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This summer, get ready to hear a lot about Pinterest. According to Bloomberg, the company is planning to kick off its first-ever U.S. advertising campaign this summer, including ads on billboards and in magazines. But don’t expect to see or hear the words “social network” in any of those ads.
Pinterest is in the visual discovery business
That’s because Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann has been making the point, over and over again, that “Pinterest isn’t a social network.” Instead, he prefers to say that the company is in the “visual discovery business” or that Pinterest is a “visual search engine.” In short, Pinterest is not a place to hang out with friends – it’s a place to get inspired and to come up with great ideas for your life.
And, to back up that idea, Pinterest is getting rid of the “like” button on pins. You can still save pins to a collection, but you can’t press that tiny red heart to “like” them. According to Pinterest, that’s because it was just too confusing for users – they weren’t sure whether it was better to “like” or “save” a pin. And, says Pinterest, there’s more engagement on any pin without a “like” button on it.
That sounds plausible enough, but is there a bigger story here? Some have suggested that Pinterest might be trying to distance itself as far as possible from Facebook ahead of a (speculated) IPO in late 2017 or early 2018. Just as Snapchat downplayed its social networking features when it prepared for an IPO, telling anyone who would listen that it was a camera company, Pinterest appears to be making an early pivot as well.
From that perspective, the last thing that Pinterest wants is for investors to compare them to Facebook. And, moreover, they don’t want to encourage Instagram to come in and crush them. Already, Instagram is working on features that would emulate some of the best features of Pinterest, such as the ability to save photos into a collection for later inspiration.
But even calling itself a “visual search engine” comes with its set of difficulties. Google, anyone? After all, Google is now working on a “shoppable photos” function that would surely intrude on Pinterest’s business.
What Pinterest and Nike have in common
That’s why Pinterest isn’t messing around with its U.S. advertising campaign. According to Bloomberg, they’ve signed up Janet Champ, the creative director behind some famous Nike campaigns in the 1990s (many of them featuring women). Details haven’t been firmed up, but one angle that’s being considered is that the ads will focus on users going from “dreaming about life” to “designing it.”
Is it just me, or does that sound like “Just Do It” for social media? No doubt, the ads will show the world’s top creative people using Pinterest for inspiration, and then there will be a clever tagline (“Just pin it!”).
Can Pinterest pull it off? Surely, the window of opportunity is narrowing. Twitter has gone public, and so has Snapchat. It would only make sense for Pinterest to follow as soon as it can. This summer could be critical for the company’s future success.