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How Polaroid is using influencers to pitch analog imperfection to Gen Z 

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As the use of artificial intelligence and augmented reality filters continue to rise, Polaroid is pitching its products as relief from an overly digital world. 

The camera and film maker is working with influencers – both up-and-coming and established photographers – to tout the beauty of imperfection that comes from using its analog products. By working with a variety of influencers, the brand is seeking to appeal to younger generations like Gen Z while courting older generations who may be nostalgic for a time when they used Polaroids.  

“We’re surrounded by the digital world, by AI, and the ultra-filtered,” said Patricia Varella, Polaroid’s creative director, who added that the analog quality of the brand makes it unique. “We’re arriving at a moment where it makes sense for us to play in this real-life territory and talk about imperfections. Our product actually embraces that. It’s real.” 

The brand is working with 15 influencers including photographers like Edie Sunday, Andre D. Wagner and Thalía Gochez, among others. By working with photographers of various influence and experience, the brand aims to showcase not only the imperfections and creative possibilities that come from the analog perimeters of its products but also the use of its Generation 2 Polaroid Now+ and Now cameras.

It’s unclear how much the brand paid the influencers as it declined to disclose the details of its contracts.

“Given the challenge of working with Polaroid [film and cameras], everyone said yes to us,” said Varella, adding that working with analog products and embracing real-world limitations was appealing. “[Creators were interested] not just because we are Polaroid but [because they are] photographers embracing the analog experience of photography.” 

Aside from creating content that has appeared or will appear on Polaroid’s own digital properties, the brand has displayed the photographers’ creations in out-of-home ads in London, New York and Amsterdam. “We made a conscious decision to focus on out-of-home,” said Varella, who added that the brand’s in-house team viewed doing so an opportunity to “treat out-of-home media like an exhibition to show our photography.” 

It’s unclear how much Polaroid is spending on the effort. Throughout the first quarter of 2023, Polaroid spent $351,063 on advertising, according to data from Vivvix, including paid social data from Pathmatics. Per the companies, Polaroid spent $2.1 million on advertising in 2022, up from $1.4 million in 2021. 

Embracing imperfection as a pitch to Gen Z in particular makes sense to Eunice Shin, partner at Prophet, a growth strategy consulting firm. Shin explained that the initial appeal of TikTok was that it embraced imperfection and authenticity over the polish and curation of Instagram. “The element of authenticity is super important to Gen Z,” said Shin. “If you target and win Gen Z – you can’t treat them like a monolith though – if you get it right with them they’ll influence every other generation.” 

That said, while the pitch of imperfection and real-life experiences makes sense to Shin, she noted that the brand’s use of photographers rather than regular consumers may add a level of artifice and curation that Polaroid wasn’t necessarily looking to project.

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