21 Unexpected Ways Brands Can Use Pinterest

As Pinterest grows into a top 30 US website, brands are joining the image-sharing social network by the boatload.

But not all Pinterest strategies are created equal. A new medium requires some creativity, so I set out to find some of the most creative uses of Pinterest out there today. If you’re planning your own Pinterest strategy, use these 21 examples to help get you going.

Celebrate The Iconic

Oberlin College does a ton of things well on Pinterest. By looking at their boards, it’s really easy to get an idea of the college, its students, its city and what makes it unique, like the neat chairs you can find around campus.


And what’s more distinctively baseball than majestic mustaches? Exactly. Major League Baseball isn’t afraid to have a little fun with its boards, and the attitude is infectious.


Tell A Story

ThinkProgress’ Pinboard of companies that have dropped Rush Limbaugh following the Sandra Fluke controversy is a unique way to tell a story in icon form.


Count On Cute

Pinterest loves cute. The Humane Society of New York capitalizes on this opportunity with a Pinboard full of portraits of adoptable animals in the New York area. Irresistible! Can your brand leverage Pinterest’s insatiable need for adorable photos?


Post Videos, Too

Dollar General’s Pinterest presence banks heavily on the popularity of recipes on the site (food is the fastest-growing and most viral category on Pinterest). The company also smartly repurposes a series of quick video recipes from its YouTube channel onto Pinterest as well.


Create A Resource

Teach Pinners about something they want to know about. The Wall Street Journal created an informational board to help new Pinners understand the social network.


Go Behind The Scenes

Does your brand have unique inner workings that a larger audience might like to see? Use Pinterest to bring them to light, like the Today Show does with its “Anchor Antics” board.


Make It Beautiful

Carmaker Peugeot uses its Pinterest presence in a uniquely creative design way. Wonder how long it took to get those just right?


Note that the stylized boards are interspersed with larger-subject boards anyone can add an image to. Don’t leave your followers out of the fun!

Plan A Contest

Pinterest contests are a growing trend, with brands often requiring entrants to pin a particular image from the brand onto one of their boards. Here’s a contest example from nail polish brand ORLY.


Be sure to read through Pinterest’s terms of service before starting a contest.

Sneak In Affiliate Links

Internet marketer Joe Hall offered up his Pinboard of “Spy stuff” as one offbeat use. Pretty cool on its own, but even sneakier when you know all these products are … (dun dun DAH!) affiliate links. Affiliate marketers, take note.


Go Off-Topic (Just A Little)

Yogurt brand Chobani includes plenty of the expected boards featuring recipes, but also brings a little flavor and personality with “We Would Like to Eat With You,” a board focusing on beautiful spoons and bowls. Get it?


Celebrate A Milestone

USA Today’s Pinterest presence has news stories, great photos of the U.S. and one board marketers can take a page (pin?) from. “Centennials in 2012″ focuses on 100th anniversaries of everything from Oreos to Fenway Park. What milestones can you focus on for your brand or industry?


Humanize The News

As a news source, Newsweek/The Daily Beast takes on a wide range of topics both fun and serious. But with a compelling series of photographs, a Pinboard focusing on Arab Spring humanizes a news event that’s remote for most of us.


Think Small

Pinboards are the perfect way to break down your brand’s subject area and focus on a fun detail. Paintmaker Benjamin Moore’s “Doors!” board is a great example of a big topic writ small.


Also see how Bergdorf Goodman’s “Rainy Day Considerations” brings whimsy and fun (high-water pants! the perfect cappuccino!) to a tiny topic. Don’t be afraid to get creative with a smaller topic.


Ride A Pop Culture Wave

The New York Public Library, Art and Picture Collection’s Mad Men board is pretty much a work of genius. Blending stills and promotion from the show with period ads and clothing photos, the board provides a glimpse into those days and promote’s the library’s “Mad Men reading list” – another pretty smart marketing element.


Milk Your Mascots

Figuratively, of course. Major League Baseball‘s Pinterest account has majestic shots of storied ballparks and milestone moments, but its board full of mascots is one of the most popular.


Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be an official mascot, either. Another great example from Oberlin: a fun board of squirrel origami, accessories and more in honor of the campus’ high concentration of white squirrels, which act as fuzzy informal mascots.


Chronicle An Evolution

News brands and magazines are the most obvious for this category – witness the New Yorker and Newsweek’s vintage cover collections. But other brands can use this idea to detail their own evolution – from logos to photos and more.

pin-newyorker Spell It Out

Inspirational quotes and sayings are popular on Pinterest. GE leverages that popularity in its “That’s Genius” board focusing on the sayings of GE founder Thomas Edison. Of course, not all brands have a well-known genius as part of their legacy, but we can all start somewhere. What’s quotable in your industry?


Tug Some Heartstrings

Just try not to smile when you look at some of the photos on the National Guard Valentines Pinboard. A visual medium like Pinterest is a great one to bring in some emotion.


Crowdsource It

Bergdorf Goodman has one of the strongest Pinterest accounts in retail, and it’s full of creative corwdsourcing. Yes, you’ll find spring fashion trends, gift ideas and other expected boards, but also the “I Never Forget” board featuring beautiful images of the items Bergdorf’s Facebook friends say they never forget in the morning.


Highlight Philanthropy

Whole Foods’ Pinterest highlights hundreds of recipes and foods, but there’s also an inventive board devoted to the brand’s Whole Planet Foundation.


Show Off Your Roots

Cabot Cheese’s Pinboard of Farmers and Farms is a behind-the-brand view that tells you exactly what the company is about.


Book It

Amnesty International’s mission of worldwide human rights is a tough one to put onto a Pinboard, but a creative strategy gives the non-profit lots to work with, including quotes, fair-trade items and a reading list that’s perfect for Pinterest.


What creative Pinterest strategies are you finding? Let me know in the comments!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Pinterest | Pinterest: Business Use & Advertising | Social Media Marketing Column


About The Author: is a content crafter at Buffer. She has been an editor and writer at publications including Allure, Time Out New York, Playboy and The Tennessean. She speaks frequently on social media marketing and community management topics.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=614338568 Katie Parvin

    Love this! There are a lot of great ideas. I’m hoping I see more and more businesses utilizing Pinterest in a creative way! 

  • http://jeffdownerbailbonds.com/ Jeff Downer Indianapolis IN

    Thought provoking list.  There a couple a lines of thinking I’m going to try.  In particular, the book and teaching ideas.

  • http://twitter.com/RavenCourts Courtney Seiter

    Thanks, Katie! Yes, it was really important for me to get my brand on Pinterest in a way that was creative and not overly sales-y. That’s how the research for this post got started!

  • http://twitter.com/RavenCourts Courtney Seiter

    Awesome, Jeff! I think a reading list would be appropriate for many different industries.

  • http://twitter.com/WindsorCoFairVT Windsor County Fair

    Pinterest changed the layouts of the 3 by 3 grid boards – so now it is harder to make a nice mosaic.  I had already done this – and now my work is for nothing.  I haven’t have the time to figure out how to lay out the new design (one big pin with 4 small beneath) to create the mosaic, and frankly now I am afraid to waste the time in case they change it again.

  • http://twitter.com/ConnorMeaks Connor Meakin

    Informative list. Brands are getting creative already, it will be cool to exactly what Pinterest evolves into down the road.  One Typbo: crowdsourcing section.

  • http://twitter.com/RavenCourts Courtney Seiter

    Yeah, Pinterest rolled out their redesign after I had finished this post, so a lot of the design-related elements probably aren’t as relevant today. The problem with building content on a social media platform is that you’ll always be bound by their whims.

  • http://twitter.com/RavenCourts Courtney Seiter

    Thanks, Connor. Pinterest is definitely one to watch these days.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kulsoom-Tariq/100001729057273 Kulsoom Tariq

    can we still do affiliate marketing with pinterest? they have changed their policies right?

  • http://twitter.com/RavenCourts Courtney Seiter

    As far as I can tell, they have no policy against third-party affiliate links. There was a bit of a scandal in February in that Pinterest didn’t clearly disclose its OWN affiliate links, but that has since been rectified, I believe.

  • http://www.metsheadlinetranslator.com/ Ninemoreouts

    Thanks for an interesting article with VERY helpful links.

  • http://twitter.com/RavenCourts Courtney Seiter

    Thank you! So glad you found it useful.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KAPPMVW6FZGBI2MXIPC7MRYDZY Born

    Great article Courtney! I am a huge fan ! We  also found that a very effective way for our brand  http://www.BorntoLoveClothing.com to use Pintrest is crowdsourcing.We ask our fans to pin pictures of themselves wearing our product and we pin those on our VIP Fans Board. This is a great way to show potential customers how to use our products and how much others love it.


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