Research Output
A case of the insta-self: exploring the relationship between Instagram branded content and millennial women's self-image
  This PhD explores the relationship between Instagram branded content and millennial women’s self-image. Since Facebook bought Instagram in 2012, an abundance of branded content has appeared on consumers’ personal Instagram feeds. The most prominent Instagram users are females, aged 18-24 who engage with Instagram on a daily, or even hourly basis, following peers, influencers, and brands for style inspiration. Our understanding in how such branded content influences millennial women’s self-image is yet to be explored.
The literature review focuses on postmodern consumer culture theory, and the significance of identity creations through consumption. Feminist theories, from second-wave to Postfeminism and fourth-wave, are also discussed in order to understand the uneasy relationship between marketing and women’s self-image. Millennials and social media marketing techniques are also addressed.
The research methods comprises two data collection tools, 1) ‘Insta-chats’: a digital ethnographic photo-elicitation tool where participants sent screenshots of branded content and gave opinions via Instagram messenger; and 2) semi-structured face-to-face interviews, which allowed further insight into the relationship between participants’ self-image and Instagram branded content.
Key findings highlight the significance of Instagram as an influence on participants’ understandings and constructions of self-image. At the same time, there is a clear lack of consciousness amongst participants with regard to how Instagram branded content influences that self-image. In addition, participants expressed concerns towards the ways in which female models’ bodies are portrayed on Instagram branded content. These concerns principally relate to sexualisation and ‘skinny’ body image portrayals. The conclusions of this study contribute towards the field of marketing and consumer research, with particular relevance for our understanding of the construction of digital consumer identity projects. It also provides useful insight into the female millennial consumers’ perceptions of stereotypical gendered portrayals on Instagram branded content.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    01 July 2020

  • Publication Status:


  • DOI:


  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Rezai, K. A case of the insta-self: exploring the relationship between Instagram branded content and millennial women's self-image. (Thesis). Edinburgh Napier University. Retrieved from



Consumer Culture Theory, Consumer Behaviour, Social Media Marketing, Gender Marketing and Consumer Behaviour

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