MUMBAI: Brands in India are looking to exploit the trend towards "selfies" – pictures consumers take of themselves and share – whether that is through contests, product placements or celebrity endorsements.

The selfie phenomenon, which really took off in marketing circles following the Oscar awards in Hollywood when host Ellen de Generes posted a picture of herself and other stars on Twitter, has spread around the world and is already being successfully used by Indian brands.

At the recent Radio Mirchi Music Awards, for example, several Bollywood celebrities snapped themselves on the red carpet and shared the photographs using the #mirchiselfie hashtag; the station got huge exposure in the digital world as a result.

"It worked very well," Rahul Balyan, head of digital initiatives at Radio Mirchi, told Afaqs! "Celebrities have no reason to tweet about any brand or engage with it without incentive," he added, "but after they had clicked their own selfie, they had a stake in its creation, and they pushed it out for us to their fans."

Brands are not just relying on celebrities, however, and many are running contests in an attempt to crowd-source pictures from consumers. MTV tied up with consumer electronics brand Philips to do this in a promotion around Valentine's Day, offering prizes to couples sending in the most stylish selfie.

Some brands have also encouraged fans to send in pictures of themselves with the actual product. This was straightforward for Mahindra in a category such as automotive, less so for Dove soap in toiletries. For the latter it had to be what Nimesh Shah, head maven at Windchimes Communication, described as "the larger thought" – in this case the idea that selfies could redefine a woman's inner beauty.

Exchange4media thought that selfies were still little more than an announcement tool, "though they have more potential than that for brands to explore". It noted that Vodafone was planning to run a selfie contest during the T20 cricket tournament, where interesting selfies would be flashed on screens at the stadium.

But however selfies were used, most agreed that they were likely to work based as part of a wider campaign. Or, as Sudip Ghose, vice president, marketing at luggage maker VIP Industries, put it: "[The] selfie is a tool or a weapon, but not the artillery."

Data sourced from Afaqs!, Exchange4media; additional content by Warc staff