Instagram truly hit its stride this past year, becoming the most popular social platform for image sharing. Whether you love to browse through photos of travel destinations, pictures of cats, or get new fashion inspiration, you know that Instagram is the place to go.

To honor the best of the best across a number of digital marketing categories, Firebrand Group (my firm) recently launched the Firestarter Awards. In the Instagram category, our panel of experts selected brands that have been firing on all cylinders: Emi-Jay, Nordstrom, Christian Louboutin, Petco, and Tourism Australia.

The Firestarter Award for Brand on Instagram was one that both everyday voters and experts seem to be particularly passionate about. Take Petco, for example. It's no surprise how much people adore their animals, and Petco has capitalized on this by sharing well-curated cute animal pics that consumers can't help but love. "Petco wins because they don't focus on their products, they focus on the thing their audience loves the most: their pets!" says Stacey Miller, Senior Social and Media Relations Manager at Cision. "This results in a significant amount of meaningful engagement."

When it comes to brand presentation, experts agree that Emi-Jay does a remarkable job promoting their products without over-selling. When you browse through their Instagram, you're not just looking at a list of products; you're getting an experience and a vibe of what it's like to be a part of their community.

"When consumers follow a brand, they don't want to constantly be pushed promotional images," shares Lara Nicotra, Marketing Manager at frozen yogurt chain 16 Handles. "Emi-Jay nails the lifestyle message with a great mix of product shots that are always a great representation of the brand--without looking overly produced. Then, they sprinkle in pictures like going on a hike or surfing, which I could see the 'Emi-Jay girl' doing."

As Lara points out, Instagram's most successful brands--such as Emi-Jay--understand that it's crucial to have a delicate balance of promotional versus lifestyle imagery. Nordstrom is another favorite, largely for its consistency and strong visual presence. It's clear they truly understand their audience and find ways to keep their online community connected and engaged.

"I love Nordstrom's social presence," said Karianne Stinson, Social Media Manager at "Their Instagram content is beautiful, fun, and aspirational. They have great brand consistency with a strong look you can see in all their images. But, it also feels attainable. It looks like the images fans are sharing on their own Instagram channels. Nordstrom conveys the lifestyle of the brand without being overly promotional."

Which one do you think deserves the #1 spot? To make your voice heard, visit from now until February 24th. Or, weigh in via the comments below. We'd love to know which brand you consider to be a true Firestarter.


Published on: Feb 13, 2015
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