Brands frequently try to blur the lines between authentic fun and purposeful advertisement. Their recent participation on BeReal is more of the same, and the inevitable cringe isn’t what we’re most worried about.
It more so begs the question: Should brands try to enter spaces we have specifically carved out for real authenticity and connection?
BeReal is a social platform that debuted in early 2020 and gained mass popularity in 2022 amassing over 28 million downloads.*
Every day, users are notified to post their “BeReal” at a randomly occurring time. This means simultaneously taking an unfiltered front and back photo within a 2-minute time frame. The app, of course, encourages you to be real about what you post (i.e., what’s genuinely occurring at that moment in time). These candid posts lead to impromptu interactions — once you’ve posted you can use RealMojis to react and comment on friends’ posts. However, “likes” are nonexistent on BeReal, a key point of distinction.
If you miss the 2-minute window you can still post late and notify your friend list… while creating speculation that you may be fabricating your daily routines to appear an infinitely more interesting mortal than your friends. Each day a new notification occurs, erasing previous feeds and providing room for fresh glimpses into your friends’ day-to-day.
Maybe you’re asking questions (as we did) like, “uh, what if it is just my desk and me slurping coffee every day?”. If so, fret not, as it’s the celebration of these mundane realities that have likely sparked the app's adoption and interest with users.
It's a fun, different, non-glamorized form of social media. The app has cleverly diverged from commonly used traps like the addictive infinite scroll, video-reel content structure, and camouflaged brand promotions increasingly inescapable on other platforms. In fact, the app's terms and conditions patently restrict using the app for advertising or commercial purposes, extending to influencer marketing. And while sustained growth may one day depend on similar tools of monetization, it doesn’t look probable in the near future.
BeReal has based its appeal on creating content scarcity and encouraging unwavering authenticity. We suspect continued short-term growth will be dependent on sticking to those values.
It appears that users currently see BeReal as a supplemental option, rather than a replacement for other existing social media. According to the Global Web Index, the average number of social media accounts a Millennial or Gen Zer has is 8.4 worldwide.
But with big buzz (like a hit skit on SNL), a fast-growing user base, and a world of intrepid marketers, we’re at what feels like a tempting moment in time for brands to jump on board.
In fact, some have:
- Chipotle gave discounts, before maxing the total number of followers the app allows
- E.l.f. Cosmetics gave codes for free products to early followers
- PacSun showcased the behind-the-scenes of photoshoots
- Trident and Sour Patch Kids launched a new product and collaboration using a tweet with the format
But the question worth asking is, should other brands be quick to do so?
Notably, the aforementioned brands have already found major success in connecting with younger cohorts, as well as establishing themselves on TikTok’s platform. Gen Z and young millennials make up the majority of both TikTok and BeReal’s user bases, and we should consider that this tech-savvy audience is very driven by authenticity and quick to admonish superficiality. Which, again, “be real” is the name of the game.
So while these early examples are entertaining and objectively successful it's worth a second look at the content– E.l.f. and Chipotle provided compelling giveaways and offers. Not all brands are willing (or need) to do so for their sales and promotion. PacSun and others may have the benefit of being the early adopter where “behind the scenes” content, or a comical interpretation of the app’s interface, still feels engaging, creative, and fresh.
But as the novelty begins to wear off (see various corporate Twitter accounts’ ability to end popular memes), one may suggest that the next wave of brands may be the harbingers of some inevitable cringe.
Admittedly, there are a few unknowns.
Will BeReal monetize and begin to accept advertising revenue? Will brands on the app continue to post? Will other brands adopt the iconic “BeReal dual photo frame” without ever physically being on the app? How will users react to more brands joining?
What we do know is BeReal deploys one of the more up-front and personal uses of technology social media have seen. Its motto is “Your Friends for Real”, and it has positioned itself as an antidote to typical (and at times draining) social media platforms. The app’s allure is based on its spontaneity. Its authentic personality and lighthearted stance to content are convincing — and rejecting brands, ads, and filters on the platform have contributed greatly to that.
So, for brands on the outside looking in — we think it might be alright to stay there.