Strategies – ClickZSeth Godin: Nobody makes a purple cow by sticking with what’s safeCause marketing can be a mutually beneficial strategyHow KLM uses China’s WeChat for customer serviceQ&A: Deloitte Digital’s Mike Brinker on digital transformationHow Ford plans to evolve past selling carsAre Tumblr’s advertising plans a bad idea?Digital transformation: Are you asking the right questions? Wed, 13 Apr 2016 14:59:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Tue, 12 Apr 2016 17:55:16 +0000 Yesterday’s over. Being different is what’s going to help you win tomorrow – not simply repeating your previous success.

A century ago, Henry Ford made headlines with what seemed like an outrageous decision to double minimum wage. Instead of the standard $2.34, Ford workers would take home an unprecedented $5 for each working day.

It was a great move for the brand, as its workers were suddenly able to afford its products. However, Seth Godin – the legendary marketer, author and speaker who delivered the opening keynote at ClickZ Live New York this morning – pointed out that you can’t just make one great decision and then coast on it. Because the world never stops changing.

“The idea of the assembly line is that we codify the work. We figure it out step-by-step and figure out what [workers] did yesterday to make the KPIs go up and make things more efficient,” said Godin, adding that managers inevitably want more.

“The challenge of that four-letter word is simple. Mass leads to average products for average people,” he continued. “If you want to reach everyone, you better have something everyone wants to buy, which leads to average, which means the same thing as mass.”

The point there is that just because something worked, doesn’t mean you should just stick with it indefinitely.

Ford is still around today because the brand didn’t achieve success and then rest on its laurels. Ford recognized that having the best factory is ultimately not what brought on the brand’s prosperity.

“You don’t win because you have the better factory,” said Godin. “You win because you were connected because people were loyal, because people are interested in hearing you.”

Godin added that all of the brands who have thrived in the last decade or so hasn’t followed the status quo of what’s worked for brands in the past. The Airbnbs, Zappos and Lululemons of the world have, instead, focused on being purple cows.

The title of one of Godin’s 18 books, the term “purple cow” refers to the idea that you can drive through Texas and see thousands of cows, not noticing any of them. But if you see a purple cow, you’ll not only look twice, but probably stop your car to Instagram it.

“You know what a purple cow is? Remarkable. You know what that is? Something worth making a remark about,” said Godin. “Almost all marketing pain is caused by organizations who don’t have the guts to make something remarkable, instead trying to use money to solve a problem.”

The thing that’s remarkable isn’t going to appeal to everyone. But it’s going to appeal to the right people. For example, there are roads everywhere, but people still fly out to Hawaii and pay thousands of dollars to participate in the Ironman. Why? They feel like they’re a part of the tribe.

To put this example visually, Godin said that nobody gets a Suzuki tattoo. (On Twitter, someone commented that actually, yes, they do, but the Harley-Davidson logo generally adorns far more people’s bodies.)

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.45.32 PM

Closing out his keynote, Godin put one of his favorite photos onscreen. It shows the attendees of a long-ago Solvay Conference, a periodic meeting for the best and brightest in the world of physics. People in the photo included Albert Einstein and Marie Curie; 17 of the 29 people pictured have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

“You didn’t get invited [to the Solvay Conference] because you won the Nobel Peace Prize. You won the Nobel Peace Prize because you got invited,” said Godin. “You need to be in the room where it happens and then you get to decide what to do about it.”

What you can do is stop being afraid and just do something different. You can choose to redefine your industry, rather than being a cog in the system. And you can choose to matter.

“You have the dials, the levers, the trust and the privilege to take responsibility,” said Godin. “What people are saying to you, as clearly as they can, is they need you to lead them.”

]]> 0 Thu, 07 Apr 2016 14:11:09 +0000 People are more likely to support brands that share their values, so cause marketing can help the world and the brand’s bottom line – as long as it’s done right.

Can online ads do good? Thanks to a mobile app, the answer is yes. Consumers in San Francisco can now give $1 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco every day without having to spend their own money. All they have to do is watch a five-second ad on their phones.

The concept was created by Paris-based Tinbox, which is inviting businesses to sponsor donations to non-profits in exchange for positive brand association.

Facilitating the donations to the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco is Charles Schwab & Co., which has agreed to give $50,000. In the past, Tinbox has also partnered with German software company SAP.


Welcome to the world of cause marketing, where companies align themselves with charities to give back to their communities while also improving their brand image. Tinbox is giving businesses a unique opportunity to increase their exposure for a good cause. But cause marketing can take many forms, from YouTube videos to social media campaigns.

Last month, General Mills-owned Cheerios and Quebec-based agency Cossette made the iconic Honey Nut Cheerios bee “Buzz” disappear to raise awareness for declining bee populations. The campaign includes a microsite, TV spot, contest, online video, and the use of the #BringBackTheBees hashtag.

“With ongoing losses in bee populations being reported across Canada, we wanted to use our packaging to draw attention to this important cause,” says Emma Eriksson, director of marketing for General Mills Canada.

General Mills shares many cause marketing stories on the Responsibility section on its site. There, consumers can learn about the company’s commitment to sustainable agriculture, work with Outnumber Hunger and Feeding America, and dedication to revitalizing the Minneapolis stretch of the Mississippi River where General Mills was born. Each article highlights the company’s efforts to do social good.

If it seems to you that cause marketing has really swelled in recent years, you’re right. North American spending on sponsorships of causes reached about $1.92 billion last year, up from $1.78 billion in 2013. Aside from the obvious benefits of improving our society and helping those in need, every sponsorship represents an opportunity for companies to promote their good deed.

The potential payoff of doing so is big. For years, studies have shown that consumers are more likely to buy from brands that support a cause they believe in.

According to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, 80 percent of consumers believe companies should be able to improve economic and social conditions in their communities while increasing their profits. Ninety-percent of Americans are more likely to trust a brand that gives back, while 84 percent would spread the word about a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaign.

“There’s definitely been an uptick in consumer interest in socially responsible companies,” says Adrien Guilmineau, co-founder and chief executive (CEO) of Tinbox. “Consumers today demand to deal with companies that are socially responsible and that they trust. As a result, companies must alter the way they advertise so consumers know they share these same values.”

Guilmineau and her business partner created Tinbox after they realized how much work companies were putting into CSR.

“We were astounded,” he says, adding that many consumers weren’t aware of the projects businesses were pledging to support. “We realized that having companies team up with consumers to support social causes in their community would be really engaging way to get this across.”


Another way that brands are educating consumers about the causes they support is through blog posts. Snack brand KIND takes its name seriously by supporting organizations and events like Rescuing Leftover Cuisine and World Kindness Day. It uses its blog to let consumers know what it’s up to, and also launched a web-based program designed both to encourage acts of kindness and distribute product samples.

Personal care product company Burt’s Bees recently removed the b’s from its logo, web site, and social media accounts to raise awareness for declining bee populations and its non-profit company. Like Cheerios, it’s using the #BringBackTheBees hashtag.

Other than using owned media and partnering with a company like Tinbox, what can you do up your cause marketing game?

Choose a cause that reflects your brand’s values and philosophy, promote your involvement to raise awareness for the non-profit you’ve partnered with, and create opportunities for your customers to get involved in the donation process. When cause marketing is done with sincerity and good intentions, it’s a universal win.

]]> 0 Wed, 30 Mar 2016 22:44:05 +0000 China is a key market for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and it is engaging specialized CRM tools on its WeChat account to engage them for customer service.

After implementing a tool that pools its WeChat customer service queries into its Salesforce platform, KLM says it is processing inquiries and comments from Chinese customers twice as fast as it had been previously.

Chinese travellers are making more than 100 million overseas trips each year. The Dutch airline is positioning itself as the gateway to Europe and has been quick to recognize the marketing value of WeChat.

With over 600 million active users, WeChat is China’s most popular social messaging app as this slide from We Are Social’s Digital in 2016 report shows.

We Are Social_Top Social channels China_2016_600

“WeChat is the biggest platform in China, offering us the opportunity to connect to customers and prospects,” says Martine van der Lee, social technology manager, KLM.

A quick look at the websites of Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Air New Zealand, Qantas, Lufthansa, Thai Airways, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines however, suggests international airlines are yet to fully embrace this versatile app as a 24-hour customer service channel.

All of these airlines have Chinese language pages. (A good starting point.) And many are customized and localized for their Chinese audiences, as this Emirates Chinese homepage demonstrates.


Most allow Chinese customers to book flights in a Chinese language format also. Here’s an example from British Airways:

British Airways_Chinese website_600

Weibo (China’s version of Twitter) and Youku (a Chinese video hosting platform) are the preferred digital channels for many of these airlines to engage their Chinese audiences.

Here is Air New Zealand’s Youku page:

Air New Zealand_YouKu Account_600

And the Weibo pages for Qantas and Singapore Airlines:


Singapore Airlines_Weibo_600

It’s worth noting that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Google+ are all blocked in China. (Not LinkedIn though!) Therefore, while appropriate for global audiences, these are not as relevant on a “follow us” page for Chinese consumers.

Contact Us_China_Social Media fail_600

Aside from KLM, Thai Airways is the only airline in this group actively promoting a WeChat account on its website.

Thai Airways_CRM_WeChat_600

Why WeChat matters

Users agree to follow a brand on WeChat by scanning the QR code with their mobile phone. Because the QR scanner is embedded in the WeChat app, connecting with the brand is a seamless process. Once connected, the user is pushed content in the form of news, promotions and discounts. This allows brands a much more personalized level of interaction with their fans.

KLM has 88,000 followers on WeChat, growing at 0.5% and 1% each week. It credits this to good service, engaging content, good commercial offers and better campaigns.

In addition, it is encouraging its customers to use the platform as a 24-hour-a-day customer service channel. (This screenshot from the KLM website appears on its customer service page and can be viewed in both English and Chinese.)

KLM_WeChat_Customer service_600

Once connected on WeChat, users can interact with the brand directly in the form of text messages. According to the KLM website, Chinese users can expect a response within one hour.

Previously, this process was operated manually. However, since partnering with cloud communications platform Nexmo, KLM is now assimilating its WeChat customer service queries into its global Salesforce CRM platform. This has made the process more automated, and customer response times twice as fast.

With this new integration, KLM customer service agents no longer have to open a separate window to facilitate the WeChat queries. All communication flows through the same Salesforce platform the airline employs for its other digital channels.

WeChat_CRM_Nexmo - phone_nexmo_wechat_KLM_600

Redefining B2C communication through chat apps

Chat apps are hugely popular in Asia. In addition to WeChat in China, Line is the dominant messaging app in Japan, Taiwan and Thailand, while parts of Southeast Asia are using Viber and WhatsApp. Other popular apps across APAC include Kakao and Facebook Messenger.

Nexmo is working with brands to integrate a number of these messaging apps into their CRM platforms.

“As these global brands are talking to their customers globally, they are realizing they have to be present where their customers are and it’s just a reality that in many of these countries that these messaging chat apps are the primary platforms where their customers are,” says Sumit Suman, product management lead, Nexmo.

Business to consumer (B2C) communications will continue to be redefined as more brands integrate messaging apps into their CRM strategies. For the time being, KLM is proving it has an edge over some of its competitors.

]]> 0 Mon, 28 Mar 2016 12:34:49 +0000 “Everybody thinks everybody else is doing it, but nobody’s doing it well” is how Deloitte Digital’s Mike Brinker thinks about teen sex – and digital transformation.

Digital transformation is quite a big topic at the moment – it was the overall theme of Adobe Summit this week, as well as ClickZ Live New York next month. So naturally, it was also the theme of the conversation ClickZ had with Mike Brinker, principal of Deloitte Digital, when we met up with him in Las Vegas.

We’ll start with a broad, basic question: what does digital transformation mean to you?

Digital transformation is kind of like teenage sex. Everybody thinks everybody’s doing it, but nobody’s doing it well.

We’re seeing the Internet of Things explode, and virtual reality and augmented reality take off. It’s a whole new way to experience hospitality, TV shows, real estate, marketing. So many new technologies are emerging, but it’s not incremental technology. When it hits, it hits like a ton of bricks and companies are caught off guard like, “What just happened?”

We challenge companies and brands to completely rethink the industry they’re in. Forty percent of the Fortune 500 companies right now will not be here in 10 years. We do believe there’s no industry, no sector and no company that’s immune to this kind of significant disruption.


How did Deloitte come to start Deloitte Digital?

In 2010, mobile, social media, cloud computing and analytics were the four big disruptors. They’re going to be 10 times bigger than dot-com, in terms of disruptors. For us, that meant first going out and making a bunch of key acquisitions.

Deloitte Digital was born in 2010, but it wasn’t until 2011 when we closed the first acquisition and formally launched Deloitte Digital. In 2010, 98 percent of the world didn’t realize what was coming – the world was still using Blackberrys; today, Deloitte has 110,000 iPhones and 67 Blackberrys – but we realized it and said the whole world was going to go mobile.

The first thing we did was launch a responsive site and it was basically just us and The Boston Globe.

We asked Seth Godin this question during a recent video interview, but it fits in here, too, since you keep mentioning disruptors. What do you think is the next industry that’s begging to be disrupted?

There are lots of industries ripe for huge disruption. Everything around media already has; I think retail is the next big one. The fact that Sports Authority just went out of business is an indicator of that. Everything about commerce is going to be realized in a huge way; if retailers don’t transform fast enough, new ones are going to pop up with no cost at scale.

Cars are another one. A Tesla has more in common with my iPhone than a combustible engine carburetor. Automotive companies aren’t ready for that, but that’s what cars are becoming.

But it doesn’t have to be this amazing media business. We’re working with a company that’s rethinking the way they do waste management, with sensors in the trash cans, both commercial and residential. They can skip routes or notify people to take out the trash or have the ability to Uber a truck to get rid of a sofa. That’s trash; it doesn’t only happen with the Nikes of the world.


How can retailers better merge their online and offline presences?

Amazon is winning, not because of technology or its website. They’re beating everyone because of a few key considerations: price. Availability: they have an endless aisle. Loyalty: Amazon Prime has created loyalty like never before. Now, the war is over shipping and logistics.

Amazon is disrupting the space with traditional business practices, tried and true back-office operations. In 10 years, the world is going to be set up for digital-physical. Think about connected computing devices. In 2010, we had 500 million, which seems like a lot but today, we have 20 billion. By 2020, we’ll have about 75 billion and by 2030, 1 trillion. We’re not even skimming the surface.

Where do you see this convergence going?

We’re creating completely new markets and ways of doing things where digital and physical are going to collide. Every physical device will have digital device embedded in it. Think about a hot water heater. It has one job and it doesn’t even tell you the temperature. [What would make that possible] would be like $6 worth of technology. Why don’t they all have them?

It’s going to be a nirvana for marketers. From a marketing perspective, there’s endless places you can go with it. Technology is getting so cheap that you can put it in every pizza you deliver and you could use that for loyalty programs.

Of all the brands you’ve worked with, which one had the coolest example of merging physical and digital?

The Store of the Future we helped execute for Telstra in Australia. It’s like a Verizon or an AT&T, but bigger: they own 70 percent of the market down there.


When you walk in, you get handed a chip and you can use this to scan, highlight and compare things in real-time or later, if you want to go home and punch in the code from the chip. You don’t even have to use your phone because you might not have one; you might be shopping for one.

What’s one takeaway our readers can pull from this?

Make a really delightful experience. Make very complex products simple and delight the customer around the ease of the transaction.

It’s about taking the friction out and making everything so easy and seamless in physical and digital. That’s what truly matters.

]]> 0 Thu, 24 Mar 2016 19:02:14 +0000 One of the largest automakers on the planet, Ford plans to remain relevant in the digital age by transitioning from a product brand to a product and services brand.

American car ownership is down, particularly among the millennials whose spending power is in the trillions. That wouldn’t bode well for Ford, the second-largest automaker in the country and the fifth in the world, except that Ford considers mobility, not cars, to be its primary business.

Cars are a big part of it, of course. But Rich Strader, director of emerging at IT at Ford, points out that nobody buys a car because they need a vehicle.

“Consumers don’t buy products; they solve problems. Nobody’s problem is that they need a car. The basic need is to get from Point A to Point B,” says Strader. “We need to evolve from being a product-driven company to more of a product- and service-based company.”

Emerging opportunities

There are a lot of factors in the decline in car ownership. They’re expensive, and as more millennials gravitate toward cities and become more environmentally-minded, owning a vehicle just doesn’t seem necessary. But none of those things will change people’s need to get somewhere else, and Strader has a few ideas to that end.

One is a shuttle service that’s like a combination of Uber and the city bus. If a user downloads the app, they can summon a shuttle full of other people headed in the same general direction. The other passengers would make it cheaper than Uber, and it’d result in fewer cars on the road – less traffic and less emissions – while still solving the user’s primary problem.


“If someone can’t walk very long or if it’s raining, they’re not going to want to walk four blocks to the bus. As things expand, it’s going to be a more viable option because there won’t be another option,” says Strader, who notes that Uber is at the mercy of the cities it serves. Uber was banned from three German cities in November, for example, while its future is questionable in Montreal and Philadelphia.

Executing something like this comes with its challenges, a big one being timing. Not going to market at exactly the right time can mean the end of a product, service or brand before it’s even begun. Still, Strader thinks it’s key to expand into what he calls “mobility services” in order to remain competitive in the future.

“There’s a risk that a vehicle will become commoditized like a phone is commoditized,” he says. “Have you heard anyone talk about Zune lately? The difference was in the ecosystem. Zune does exactly what an iPod does, but it didn’t have iTunes or the always-on connection to customers that Apple has. Apple evolved its product to take advantage of the ecosystem and evolved the ecosystem to take advantage of the product.”

Core business

That’s not to say Ford will move away from cars as a product. It continues to innovate in that space, making cars smarter, like all relevant automakers.

Strader’s favorite smart feature is the vehicular infotainment system that allows drivers to control their phones, music and navigation systems with their voice, hopefully decreasing the number of accidents caused by people looking at their phones.

To evolve the product side, Strader thinks it’s crucial to really know customers, an area Ford is focused – a Ford Focus, if you will – on improving. The average customer spends 900 hours in the car each year, but only four hours interacting with the brand – and that includes the initial purchase at the dealership.

“That’s 896 hours we’re not finding out if you like the experience, if it’s average or if it’s awful,” says Strader. “We don’t know what you use the car for: hauling big loads, dropping kids off at soccer practice, using self park. We’re not getting feedback because we’re not in your lives.”


Customer experience encircles the infinity symbol that represents Ford’s mission. One on side is what exists – Ford’s core product and heritage as a brand – and on the other, what’s emerging, which refers to the services Ford can provide.

Ford aspires to not only live in the middle of that infinity sign, taking some inspiration from the company whose stick prices recently became the most profitable in the world.

“What is Google going to do next? Whatever they figure out they can do next,” says Strader. “We think you have to be engaging upfront in experience to figure it out; nobody has the answer.”

]]> 0 Thu, 24 Mar 2016 14:32:25 +0000 ... read more]]> Finding ways to monetise a free internet service is always a challenge, and for Yahoo, turning a profit with the microblogging website Tumblr has been no exception.

Last month it was revealed that Yahoo had written down the value of Tumblr, the popular blogging site it acquired for $1.1 billion in 2013, by $230 million after the site failed to meet revenue targets in 2015.

Now, amidst news that the entire goodwill value which Yahoo paid for the site could be written off altogether, Yahoo is pulling out a lot of stops to try and improve Tumblr’s fortunes.

It seems to be banking heavily on advertising to achieve this, making it easier for brands to place ads on the site and reportedly undergoing talks with Facebook to serve ads through its Audience Network platform.

But on a platform where anonymity is a defining characteristic, and with a core user base that is extremely averse to advertising, is this really the right route to go down?

What’s going on with Tumblr?

When Yahoo acquired Tumblr in 2013, the site was supposed to be Yahoo’s ticket to relevancy with a young, trendy and mobile audience. Close to three years on, the company is facing problems on all fronts, and unfortunately that includes Tumblr.

One of the first signs that things were not going as planned with Tumblr came at the beginning of February, when Yahoo’s fourth quarter earnings report revealed a $230 million write-down of Tumblr’s value, nearly a quarter of its total worth.

Was this development completely out of left field? Towards the end of 2014, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer was confidently predicting that Tumblr would bring in over $100 million in revenue during 2015, through a combination of a growing user base and the introduction of sponsored advertising.

A caricature of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer holding a flag which reads, "I <3 BLOGS"Image by Insider Monkey via Flickr, some rights reserved.

This prediction was a surprise to critics, who had long suspected that Yahoo overpaid for Tumblr in 2013. And sure enough, last month came the news that Tumblr had not met these ambitious revenue targets.

Part of the problem was a controversial move by Mayer in January 2015 to combine the sales team at Tumblr with the broader Yahoo sales team. This directly contradicted a promise that Mayer made in 2013 to preserve Tumblr’s independence and not “screw up” what made the blogging platform unique.

The restructuring led to confusion, power struggles and a number of walk-outs from Tumblr sales staff. On top of this, Tumblr and Yahoo advertising targets fundamentally different demographics, with Tumblr specialising in native advertising aimed at a younger audience, and Yahoo using traditional advertising to target an older demographic.

Marissa Mayer has since admitted that combining the two sales teams was a mistake, citing the “sales realignment” as one reason why Tumblr failed to meet its $100 million revenue target in 2015. Now, the integration is being completely undone as Yahoo scrambles to get Tumblr back on course.

A graphic depicting a black zig-zagging down arrow on top of some dollar bills.Image by geralt on Pixabay

More bad news for Tumblr was to follow at the end of February when Yahoo filed its annual 10-K report, a document which gives a comprehensive summary of a company’s financial performance.

Of the $1.1 billion that Yahoo paid for Tumblr in 2013, around $750 million was ‘goodwill value’: the amount paid for a company beyond its balance sheet value, including things like reputation or potential for growth.

The 10-K filing disclosed that Yahoo is considering writing off “some portion or all” of Tumblr’s remaining goodwill value – a massive comedown for Yahoo, and a serious admission that Tumblr is not performing as the company had hoped.

So what is Yahoo doing to try and turn Tumblr back around? The indications are that Yahoo is planning to lean pretty heavily on advertising to boost Tumblr’s revenue. A week ago, Marketing Land reported that Tumblr has removed a major barrier to brands placing ads on the site, as it no longer requires them to maintain their own blog in order to run sponsored posts on Tumblr.

A screenshot of a Universal sponsored post on Tumblr, showing a video with the Universal logo and a dollar sign in the top right corner to indicate it is a sponsored post.

At the same time, the Information released a report that Yahoo is considering an advertising partnership with Facebook, which would allow Facebook to serve ads inside the Tumblr mobile app using Facebook’s Audience Network platform. Mobile is a major growth area for Tumblr, with 78% of its users currently accessing Tumblr through a mobile device; a partnership with Facebook, the king of mobile ad revenues, could help Tumblr to monetise that user base.

What do the changes mean for brands?

For brands looking to place ads on Tumblr, things just got much easier. Before the introduction of ‘blogless’ sponsored posts, Tumblr lacked a non-native advertising option. Brands were required to create content on a Tumblr blog and then deliver it in the form of native advertising.

Now, brands have the option of running a more traditional advertising campaign without needing to connect it to a blog on Tumblr. They can also more easily rework existing ads from elsewhere online, instead of having to design dedicated content just for Tumblr.

A screenshot of the specifications for a 'Blogless Tumblr Sponsored Post' advert on Yahoo.

Up to now, Tumblr’s creative canvas has presented a daunting prospect to a lot of marketers, who are put off by the need to custom-create a whole look and feel with their advertising on the site. Blogless sponsored posts seem like a move from Tumblr to address issue this directly, and it can be seen in the difference between the ad specifications for Tumblr Sponsored Posts and Blogless Sponsored Posts.

Tumblr’s regular sponsored posts require new creative content to be “rotated in every seven days the campaign runs”, and come with a list of tips on how to best appeal to Tumblr’s user base, recommending “fun, dynamic content” with “animated GIFs and photosets [to] grab users’ attention and tell a better story”.

By contrast, the new blogless posts only offer guidelines on how to optimise ads for resolution and visibility, and don’t put as much onus on advertisers to blend seamlessly into the Tumblr environment.

tumblr ad examples

It remains to be seen whether a deal will come forth from talks between Yahoo and Facebook, but if it does, brands who run ads on Facebook’s Audience Network (or who run mobile News Feed campaigns on Facebook, which are automatically opted-in to Audience Network) may see their ads appearing on Tumblr’s mobile app in the near future.

Brands who are thinking of getting into advertising on Tumblr would also be well-advised to check out Tumblr’s wonderfully sassy Global Advertising Policy, which includes such sage advice as “For legal advice, you should google “lawyer” and see what comes up”, and, “Mainly, just don’t lie. Should be easy. You’re in advertising, after all.”

Is this a good move for Tumblr?

In the past, Tumblr has struggled to woo brands to advertise on its site, a situation probably not helped by the lack of a dedicated sales team. The Information reported that Tumblr is currently only serving ads on 10-15% of its available inventory, according to well-informed anonymous sources. Tumblr is obviously hoping to turn this trend around with its recent actions, but is it a good idea?

One of the defining traits of Tumblr as a blogging network is its anonymity. This is what has made it so attractive to the many teens who choose to publish their innermost thoughts on the site, but the lack of identifying data is a big problem for advertisers who want to know exactly who they’re targeting. Presumably this is why Tumblr has turned to Facebook to deliver mobile advertising instead of Yahoo’s own Flurry.

The icon depicting an anonymous user on Tumblr, rendered as a grey sphere with darker shadow towards the bottom-left (as if a light source is shining on it from the top right) wearing a pair of sunglasses.The icon for an anonymous user on Tumblr.

The other big issue with advertising more to try and increase Tumblr’s revenue is that Tumblr’s core user base is extremely advertising-adverse. As I wrote in my guide to marketing on visual social media, when it comes to Tumblr, a smart content marketing strategy goes a lot further than plain advertising.

Tumblr’s users are tech-savvy and quick to share ad blocking solutions for marketing content they dislike. They also cultivate Tumblr as a safe space away from messages and imagery they find distasteful – so if they discover that kind of content cropping up in their feed in the form of advertising, the backlash will be severe.

A screenshot of a Tumblr post from within a user's dashboard. The subject line reads "GOD FUCKING DAMN IT SPONSORED ADS". The text of the post reads, "Tumblr? Hey, come close, I have something to say. No, closer. Closer. Cloooooooser. CUT THIS SHIT OUT. I absolutely DO NOT WANT ads for horror movies popping up in my dash. I come here to have a good time, not be reminded of horrible movies about shitty horror. You want ads? FINE. Make them family friendly. PG at most. This is a big part of tumblr’s culture, the ability to see what you want and exclude things you don’t want to see/find disturbing. That’s why trigger warnings exist, or tags like gore or rape. Some people don’t want that. THIS IS IMPORTANT AND YOU ARE ALIENATING YOUR FANBASE."

Tumblr’s reputation with its core user base takes a hit every time a new wave of advertising appears on the site. This group might not make up the majority of Tumblr users, but it is key to sustaining the site.

Few users of a social network are happy when advertising first begins to appear on their site, but Tumblr users have a particularly low tolerance. Tumblr has previously respected this by introducing advertising to the site relatively slowly, and restricting advertisers to placing native ads which reflect Tumblr’s unique look and feel. But the move to introduce more traditional-style blogless ads to Tumblr is a step in the opposite direction.

That’s not to say that all advertising on Tumblr is necessarily a terrible idea. Tumblr has attracted praise in the past for its smart and skillful integration of native advertising into the blogging environment. A series of ads for an app called ‘Episode’ have seen popular uptake on Tumblr for their wacky and fun marketing – though most of them fall into the category of ‘so bad it’s funny’, but that could well have been what the advertisers were aiming for.

episode ads

Tumblr is also full of dedicated niche communities centred around geek culture, film and television, comics and literature; some well-planned advertising which caters to these demographics could prove very effective.

The ultimate point is that Yahoo won’t get very far without stopping to understand Tumblr’s culture and community before planning any monetisation strategy. It already made this miscalculation once before by absorbing Tumblr’s sales team, and a year later is struggling to undo the damage.

Yahoo needs to do more than just increase the level of ads on Tumblr to monetise it successfully. Playing to the site’s strengths and unique characteristics could make the difference between turning the platform around and chalking it up as another failure.

]]> 0 Thu, 24 Mar 2016 10:44:30 +0000 ... read more]]>

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