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How to Create Instagram & Snapchat Filters for Brands

I’m sitting here with my Mac designing a 3D model on Blender for my upcoming Face Effect on Lens Studio and I started thinking on how to create Augmented Reality filters for brands on Instagram & Snapchat.

One of the most frequently asked questions among creators is how to work with brands for augmented reality filters on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. Being a creator myself and working with multiple brands for the past 2 years, I have somewhat a deeper knowledge on this.You can start creating Instagram or Snapchat filters for brands by leveraging on their pre-existing marketing campaigns that focuses on giveaways, influencers and brand awareness. Let’s look at each one of these and how you can start working on it now!

What is a Branded Filter?

A branded filter or sometimes called a lens is an Augmented Reality Camera Effect that is hosted on social media that represents a brand. This type of filters are purely for branding for companies such as Coca Cola, Tacos and etc who wants to increase their brand awareness among their audience.

Taco Bell's Snapchat Filter
Tacos Snapchat Lens

A branded filter can be marketed in two ways. The first one is by using influencers or giveaways and I’ll cover this part in a bit. The second part is by running ads. For instance, brands can run ads for their filter just like any other content on social media. One such example is Snapchat where you can run ads for filters by looking for the right demographic, age, gender and interests. Once that has been done, you can choose to either run it as a national lens (This is the most expensive type of ads as it will be on the Snapchat Carousel for everyone) or Snap Ads that allow people to swipe up and try the filters (Pretty much like Insta story, except you will unlock a filter when you swipe up).

Differences between Filters and Lenses

Before you could even engage with brands, you must understand the difference between filters and lenses although the terms are mixed up among the creators community.

Filters are 2D overlay that is static and doesn’t have any interactivity. For instance, a LUT (Color Gradient) effect is called a filter.

This is the simplest form of augmented reality camera effects. You will mostly use Photoshop or any other 2D Illustration tool to create such effect.

Happy Birthday Snapchat Filter
A simple 2D filter

Lenses are much sophisticated and the term was first coined by Snapchat through their platform called Lens Studio.

Shazam filter Snapchat Lens
Shazam Lens on Snapchat

It is a combination of 2D, 3D, scripting and animation that makes an effect come to live. For example, the famous Dog ‘filter’ on Snapchat is actually a Lens because it is interactive. Lenses interact with your facial gestures, body movement and provide amazing experiences to your users.

Knowing the difference between a filter and a lens will help you to understand the complexity behind each type of AR effects.

Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook

This is the most crucial part of creating filters or lenses for brands.Since more brands are experimenting with augmented reality, choosing the right social media platform is vital especially in terms of justifying return of investment (ROI).

When you’re working with a brand, ensure that you know the brand’s voice and the platform they leverage the most. Social AR is still new and not many brands are on the same bandwagon. By knowing the voice behind the brand you’re working with, you know exactly the types of augmented reality experiences you should create and the platform to leverage upon.

For instance, Gatorade is perhaps one of the biggest energy drink brands in the world and their social presence is very strong. They have over 1 Million followers on Instagram.

So that means, we can leverage on Instagram by creating filters on top of it right?


Although their presence is quite strong on Instagram, their brand voice is stronger on Snapchat. Their engagement rate is higher on Snapchat and creating a filter or a lens on Snapchat makes more sense. That’s exactly what they did.

During Gatorade’s Super Bowl, they created a filter and got over 160 million impressions.

Gatorade Snapchat filter for Superbowl
Gatorade Super Bowl Lens

So how do you really know which platform to use and the type of AR effects you should create?

Educate first, sell second

You need to understand the brand and their marketing needs before you could suggest them any AR related campaigns.

This is something most of us as creators fail to do. Social AR is relatively new and as a creator, your number 1 job when it comes to working with brands is to educate them. Understand their current marketing campaign and the goals behind it.Then, educate them with social AR and how it can help them to achieve the goals.

For brands, ROI is their mantra.

They always calculate the ROI for every penny they spend on marketing.

So instead of talking about how great you are as a creator, talk to them about the metrics that you can track through AR marketing.

This will give them the idea of how it can turn out to be.

Ever since I started to create branded filter, I realize a very important part of AR that not many of us are aware of.

At the moment, social AR is a tool and nothing more than that.

If you’re baking a cake, social AR is like the ingredient for it.

Just like that, it complements an existing marketing campaign and not a marketing initiative on its own.

Understand their Goals

By understanding their goals, you can work towards suggesting the type of AR effects that can complement their campaign.

For me, I always ask myself these questions before I could get into the filters and the budget;

  1. What is the brand’s main goal? (Ideally brand awareness related)
  2. Who are they targeting?(Hopefully young adults and teens)
  3. What is the ROI they’re looking at? (No of impressions, shares & captures)
  4. How are they going to promote the filter or lens? (To understand their ROI expectation and the action plan)

By asking these questions, you will have an idea on whether this will work for their brand. This will also allow you to further brainstorm with their branding/marketing team to create an AR marketing action plan that would justify their ROI.

Most of us would not do that and that’s exactly why we lose our clients.

How many creators out there are working with the same brands for more than 1 time?

Not many.

So how can you guarantee ROI for brands?

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is a channel that brands use to get to their target audience. Individuals who have a large number of followers or small number of followers but highly engaged (micro influencers), can help you drive more impressions and shares for the brands you’re working with.

Let’s say you’re working with a F&B brand and their main goal is to drive awareness for their new product and they are targeting young adults.

Instead of just relying on your filter, you can start approaching influencers who have the audience you need and ask them to promote you filter.

Filters and lenses are naturally entertaining and when you leverage with influencers, you can almost guarantee the spike in impressions and shares.


Giveaways is also a very unique way of getting more attention for the brand you’re working with. By proposing some giveaways, you can immediately run mini contest on social media and use filter as a tool to let your audience express themselves.

AR is a very important tool for self expression and it’s vital to keep that in mind every time you’re working with a brand

Paid Ads Social Media

This is a very straightforward approach that translates into more exposure on social media platform. Facebook just rolled out their Ads functionality for AR filters which works exactly like any other advertisement.

However, this isn’t a good approach for brands at the moment as it requires advertisement budget and most brands wouldn’t agree to spend on something they aren’t familiar with.

I would suggest you to experiment with the ads and drive some numbers before you could propose this to brands.

Since most of us are creators and not advertisers, having both skills will make you more valuable and have clear communication with brands.


Working for brands isn’t hard at all but you need to understand the problem that you’re trying to solve for your clients.

It’s very easy to lose focus and start talking about the greatness of AR and the technical aspects behind it (Trust me, I have done it multiple times and people just got bored with it), but real business is made when everyone is on the same page.

Whether it’s a slideshow presentation of all the case studies or just a smartphone with the lenses unlocked, communicate to your clients by understanding their needs and situation.

You might get a little push backs in the first few meeting but it will help you to nail your communication in the future.

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