Say you run a test kitchen for a fast-food franchise and you're trying to figure out your customer base: who they are, what they're eating, where they grab
a bite on the run.
You will only get so far pushing online polls or distributing survey cards in take-out bags. Pay your customers to take a selfie, however, and you might be
surprised at how much information you can gather.
"The level of detail we can get from a picture is so much greater than a survey," says Alexander Blair, owner of Freshii 1871 in Chicago. Blair also runs the Canadian fast food firm's test kitchen in the Windy City.
As brands go crazy pushing selfie campaigns, a new app called Pay Your Selfie allows consumers to earn from 10
cents to $1 apiece taking photo assignments that, coincidentally, also provide companies with marketing data.
When the value of the selfies reaches $20, Pay Your Selfie cuts a check for the customer. Alternatively, they can donate the cash to charity.
Insights, not just product plugs
The goal goes beyond the usual one of getting people to post photos plugging a product on social media. Rather, it is to gather information about the
customers and their surroundings.
Pay Your Selfie was launched last year by Chicago entrepreneurs Michelle Smyth and Kristen Holman, drawing positive attention in the Chicago Tribune and Crain's Chicago Business. Customers
like earning cash for posting selfies, while Pay Your Selfie delivers impressions to brands because it reaches out to consumers with a what's-in-it-for-me
deal, Smyth says.
"We're delivering insights, and brands spend millions of dollars looking for point-of-engagement and to better understand their consumers," Smyth say. "We
hope to bring them closer to their consumers with the insights from selfies."
Consider Crest toothpaste, which was promoting a new line called 3D White Brilliance. Pay Your Selfie asked customers, "What kind of Crest do you brush
with? Show us your brush up with Crest."
This provided data to Crest by product line, with a glimpse of who was using what. Some were frothing up with Crest's new product, and others were using
Other vital details emerged. Ladies, get this: "We showed that 11 percent of men are brushing their teeth shirtless," Smyth says. "We saw a lot of
glistening shoulders right out of the shower.
"In a certain way it's like getting into people's home and seeing them in their bathrooms, sometimes with their families, sometimes with their spouses and
partners. We really get a sense of who they are and how they engage with that product."
Freshii, which emphasizes healthy eating, asked people how they eat fast and healthy on the go. Selfies popped up with pictures of yogurt, protein bars,
fresh fruit and, er, "healthy" doughnuts.
Freshii could see what people define as healthful ("Are a lot of people eating Snickers?" Blair pondered) and whether they prefer liquid foods such as
smoothies over handfuls of blueberries. Freshii saw people posting from the gym or while out riding their bikes.
"Are they all on the CTA [the Chicago Transit Authority train]?" says Blair. "Are they all driving their cars? Are they all walking? Are they jogging to
work? Are they biking to work? What type of gym they do they work out in? I mean, the amount of that information we can get from a selfie and the
background ... it's pretty amazing."
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The company drew conclusions from this. If everyone stays healthy on the go by drinking a protein shake, Blair says, that's a strong indication Freshii
ought to offer a protein shake.
To keep fans engaged, Pay Your Selfie occasionally pays for selfies just for the fun of it. One campaign asked, "Trump or no Trump?," and drew passionate responses. (The Donald turns out not
to be big among Pay Your Selfie users.) On Halloween, users could earn a buck posting a costume picture.
Naturally, brands using Pay Your Selfie appreciate it when photos of their products end up on social media. Smyth says, "We think selfies are happiest when
they're shared." Still, the primary value comes in different ways.
Smyth told the Tribune about Zipfit Denim, a tailor-fit men's jeans retailer that offers quirky assignments, such as "Take a picture of your worst jeans
"We see holes," she told the newspaper. "We see acid wash and trends that that have been long gone. As soon as they take that picture, we bounce back an
inbox message giving them 10 percent off their next purchase."
One other advantage is that Pay Your Selfie doesn't simply rely on drumming up enthusiasm among people who are already fans of the brand. You don't need to
be a follower of Crest to participate in its selfie campaign.
Most of all, Smyth says, people are having fun.
"What we're seeing is that our user community is really enthusiastic," she says, "and they're sticking with us month over month, because they think that