Idea Development Trends: Insta-Culture

Jun 16, 2020 | Innovation

Insta-Culture or Instagram Culture is perhaps the youngest emerging internet-induced subculture out there. With the app itself only a decade old and the era of influencer that ensued years after its inception – Instagram has created one of the most wide-reaching phenomenons in modern history. An app that was created primarily for creating beautiful photos taken from a phone has now turned into an app with over 800 million users including every major brand, organization, celebrity, politician and more.

But what does Insta-Culture have to do with innovation? Everything.

TL;DR: Instagram created a global culture – and consumers –  that define what’s next.

Insta-Culture B.C. (before COVID)

But first, a little history: Let’s get into the old Instagram, before everything as we knew it changed. It was full of “Swipe ups!”, and “#ads” by influencers to promote everything from vitamin gummies to this season’s hottest new biker shorts. We know this because we may or may not have bought said shorts. However, Insta-Culture drives so much of consumer demand that it has essentially defined new products and services – all in the name of ‘pleasing aesthetics’. A.k.a., If it photographs well, it sells well.

Brilliant insight: Buy BEFORE you Try: nearly 90% of consumers DO NOT need to try a product see first on Instagram before purchasing it. The beautiful and carefully curated world of Instagram is fertile ground for a brand to connect directly with consumers and sell them pretty versions of nearly everything – from water bottles to kitchen utensils and even gorgeous garden hoses.

Instagram in Crisis

More than just an ad platform…

Sure it’s true that Instagram brings in over a billion dollars in ad revenue alone each year but Instagram and the culture that was created by it has become so much more than a place to shop for consumer products and follow lifestyle influencers. 2020 has shown everything in a new perspective and Instagram is no exception. The culture before 2020 was about the filters, the edits, the highlight, the brand names, the amount of likes/shares/comments and all the vain things wrong with the internet in 2020.

Without even trying though, Insta-culture morphed into something else entirely – something with more purpose and meaning. And through it, we are seeing innovations we never expected. And that’s  great, considering the fact that people are spending more of their time than ever before on social media apps.



One thing we’ve seen in the last few weeks is a new way to protest – and while Facebook might be the place for the rants of our conservative uncles, Instagram has been the place for action-ensuing content. Not only that, the use of hashtags has created virtual resource centers for those wanting to protest in real life. In the blink of an eye, users went from sharing giveaway posts and videos of their personal lives to posts that state their stance on issues like the COVID-19 and more recently George Floyd.

What does this mean in terms of innovation? We think it means that Instagram is the new “town square”. Instagram may never have intended this but the app has given people a new way to stand up for what they believe in and in a creative way.

Everything old is new again. Virtual Protesting is another version of Slacktivism, a term first coined in 1995 at a, wait for, festivale. More on Slacktivism here.

Question for the Community: Should brands create products that are “instagrammable” and also an act of protest? Are their products and services already doing this? We want to know – tell us here. 

Make sure to check out our favorite examples of virtual protesting content from the last couple weeks:



With live entertainment at a standstill (thanks to a global pandemic), the quality and quantity of memes has really been a joy to see. The best part, is they’ve created a subculture all on their own about current issues, shows, products and more. The problem? They usually only offer a headline of a topic and it has given birth to a dangerous wave of “keyboard warriors” that get the entirety of their information from headlines alone. It’s turned every user into a health expert and civil rights professor all in a short few months.

Questions for the community:

  • Do you think that brands should create products with memes in mind? And what does that look like?
  • When it comes to innovation – how can brands help push for better content? Content that provides more well-rounded information?
  • Will better viral content create better products and services?




Is anyone else struggling with finding out that their favorite brands aren’t as woke as we want them to be? No? Just us? It seems like each week, we are finding that more and more people are feeling empowered in calling out brands for bad internal practices. Look at Reformation, Anthropology and the giant of all giants: Vogue. All have come under fire for their employer behavior and thanks to Instagram, the news of this cannot be covered up. The story breaks on Instagram first and then ends up on every major news outlet. When it comes to innovation, it seems as though the real opportunities are only going to be available to companies that have a clean reputation.

Thanks for reading this week’s Innovator – we are so grateful for your support. If you didn’t already know, the Cobalt platform is live!