What is Ephemeral Marketing?

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on May 14, 2016

Imagine a marketing campaign that lasts less than 24 hours or an advertisement that is created to last for just 10 seconds and then it vanishes so that no one can see it. Ever heard of exclusive marketing? This all sounds weird, right? Advertisement is supposed to grab as many eyeballs as possible. Marketing campaign is supposed to last much longer than 24 hours and more the number of people your campaign reaches the better it is supposed to be. Well, welcome to the world of Ephemeral marketing.

Ephemeral, literally, means “lasting for a very short time” or “something that has a very short lifecycle”. Ephemeral marketing is messaging or content means the content or messages that are visible for a limited period after which they disappear. Ever since the dawn of social media platforms, social life has changed. It got recorded and more permanent. How many times have you gone through your history and found some moments which embarrassed you so much that you wished they disappeared. Not anymore. With advent of ephemeral messaging you get back your old social life. No more permanent embarrassments. The most popular platform for ephemeral messaging is Snapchat. It is an app that allows you to send snaps to your friends or stories to all your followers.

Image: pixabay

Snapchat was developed around three years ago and has gained exponential popularity over the years. It processes over 400 million daily snaps and boasts of about 100 million active monthly users. It is also among the top ten apps in both Android and iOs app stores. Snapchat has raised over $200 million in last year alone and is valued $10 billion dollars. Several startups and some established companies have created platforms similar to Snapchat. The apps are Wickr, Frankly, Cyber Dust, Blink (recently acquired by Yahoo) etc. Facebook has introduced its second attempt at ephemeral messaging and Apple is rumored to introduce one soon. Rise of social media was accompanied by rise in social media marketing. Similarly, ephemeral messaging has been accompanied by rise in number of marketers who have got onto this platform to share their messages and market their products and brands. Their reasoning is that it is easier to grab attention if you only ask a very short amount of their time.

There are various reasons as to why ephemeral messaging and as a result ephemeral marketing is on rise. Let’s have a look at them.

• Ephemeral Marketing filters the “noise”, eliminates the clutter and focuses only on what is important.

o Of course, when you have just ten seconds to say what you want to say you need to focus on only the important aspects.

• It offers real-time social media

o No longer do you need to go through messages that were months old or view advertisements about sales that got over a week ago. Here you get information about whatever is happening currently, the things happening now. You are being offered exclusive content that has an expiration date.

• It offers spontaneity.

o No more photoshopping the photo before they are sent. No more waiting for hours or even minutes before you get a response. Say, you are having a chat with your friend, the conversation is spontaneous something which got lost in messaging. With ephemeral messaging, you get back that spontaneity.

• Giving users control

o It allows users to decide whether a message will stay forever or will be gone within moments. It takes control back from the company about what to do with the message

While users use it as it gives them a feel real interaction where uttered words are rarely recorded and images are seldom saved, marketers use it as it is all about living in the now and brings back the feeling of something special meant for only certain special eyes. It allows brands to recreate the feeling of exclusivity.

Ephemeral messaging like social media can work wonders if it is integrated with the overall marketing strategy. As with social media it is to be used as an additional medium instead of the only medium. Only when it is integrated into the overall marketing strategy can it be more useful. Here are some ways in which marketers use ephemeral marketing.

• Using the platform’s fleeting photos and videos to give a brief “insider” view or a sneak preview so as to create a feeling of exclusivity.

• Offer quick discount and promotional offers.

• It is also used for live event marketing by encouraging the attendees to share pictures or videos live.

• Creating competitions based on such platforms

• Introducing new products

o McDonald’s used stories feature of Snapchat to creative an overarching storyline that unfolded its new product at the end

• Marketing customer experience

o Taco Bell has developed stories to not only promote new products but also showcase the customer experience of visiting the restaurant.

• Provide an insight into life at the company

o Mashable uses the platform to provide an insight into life at the company. It also creates challenges and competitions that encourage the users to get creative.

There are many more ways in which marketers can use this platform but most of them fall under two categories:

1. Increase awareness

2. Drive a specific marketing action

While ephemeral marketing provides several benefits there are certain limitations as well. One of the major problems is with performance management and monitoring. Consumer is not expecting ads but some relevant content. As the audience decides if and what it wants to see there is no guarantee that your content will be seen in its short lifespan. Also some campaigns can be such a success that a short lifespan may not be enough.


The rise of ephemeral messaging and marketing has led to several debates over whether it is a fad and set to disappear in a short time. Is it a fad? Well, there are certain indications that point otherwise. For one, huge amount of money is being invested into this platform as is evident from the valuations of many companies venturing into this domain. Something like this happened with Facebook and other social media as well. Next, most of users cite its similarity to real-life conversation as a reason for use. Finally, it is built upon technology that allows for divers usability. It has already integrated videos, photos, live events etc. and new integrations are being explored. Still, it is in its nascent stage and it is too early to comment upon it definitively. The trend in 2016 will give the picture a bit more clarity.

But for now, ephemeral marketing is on the rise and given the limited time that people have, less is more indeed.

This article has been authored by Harshil Patel from IIM Kashipur 


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