Why brands should pay attention to Snapchat's gender swap filter

Snapchat's recent gender swap filter has taken the internet by storm, with many netizens using the filter to check out how they would look like as the opposite gender.

Its new AR lenses allow users to change their appearances to include traditionally male or female facial features. Celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Singaporean singer Benjamin Kheng, as well as England's cricket stars have also been using the app to show what they'd look like in the opposite gender. The move seems to give a boost to the company which has been seeing somewhat grey skies for its shares taking a hit last year.

While netizens are clearly getting a kick out of Snapchat's latest filter, advertisers can also leverage this to boost engagement, said industry players A+M spoke to. Ali Hajihashemi, strategy director of Lemonade, told A+M rolling out such features help Snapchat to capture data for future filters. With face recognition growing, this is "a new step" towards growing AR on the social platform.

He added that other types of data Snapchat can capture would be audience behaviour and retention towards the filter, which helps to optimise the platform's future rollouts so that there are customisable and personalised features for its audience.

"Besides, filters are collecting data that can help this sort of entertaining interactivity get better and connect the audience to the platform in a better way. Faces are just like fingerprints, we do not have exact same face in the total population of the world, so this data that is being gathered can be used to connect to particular interests that this audience has," he added. He also added that such new features enhance the content creation for brands. When audiences engage with these filters and a brand is able to leverage this, it enables the brand to be relatable which increases engagement and affinity.

"Furthermore, one of the essential pillars of advertising is interactivity. With interactivity, we can immerse the users better so that they can interact better, express themselves and create more content," Hajihashemi said. He added that users nowadays express themselves in the virtual world and feel more comfortable and connected by doing so. Hence, when brands engage with them through digital channels, consumer will feel less distant and are able to grasp the brand's message easier.

This move helps brands and Snapchat itself better understand users, which will in turn aid in optimising branded content. Hajihashemi said that social is all about people and brands need to speak the language of their audiences, which includes humorous initiatives such as the gender swap filter to bring a light-hearted feel towards social media.

Meanwhile, with advertisers constantly seeking ways to understand and cater to the younger audience, Reprise's client service director, Kim Chew, said the latest filter helps Snapchat garner more insights into the younger generation that is constantly evolving in their preferences and behaviours. "With better insights, advertisers can tailor communications as well as improve targeting based on platform capabilities such as branded filters and more," Chew added.

She also noted that Snapchat is losing relevance among younger audiences and the fun filter updates is a way for the platform to entice higher usage. While these types of filters give Snapchat a view of audience behaviour such as frequency of usage, time of usage and geo location insights which identifies where the app is used, Chew said that audiences today generally only access the app when there are new filter updates. At the end of the day, consumers still end up sharing content on other social platforms they prefer.

Just another short-lived filter gimmick?

Jeffrey Lim, former GM at Carbon Interactive/founder and managing director of 8traordinary, said Snapchat is at the stage of pivoting to retain users and recapture new ones after what many deemed it irrelevant and outdated. It has now turned into a content creation tool for social media users.

“This latest gender-swap filter appears to align with this new positioning. As a result Snapchat has a spike in daily download rankings (according to The Verge) ever since this filter took off,” he said. The increase in user base will hence translate into more data being captured and Lim added that the new boost in users also allows advertisers to now jump on Snapchat’s Snap Ads during this peak period.

“This also presents an opportune timing to target the Millennials and Gen Zs with an immersive branded message. On a more societal front, the app presents the community with the current view point/acceptance level of the society/community for trans culture to certain extent,” he added.

Also weighing in on the conversation is Red Havas Singapore's general manager, Kenny Yap, who said that while it might be too early to comment on the data aspect of the filter, it is definitely encouraging people to either reengage with the app or enabling Snapchat to attract new users to just try the filter out.

Preetham Venkky, director at KRDS echoed Lim saying this was Snapchat’s move to remain relevant but thinks its just a blip on its radar. “We're going to see some people use the filter or get bored with it as quickly as they adopted it. The end outcome is very singular in nature, you try it once or twice and there is no novelty associated with it. It continues to be a tool or a feature and nothing more,” he added.


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