Some people like to follow food brands on Instagram, others are interested in fashion. For some reason, I seem to have a slightly unhealthy obsession with stationery.

Niche, I know. But it seems I’m not the only one. The hashtag #stationery has over 2 million posts on Instagram, with big brands including Primark and ASOS also jumping on the ‘stationery porn’ bandwagon.

So, why can’t social media get enough of the stuff? And what are these brands doing to delight and engage users online? Let’s delve into the topic a little more.

1. Inject personality & humour

While Instagram is often used for inspirational content – perhaps to motivate users to get fit or eat healthily – a lot of people look to it purely for entertainment purposes. 

According to research, entertaining content is one of the top four reasons people follow brands online, alongside other factors like customer service and product information. Brands that can elicit a chuckle or even just provoke a smile are instantly more memorable, meaning customers are probably more likely to follow them long-term.

As well as being a stationery retailer, Ohh Deer also describes itself as a platform for illustrators, using artwork by artists like Gemma Correll and Cat Faulkner. Capitalising on pop culture references and relatable humour, Ohh Deer often posts images of these illustrations on Instagram. 

These posts are ideal for the platform, as not only do they promote the actual products sold by the retailer, but they also provide an instant impact – perfect for users scrolling through their feed.

Of course, humorous stationery is not Ohh Deer’s only selling point, but these posts tend to stand out the most – resulting in consistent levels of engagement for the brand.

2. Nod towards nostalgia

Scientific studies have shown that feelings of sentimentality and nostalgia can increase people’s willingness to buy desired objects – mainly due to the sense of connectedness this kind of emotion generates.

We’ve seen many brands capitalise on nostalgia in marketing campaigns before, including the likes of Pepsi and Nokia. It’s also a popular tactic for increasing engagement social media, with stationery brands such as London-based company Present and Correct using it to tap into people’s fondness for the past.

The brand mainly sells vintage-inspired stationery which – in its own words – is inspired by ‘things we have enjoyed from school’. As a result, its uses Instagram to evoke the same memories in users, including nostalgic images of old-fashioned school supplies such as rubbers, pencil cases, and staplers.

In turn, the brand naturally increases feelings of warmth of positivity (assuming the memories are positive, that is) – which, as I previously mentioned, is helpful for prompting online purchases.

3. Create an aesthetic

The most popular channels on Instagram (both in terms of brands and influencers) tend to have one thing in common, regardless of industry or genre. They all have a theme.

This doesn’t necessarily mean posting similar photos about the same subject matter, but rather, creating an aesthetic or particular style using a specific colour palette. The reason this works well on Instagram is that is helps to establish a brand, making it instantly recognisable to followers.

Kikki.K – the Swedish stationery company – is a great example of this. Its Instagram channel uses a pastel and gold colour theme. 

However, this is just its current strategy. When scrolling further down its feed, we can see how it has subtly and slowly changed this over time. 

The simplicity of Kikki.K’s imagery is also another important factor. Deliberately steering clear of clutter, is uses a minimalistic style to reflect the idea of a fresh start – something that is often associated with a new notebook. 

4. Tap into trends

Minimalism seems to be having a moment, a fact also demonstrated by the recent popularity of books such as The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and The Curated Closet.

Unsurprisingly, it is an incredibly popular trend on Instagram, with the hashtag often being used by design and home interior brands.

Japanese brand Muji is built around a similar minimalist aesthetic, using this to appeal to US consumers amid recent international expansion. While its online presence is also rather ‘less is more’ – with the brand having a strict ‘no advertising’ policy – it does have a social media presence. 

As you might expect, it capitalises on the growing Instagram trend for de-cluttering, particularly using it in relation to its stationery and organisational products.

It uses hashtags like #storage and #organize to make its content more discoverable via search.

This tactic also encourages user-generated content, with customers naturally using the same hashtags when uploading their Muji purchases (and the results of their organisation and planning efforts).

5. Capitalise on seasonal events

Seasonal or timely events can help brands boost engagement on Instagram. As well as piquing general interest, this is also because popular hashtags tend to relate to specific times of the year – think #pumpkinspicelatte near Halloween or #firstdayofsummer in June.

Paperchase uses seasonal events like this as the basis of its Instagram strategy, mainly capitalising on its greetings card and gifting vertical to do so. Its feed showcases the best of its seasonal product range, such as cards for Father’s Day or Valentine’s. And much like Kikki.K, it also uses colour and design to continue the theme. 

Paperchase doesn’t just capitalise on the most obvious holidays, either. It also targets general audience demographics, such as kids going back to school or people likely to attend summer weddings.

It even jumps on niche trends such as unicorns or llamas to generate interest through associated hashtags. Who knew 'unicorn party' was a thing?

6. Create context

Lastly, while a lot of the aforementioned examples showcase their products on shelves or in-stores, Smythson uses Instagram to showcase them as part of a wider, more luxury-driven lifestyle.

It mainly does this by partnering with social media influencers as well as other brands in the verticals of fashion and lifestyle.

With research by MuseFind suggesting that 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement, it’s no surprise that brands from all industries are using the strategy.

By choosing a certain kind of influencer – a luxury fashion blogger for example – Smythson ensures that it builds on its brand’s high-end and exclusive nature.

Finally, by showcasing stationery items including invitations and famous notebooks alongside other categories like luggage, it is also able to cross-sell to customers and instil desire for the wider brand.

Related reading:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 8 August, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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