Disrupting Visual Storytelling: Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel Chats with Target Team

October 27, 2015 - Article reads in
Evan Spiegel (left) and Jeff Jones onstage at the Outer Spaces event

“Innovation is about surprising people and being focused on offering something really different.” Whenever Evan Spiegel, co-founder and CEO of Snapchat, considers what’s next for his company and product, that’s always the end goal. Last week, Evan joined Jeff Jones, Target’s chief marketing officer, for the second round of Outer Spaces, Target’s series of innovation talks at our Minneapolis headquarters.

In 2011, Evan and co-founder Bobby Murphy launched the first iteration of Snapchat, a video messaging tool. It was a simple idea built around connecting a camera to the internet to share visuals (called Snaps), creating more engaging ways to communicate and learn about the world. Today, his team is creating mind-boggling experiences. Snapchat is valued at around $16 billion and gets more than 5 billion views a day. And more people (by the billions!) are experiencing major events like the MTV Video Music Awards and college football through the Snapchat app than through live TV.

But being innovative isn’t always easy. Evan and his team have faced public scrutiny for decisions they’ve made along the way. “That hurts,” he said. “But when you know you’re making the right decision for your business, you find the energy to persevere.” Check out a few innovation tips Evan shared with the Target Team.

Concentrate on what sets you apart.
“We’re always thinking—where does the product go next? Our current focus is on live story product, and changing what it means to experience a live event. People are creating content in the same place that they’re consuming it, each from their own perspective. By submitting Snaps of the same moment—say, the game-winning dunk at a basketball game—users can experience that moment from thousands of different angles.”

Don’t be afraid to abandon projects that aren’t working.
“We work on things for a long time and then decide not to launch. You have to get comfortable with that over time. Talk openly about failures and get used to being excited by the idea generation process, because ideas themselves are not precious. It frees you to be creative if your idea is probably going to get killed anyway.”

Listen to what the user wants, but also protect your product.
“A great example is the Stories feature. It came about because our users wanted a ‘send-all’ button. But we knew if we added one, everyone would just spam each other all day. Instead, we created Stories—compilations of Snaps that users share with groups of followers over the course of one day—to give users what they wanted while protecting our product and what it was meant to do.”

Don’t let public perception change your ability to make the right business decision.
“I said no to selling Snapchat to Facebook, and it was not an easy decision. We have a ton of respect for Facebook, but I truly felt that being independent was the best way for us to grow. We knew where our business was going, had a plan, and didn’t want to sell ourselves short. It’s hard if you want to be popular … I don’t recommend that. You may lose a lot of friends because you have to say no to a lot of things.”

Above all, a business has to stay focused or it’ll be eaten alive.
“This goes for pretty much any business today. If you can’t keep your business focused on the things you truly want to achieve, you’re absolutely going to get destroyed. Likely by some young upstarts working from their dad’s house.” 

Stay tuned for more Outer Spaces, coming soon!

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