Can Pinterest work for you? Don’t hold your breath.

Feb 17, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Uncategorized

The recent explosion of Pinterest popularity begs the obvious question for marketers:

How can we use Pinterest to sell our stuff?

Here’s the answer: Unless you’re in retail, you probably can’t.

That’s the truth.

Here’s why: It’s critical to understand what Pinterist is and is not. For marketing purposes, it’s high emotion retail. It’s lifestyle-oriented hard goods. It’s stuff that pinners think makes them look cool.

Let’s set aside key Pinterest elements like recipes, inspirational quotes, humorous cartoons and dog/cat/travel photography. Chances are, you aren’t trying to sell those. (And if you’ve figured out how to monetize those things, you sure as hell aren’t reading this blog.)

If we focus on what’s left, it falls into four main categories:

Cool. Cute. Inspirational. Funny.

Does your product mix contain something in any of those categories? Don’t rationalize or stretch the truth to suit your own interests. Honestly answer the question. Do NOT be like the guy from a medical devices company who asks, “I wonder if we can use Pinterest to sell our products.”

Hell, even the veritable Brian Clark (of Copyblogger fame) can’t resist pandering to Pinterest. (That’s OK, Brian. You’re still cool.)

I’m all in favor of creative thinking and finding ways to solve problems, but come on. Medical devices on Pinterest? Um, no. Unless you’re looking for giant pile of scorn and hate.

Professor Christopher Long, as quoted in Fast Company, explains it like this:

“Pinterest boards are like its users’ personal happiness collages. [They represent] things that I appreciate, that I desire, and that express who I am, whether the things are cupcakes, shirtless David Beckham, or an inspirational quotation.”


Spend 15 objective minutes with Pinterest and it’s clear that many of the pins are for commercial products, magazines, cookbooks, blogs and more. But what makes it work is that users don’t feel like they’re victims of a hard sell or some robotically placed ad.

So in that sense, it’s best to reframe the question. If you want success on Pinterest, don’t ask “What can Pinterest do for me?” The real question is, “What can I contribute to the core mission of Pinterest?” And THAT requires empathy, something many marketers just don’t have.


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