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Brands + Tumblr

A story about Tumblr's history, future, and potential for creative brand advertising. This presentation imitates both Tumblr's interface and its unique culture/sense of humor.

Natalie Cullings

on 6 August 2013

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Transcript of Brands + Tumblr


David Karp dropped out of high school at age 15 to focus on his coding career. In 2006, a start up he worked for was aquired by CNET.

He invested his profits from the sale into starting his own company, Davidville, which started a simple blogging project called Tumblr in 2007.

However, Karp didn't come up with the micro-blogging concept himself.

Later, programmer Marcel Molina designed an improved tumblelog that was organized, visually attractive, and complete with an archieve system of posts.
Tumblr combined the best of the prior tumblelogs' simplicity and design, yet its biggest accomplishment was providing micro blogging to the mass public.

Users were able to register their own Tumblr url, use a custom domain if desired, customize their blog, and share videos, audio, quotes, links, conversations, and text.
Tumblr marketed itself as a home for artists and credited its inspiration on its FAQ page.

Since its inception, Tumblr's growth has exploded.
Karp's biggest heroes are Steve Jobs and Willy Wonka. He grew up obsessed with Jobs' keynotes and the "art of the reveal." However, he thinks Wonka's magical factory holds the same "you can't begin to imagine what went into these things" appeal as Apple.
Tumblr simply started out as a tool to make Karp's life better.

Tumblr finally introduced its first ads, or "sponsored posts" in 2012 within the Tumblr radar, a sidebar section positioned to the right of the dashboard feed. Traditionally used to highlight the exceptional work of artists on the site, many users were upset that brands could buy their way into this coveted placement.
However, not just any brand can advertise on Tumblr. A minimum price of $25K and approval by staff is necessary.
In addition to radar ads, spotlight ads featured brands in the "who to follow" section that suggested trending and interesting users.
As a result of implementing these limited ad options, Tumblr generated $13M in 2012. Karp has made a near 180° change in his attitude towards advertisers or "sponsors."
Karp delivered his ad pitch at the 2013 Cannes Lions Festival.
"You guys are more talented than anyone in the Tumblr office or in Palo Alto or Sunnyvale."
#David Karp #Advertising #Cannes #Tumblr

- David Karp to Cannes Audience
"We're constantly in awe, constantly in service."

"One of the things that frustrates me about the role my community of engineers plays in the creative world is that for some reason we think we know anything," Karp said.

"You guys have the history of making stuff that really moves us and inspires us."
"Most creative agencies have gotten the short-end of the stick on the web," Karp said, adding that heavily-tested and optimized work" is not the type of ad to build the next $100 billion brand."
So how will Tumblr, a social community previously averse to advertising,
increase their ad offerings and attract brands without compromising the user experience?
On May 20, 2013, Yahoo announced it was acquiring Tumblr for $1.1 billion.

Yahoo promised not to "screw it up" (as it did with Geocities and Flickr among other aquisitions). Tumblr would continue to operate independtly led by its original founder, David Karp.
Tumblr will be utilizing Yahoo's "personalization technology" and search infrastructure to help users find conent that better fits their interests.

Yahoo will gain access to a younger user group; Tumblr's largest age bracket is between 18-24. Also, Tumblr offers an increasing amount of highly-engaged users.
More than half of Tumblr users use the mobile app an average of 7 sessions per day.
Yahoo's aquisition of Tumblr
could grow Yahoo's audience by 50% to over a billion monthly visitors and is estimated to grow traffic by 20%.
Tumblr's mobile strengths
compliment Yahoo's new mobile ad focus.

After purchasing Tumblr, Mayer has gone on a "mobile startup aquisition spree" to gain both mobile targeting technology and new talent.

#Marissa Mayer
Mayer says to expect to see more search ads, but any changes Yahoo makes will be focused on remaining "Tumblr-centric."
"Our strategy is to let Tumblr be Tumblr," declared Mayer, however many Tumblr fans fear otherwise.
Mayer says Tumblr and Yahoo actually fit "really beautifully together."
“We are strong on sports, finance and news; Tumblr’s strong on architeture, travel and fashion. We need great tools for content publishing and creation. They have them. Tumblr prides itself as a home for brands. Yahoo is all about brands.”
The mix of Yahoo's older audience with Tumblr's younger crowd isn't the only beneficial combination:

Creative Brand Advertising:
Yahoo's Foundation
and Tumblr's Future
Yahoo's aquistion of Tumblr proves two things:
Yahoo believes in the power of display advertising on Tumblr
Yahoo believes that they will be able to monetize mobile traffic
Lastly, if Mayer, an extremely experienced ex-Google executive, makes a move this big,
The gender split is fairly equal with
only 4% more females.
55% of users are college educated.
67% of Tumblr users make less
than $50k annually.
While 65% of users are caucasian, Tumblr
boasts a strong hispanic presence at 16%.
Tumblr has the youngest audience of any major social network
--and the general U.S. browsing population
; 29% of users are ages 18-24 while 69% of users are age 35 or younger.
Google Search Trends
Global Search Data (2004-2013)
Global Forecast
U.S. Search Data
Visitors to Tumblr stay on the site 3x longer (12 vs 4 mins) than visitors to Blogspot and WordPress
This data has remained consistent for the past 2 years
The more time users spend on the site, the more ads they are likely to be exposed to
Tumblr currently has the fewest monthly unique visitors (UV's)
However, Tumblr is the only blogging platform that experienced an increase in traffic over the past year
Tumbr's UV's have grown 7% year-over-year
Tumblr isn't just competition for popular blogging platforms like Wordpress and Blogger, but also major social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Research says teens are using Facebook less because of "watchful parents, too-old adults and drama--nasty conversations that would never arise in real life."
Why is Tumblr the only blogging platform that's growing?
Tumblr is the
. People are abandoning their blogs because they can't build an audience, don't have the time to write lengthy posts, or frankly don't like to write or can't write well.

Most Tumblr users don't want to be found; they want to share their interests with
their actual
friends without anyone moderating them. They can express themselves without facing judgment from their parents, co-workers, and aquaintances.
"Tumblr proves that the issue is less about public vs. private and more about whether you are findable and identifiable by people who actually know you in real life."

If you want any privacy on Facebook, you have to carefully and constantly update your privacy settings.
Although Facebook has "everyone you know" on it, it's actually an extremely closed network.

On the visual social networks, Tumblr and Pinterest, anyone can follow anyone; easily re-pinning and re-blogging content results in high virality and potential reach--which brands are very interested in.
Reblogs determine the life span of content
Each time a user reblogs content, it is posted on that user's own blog and is then exposed to all of the user's followers--an entirely new audience.

Content then cycles through the Tumblr like a "modern game of telephone" as other users add captions, make changes, etc.
Tumblr also beats Facebook on the average time spent per visit at 14 vs. 12.5 mins.

Although Facebook still wins when it comes to time spent per month at 6 hours compared to Tumblr's 1.5.
The Tumblr community is known for creating animated gifs and memes from tv shows, movies, photographs, etc.

This content goes viral over Tumblr and inevitably leaks over to other social networks. Analytics have proven 10% of Pinterest's content originates
on Tumblr.
"Reaction gifs" are commonly used to react to content. They are extremely popular and, while used all across the web, frequently come from Tumblr.
"Trends begin on Tumblr."
"With Tumblr, there’s no longer a need for videos to be parked over on YouTube, or images on Flickr, or words on WordPress. Tumblr is the place for all this media. One ring to bind them all."
Another major differentiating factor on Tumblr is the ability to fully customize your own page by choosing a theme or building your own from scratch. In a similar fashion, users can incorporate any features they want into their theme via apps or HTML.
For this reason, Tumblr isn't just a popular site for individuals but as a platform for brands to host their blogs on.
While other social networks are constantly adding new features, Tumblr does everything it can to minimalize their features-- or even remove them.

"We think the users are smart, and don’t need things 'sold’ to them,"
says Peter Vidani, Tumbr's creative director. "Keeping this in mind gets rid of the clutter, like labels and chatty copy."
What else is remarkably different about Tumblr?

There are no comments.
(another reaction gif)
You can " " anyone's posts on Tumblr, but in order to add any sort of comment, you have to reblog the content onto your own page and host your response there.
This type of "ownership" was intentionally designed to cut down on online bullying.
It's a way for people to give feedback without “the world of horrible anonymous Internet awfulness."
This is also good news for brands; Tumblr becomes a platform for storytelling and brand building...

not damage control,
totally irrelevant posts,
and desperate attempts at "engagement."
^^^That moment when
it "Dons" on you that
Tumblr is a better platform for
your brand to advertise on.
Tumblr has only begun to scratch the surface of its advertising potential.

In April 2013, it launched sponsored posts on mobile and followed up with in-stream dashboard ads in June.
Why dashboard ads?
Since dashboard is just a highly variable, continuous feed of posts from the blogs a user decides to follow, he or she has to fully digest an ad first to recognize it as such.
Tumblr's ads are effective; they
blend into the normal functions of the site.
On Facebook and Twitter, users are aware if they don't follow a particular brand and are apt to ignore promoted brands' instream and featured ads.
And since ads can be liked, reblogged, and shared like a normal post, brands can analyze the success of their content via Tumblr's new analytics measures.
introduced a full analytics suite for Tumblr in July 2013 which includes social CRM, hashtag information, competitive insights, and more.
Union Metrics was the first service to offer full Tumblr analytics, but competition will only grow as Yahoo's search personalization technology is incorporated into Tumblr in coming years.
Yahoo says Tumblr's revenue and ad products won't ramp up significantly until 2014.
However, Karp reported, "We've had great early traction on our network because our story stands apart from the other big ad networks out there."
Tumblr is going after the “top of the funnel,” in other words, advertising that actually inspires you to go out and buy.
Karp thinks most of the big networks are really focused on bottom-of-the-funnel intent — "harvesting intent by hitting viewers with blasts of those little blue links"— which are effective, but only in the most limited way.
Karp wants to offer advertisers their own canvas--the space to create ads that win awards.
"The problem is that creative brand advertising hasn’t had anywhere to live on the Web."
Tumblr's the platform that's building a comfortable fit for social advertising.
“We want to give them the space to do anything, a four-second loop, an hour and a half video, a high-res panorama, whatever they need to help them build amazing, interactive ads.”
Although Tumblr and Yahoo are still working to sophisticate Tumblr's ad targeting technology, they are already experiecing big results.
Hollywood studios are buying advertising on Tumblr.
Tumblr is seeing high six-figures per campaign and "budgets are starting to ramp up."
“It’s about grabbing you at the moment you’re ready to buy,” he says. Google, Facebook and Twitter can use a combination of behavioral targeting and borrowed social relevance to do that with a high degree of success, but they have little effect on consumers’ attitudes and emotions. That’s the job of so-called brand advertising."
Branded Content Makes Tumblr Better
Although there is always opposition to any change on a social network, Tumblr users are especially sensitive and often dramatic.

Brands have to understand what Tumblr users care about.
180 out of the top 1,000 Tumblr blogs are linked to fashion.
Fashion Designer Rebecca Minkoff took to Tumblr to hold a major contest featuring herself, David Karp, and Nordstrom's VP of Designer Merchandising.
There are endless art blogs to discover and photos of art to reblog.
Foodies will find everything
from gorgeous food photography to...
a blog about burgers and nail art and just about everything in between.
Tumblr also adores Beyonce,
but who doesn't?
A major component of Tumblr revolves around fandom: the community that surrounds a tv show/movie/book etc.
(Some basic Hunger Games fandom)
Fandom 101 for Brands
1. Fandom Culture values stories, not things

2. You have to create fandom content to gain fandom fans
3. Don't fear the "remixer"--invite creative collaboration and alterations of content
4. Don't try to change what Tumblr loves--cater to it
5. Respect Tumblr's fandom subculture and let them do their own thing
"Tumblr is famous for hosting a community of people who vocally champion rights for LGBTQ people and publicize mental health issues once kept behind closed doors. The ability to have a pseudonymous Tumblr username that isn’t tied to email, paired with the ability to search Tumblr by any word or topic, helps people to realize they’re not alone. "
Companies like Ben & Jerry's, who are
genuinely progressive
, are very popular with users.
Nothing's changed; Brand building is still about creating an emotional connection with consumers--Tumblr just offers a better platform to build one on.
Classic emotional reaction gif
You'll never guess the brand that's delivering amazing Tumblr-centric content.
#Brands on Tumblr
"As far as appealing to the Tumblr audience goes, Denny’s does everything right. Denny’s posts hilarious, witty text posts, answers fan questions, embraces fan art by accepting submissions, and creates their own funny image memes and animated GIF."
"It's not desperate or fake or trying too hard. It's just simple, great content that gets people thinking about their brand, and more importantly, it makes people want to go to Denny's."
-Digg's Social Media Editor
"I was hired to use the social networks as I would my own."
Denny's social media accounts are powered by 23 year-old Amber Gordon and a simple strategy:
Another company was able to achieve success by "capitolizing" on a combination of an exisiting fandom base and one of Tumblr's favorite topics: fashion.
Lionsgate, the studio behind the The Hunger Games Movies, built an entire brand experience centered around fashion in the Capitol, aka Capitol Couture.
Capitol Couture acts as its own brand, but features "Capitol Looks" made by real designers like Alexander McQueen.
Forget promotions revolving around a movie release date; Capitol Couture is the perfect example of creative brand advertising.
Disney selected popular photographers on Tumblr from around the world, with a preexisting fanbase, and commissioned them to shoot the Disney Parks through their unique styles and perspectives.

The result?
Disney Parks Photo Project, aka "The Looking Glass," a gorgeous collection of nostalgic photographs.
Disney caters to Tumblr's love of photography while striking an emotional connection with a young userbase who were raised on Disney movies. Now that's Magic.
When done right, advertising on Tumblr makes users
Planning a Tumblr for your brand?
Don't sacrifice simplicity
Keep the team that manages it small
Don't build a brand presence--build a brand experience specific to the Tumblr audience
Build a storytelling culture
Don't worry about updating it 24/7 like Facebook and Twitter
Take risks!
Post what you love--what brings value to users
Create something beautiful.
Unlike most other social networks, Tumblr has a distinct sense of humor and set of interests.

Focus on understanding and respecting Tumblr's culture and the sensitivity of its users before anything else.
Tumblr's business on mobile is growing
faster than on the web.
According to live data from Quantcast, Tumblr is the third most popular mobile site--and Yahoo is well aware.
“Mobile is a strong growth driver. And with the right mobile ad units, we believe that mobile will be a large revenue driver. Yahoo’s future is mobile and we are delivering our products mobile first.”
Mayer's "aggressive hiring and strategic aquisitions have led to a 6-fold increase in Yahoo's dedicated mobile team from dozens to hundreds of engineers.
Yahoo will have its challenges with Tumblr's large portion of Not Safe for Work (adult) content that Tumblr refuses to police or ban.
However, the implementation of Yahoo's personalized search technology and the development of ad targeting will hopefully quell any qualms advertisers have on NSFW content.
Ultimately, NSFW content has never hurt Tumblr's "free expression" community; removing it would do more harm than good.
Possible integration of Flickr, the popular photo sharing site Yahoo acquired in 2005, with Tumblr is an exciting prospect that would add to Tumblr's credibility as a home for photography although no official plans have been confirmed.
Most importantly, Tumblr users are extremely loyal--but not to Yahoo. introducing ads that are absolutely native to the Tumblr experience is key.
"The hipsters will eventually get over their “outrage” over Yahoo! buying “their” platform, if Yahoo! doesn't crash the party and instead agrees to supply the chips and beer---meaning that Yahoo! will give them what they need while not fouling the environment. If this comes to pass, the Millennials will stay and the advertisers will follow---in droves."
- Mile Kelly, Founder & Partner,
Brand Value Advisors
Over 10 Million
Likes and Reblogs on New Sponsored Posts.

Over 300 Million Monthy Unique Visitors.
Over 120 Million Blogs.
Over 24 Billion Minutes Spent Onsite Per Month.
Over 120 Thousand Signups Per Day.
900 Posts Per Second.
Hilarious, Talented Community.

Limits to Creativity.

It's up to brands to understand Tumblr and create content that bloggers
"The importance of the visual in online creative has never been greater--and perhaps a picture may now be worth 1,300 words or so."
A story about Tumblr's history, future, and potential for creative brand advertising.
As told through Tumblr's interface--laced with Tumblr's unique humor.
German, 17 year-old Chris Neukirchen created the first tumblelog called Anarchaia--a combination of tumble and web logging.
Within 2 weeks of launching, Tumblr registered over 75,000 users.
When Tumblr was founded, David was living and working in New York City--where Tumblr's headquarters and 189 employees remain today.

However, the pressure to monetize Tumblr increased as the site's scale rapidly grew.

Although Tumblr makes money off the sale of premium blog themes, the startup has survived off the $125 million in funding it's secured. In 2010, Karp announced that he was "pretty opposed to advertising" and that it "turns our [Tumblr's] stomachs."
These strict requirements were designed to exclude low-quality ads. Ads on Tumblr had to act as creative storytellers to prevent disruption to the user experience.
all be paying close attention.
we should
On Tumblr, the visual content is so varied that native advertising can finally be, well, native.
Tumblr is only beginning on its journey to profitability.
While only time can measure Tumblr's success, brands can be confident that Tumblr's platform is on par with the future of advertising:





That's right, Denny's.
That's where Yahoo comes in.
“It’s not a choice between creativity and monetization,” insisted Mayer.
Full transcript