Above: Some Instagram posts tagged with the search term #mycalvins. Credit: Instagram.


The Instagram hashtag-orientated fashion campaign of Spring 2016, #mycalvins, mounted by Calvin Klein, is a textbook exemplar of a successful modern fashion advertising-promotion using the photo-led micro-blogging service. The promotion encouraged any Instagram-user to become an unpaid co-opted photographer in the campaign. Each photo added (the current figure is 619000) is a mini, single-image, Calvin Klein photo-shoot. The participating user needs only their smartphone, and, of course, a branded Calvin Klein garment--preferably underwear. The photo shared--with the all-important hashtag--will usually be a selfie, depicting the owner wearing their trusted garment. A campaign such as this reconfigures the end-user (retail customer) as a willing participant in the marketing-and-promotion of the brand. The customer's positive interest in the marque is harnessed in a format of advertising which creates an ongoing flow of engaged amateur images.

The advertising promotion has to begin with a spark or charge to set-the-ball-rolling, and in the case of #mycalvins, this was achieved by the brand paying a number of celebrities to make the first "master images"--a few archetypes that all later lay-posters followed to some degree. These "masters" are comparable to the standard fashion-ad "hero" images--the intention is that they are endlessly mimiced, copied, and impersonated. In the case of the 2016 #mycalvins promotion, paid-for celebrities depicting themselves included Justin Bieber, and others.

The success of any such campaign depends on this flash of the initial spark (the lighting of the touch-paper of the firecracker) taking hold and capturing the interest of Insta-users. The force of #mycalvins is that it tends to allow an opportunity for the participant to present the underwear garment but also proudly show-off their toned, tan, shapely, etc. body. As Stephanie Leo, Design Creative at Truly Deeply, in Melbourne, has commented: "These unpaid, authentic posts endorsing the brand are an extremely powerful way to interact with young people, far more effective than the more-obviously-paid-for influencer posts, or a printed advert ... The [initial celebrity-endorsement] images are relatively candid and have a sense of intimacy, setting a tone for the thousands of photos linked to the hashtag."

For this Calvin Klein advertising campaign there were 619000 photographers involved--all unpaid, and no image-licensing fees required.

(10 September 2018)