Why Researchers Should Show Interest in Pinterest


By Greg Heist, Vice President, Innovation, Gongos, Inc. & Kaylie Gerds, Research Manager, Gongos, Inc.

If you’re one of the few people who still thinks Pinterest is another way to say you’re passionate about bowling, we’re here to tell you that it’s not.  And you should probably type pinterest.com into your browser right now, set up an account and take a good, hard look at what’s going on.

And, if you don’t take our word for it, check out some impressive statistics to add credence to our appeal:

Pinterest achieved 10 million users faster than any privately owned site in history
In January of this year, only Facebook overshadowed it in terms of minutes spent per user – and it achieved this in less than 2 years since launch
TIME, Inc’s Real Simple magazine states that Pinterest drives more traffic to their site than Facebook

Pinterest also has some interesting demographics: 87% of users are women (evenly distributed between the ages of 25-54); 28% have annual household incomes over $100K.

So having set the “quantitative” stage, let’s venture into the softer side of the equation.  Behind all of those hours spent creating virtual cork boards and pinning images lies a passion that is palpable. It seems as though the words “love” and “Pinterest” roll off of users tongues as though they were meant for each other.

But it’s not just individuals that are raving fans of Pinterest.  Increasing numbers of companies are beginning to use Pinterest to create similar passion around their brands.

For example, Victoria’s Secret PINK recently ran a contest asking Pinterest users to submit boards containing images that represented a “PINK Summer.”  The winner (chosen from 15,000 entries) won a $250 shopping spree to the store along with a PINK tote.

AdAge’s recent piece on Pinterest, which discusses Nordstrom’s early Pinterest successes, states:

“And then there’s major retailer and department store, Nordstrom, which created a page on Pinterest back in March, relatively early, even by early-adopter standards. “We found that it’s a great way to not only share info but also learn about our community. Pinterest allows us to see what trends and styles the community likes based on engagement – likes and repins,” said social media manager Shauna Causey.

“We view this as another way to engage with customers rather than marketing,” she said. “Images are a great way to share ideas and trends in the retail social media landscape.””

With all of this enthusiasm, what is Pinterest’s secret sauce?  We’d like to point out a few ingredients that stand out:

Pinterest sauce

“[Pinterest] lets each user create a modern mall of his/her dreams, from scratch. It turns each of us into a retail executive, living out our purchase-curation fantasies and allowing us to show off our…taste to the world in a way that shopping in the same stores that everyone else shops can’t.”

This ability to express our individuality in a highly aspirational way is extremely powerful.  It allows users to express “this is who I am, what I connect with, what I find stylish, what I’m passionate about.”  And they can show it off to the world without spending a dime.

So, what can we as researchers learn from what Pinterest has accomplished?

Moving into the future, there are a number of ways the Pinterest experience could merge with marketing research.  Pinterest is currently working on developing an API (Application Programming Interface) that will allow it to more easily integrate into other platforms.  With this could come a wealth of unique insights about consumers’ tastes and preferences.

Taking this in another direction, creating a similar image-based environment to understand unconscious and emotional motivations could create a new landscape for exploring consumers’ minds.