marketers.

What exactly does aspirational marketing mean? Think of the last influencer that came up on your feed. Perched on the edge of an infinity pool overlooking some exotic ocean, clad in a designer bikini, wearing designer sunglasses, and drinking a designer cocktail. Sound about right?

In most cases, these posts are 100 percent paid for by brands who want the influencer to achieve this aesthetic in their photo. Meanwhile, the thousands of users clicking the “like” button have idealized the image they see, equating that dreamy, globetrotting lifestyle with success.

And that’s how the brands obtain new customers. By showing them what their life could look like — if they just had the right product to accomplish the goal.

While this marketing tactic is effective, it can also be less than genuine. Aspirational marketing works, but it should not work at the expense of the self-esteem of the customer.

How does a brand balance this, then?

First, aspirational marketing relies heavily on aesthetic and, by association, influencers. So the selection of the right look is an important first step.

What does this brand want the customer to aspire to be? More attractive? More fit? More financially stable? More intelligent? Ask these questions as they pertain to the brand’s product or service.

Let’s use the example of a brand marketing a new travel guide. Travel has become a trendy topic, except many travelers are now more attracted to immersive experiences over tourist hot spots.

This is where having a solid aesthetic comes into play. A brand marketing immersive, “locals only” travel would go off-brand by posting photos of smiling families at Disney World or a tourist bus crossing to Niagara Falls.

Remember: the goal is to entice users to visualize themselves experiencing what the brand is attempting to sell.

This concept comes in handy when selecting influencers, too. For a travel brand seeking a “locals only” feel, selecting influencers who work only with mainstream brands may not be the best choice. Perhaps going with a more “off the beaten path” influencer will be more fruitful.

The balancing act here is not to make the user feel alienated by these wonderful, aspirational images. Rather, the key word here is in the title: aspirational. The imagery should inspire the user to take action so that they can take steps to somehow improve their current life.

So there is a fine line. Baiting users into buying products under false premises of weight loss or beautiful skin, for example, is ingenuine and downright cruel. However, painting a picture of a healthier lifestyle boosted by a supplement, or a more freestyle life complete with more travel, is more appropriate when it comes to aspirations. The goal is to inspire the reader to take action for an attainable goal, not to make them have false expectations.

Aspirational marketing is often done wrong, causing people to lose trust in the brand due to misleading or false advertising. So walk that tightrope and make an effort to connect with the audience, to make them feel emotions, to inspire them to take action. This will be a rewarding way to integrate aspirational marketing into a brand’s strategy.

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