Tuesday, January 19th, 2016 | 9 min read
Tumblr is like the quirky aunt of social networks: It’s colorful, eclectic, and surprisingly full of twisted, hilarious jokes. It’s also your go-to resource for information about fringe political movements, pop culture knowledge, and up-and-coming memes. Okay, so maybe that all doesn’t describe your aunt. But that’s also my point: Tumblr can be a confusing place.
Perhaps this is partly why many marketers still consider the micro-blogging platform to be a kind of underground anomaly. But how underground can a platform be if it has 550 million monthly visitors? Well, not that underground at all.
In fact, Tumblr has many appealing qualities for marketers. Last year, the social network launched its Creatrs Network, which connects brands with Tumblr’s top artists to produce compelling content. Not to mention, Marissa Mayer, CEO of Tumblr’s parent company, Yahoo, reported that the average sponsored post on Tumblr gets reblogged a whopping 10,000 times. And with options to create posts formatted for text, images, GIFs, quotes, video, and audio clips, the possibilities for marketers to stretch their creative boundaries are nearly endless.
Here are five brands that have already figured out how to use Tumblr’s gifts to create beautiful, crazy, and engaging blogs.
I’ll get this out of the way right now: The Denny’s Tumblr is weird. Very weird.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Still, that weirdness is what makes Denny’s blog so amazing. It’s full of bizarre, breakfast-related GIFs, punny images, and witty text posts that fit in perfectly with the average Tumblr feed.
Just take the post below, which has over 5,800 notes. Not only is it culturally relevant, but it also piggybacks on a popular Tumblr meme based on the Star Wars opening crawl.
Rightfully so, Denny’s Tumblr has been lauded for talking with its consumers instead of at them. In other words, it doesn’t scream, “This blog is run by a brand!” As Denny’s entry for the 6th annual Shorty Awards states, “If they can’t tell we’re a corporate account, we think we’re doing our job.” For instance, look at this little exchange, which has garnered over one million notes.
If marketers learn anything from Denny’s, it should be that brands have to speak the language (both visual and verbal) of Tumblr. The problem is, that language is a hard thing to explain. It can only be learned through being immersed in the platform, listening to how people interact, and figuring out what they respond to. But if marketers can do that the way Denny’s has, it will pay off. As Kevin Purcer, Senior VP of Digital Strategy for Denny’s agency, Erwin Penland, told Marketing Land in 2014, the company grew its Tumblr audience by 132,500 followers (253%) in under a year. And it’s still going strong today.
You don’t have to sell pancakes to succeed on Tumblr. Take IBMblr, a Tumblr blog run by one of the largest technology companies in the world.
Celebrating “the culture of innovation and the philosophy of design that shapes IBM—all in fun-sized snippets and GIFs,” this blog is thoughtfully divided into categories that offer a peek behind the curtain of IBM’s lab.
For instance, Man with Machine dives into the evolution of artificial intelligence with quotes from industry leaders, such as this one by Melanie Swan, Principal of MS Futures Group.
Meanwhile, How Not To Work Smart gets silly with graphics of ridiculous business solutions, such as “wearable whiteboards” and “Lazy Susan desktops.”
Still, most recently, IBMblr provided an inside look at the company’s new Silicon City exhibit at the New-York Historical Society. The exhibit explores the technological advancements made in New York long before Silicon Valley emerged on the West Coast. Appropriately, the corresponding Tumblr tag offers a glimpse at some of the coolest showcased inventions, like the Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator and Selectric typewriter.
Tying back to my previous point, Tumblr isn’t just for people craving late-night pancakes and food puns. It also hosts a passionate community of science and tech enthusiasts. Marketers just have to figure out how their audience likes to communicate on Tumblr and entice them with relevant content, as IBM continues to do.
Tumblr is a goldmine for entertainment brands, considering its userbase is full of fans and fandoms that follow TV shows, movies, and web stars like it’s their job. As a result, media companies like BBC America have cultivated some of the most engaged followings on the platform. Still, no brand has executed a more impressive Tumblr campaign than Lionsgate has for The Hunger Games.
To promote the release of the first film in 2012, Lionsgate launched the debut issue of Capitol Couture, a digital fashion magazine featuring real, high-end looks from the fictional, dystopian society of Panem. The issue even included a Capitol Art Challenge, which attracted impressive fan submissions.
Since then, Lionsgate has released a new issue of Capitol Couture for every film. Its final issue, presented by Samsung, features video footage of top stylists on “Capitol TV,” interviews with Hunger Games competitors, and of course, striking new designs, like The Huntress.
Lionsgate essentially used Tumblr to create a microsite of beautiful content that appeals to an audience of both Hunger Games fans and fashion enthusiasts. As a result, the bold marketing move earned praise from entertainment sites and fashion publications alike.
When it comes to finding recipes on social media, most people might first turn to Pinterest, but brands like Electrolux are building audiences of foodies on Tumblr. Instead of just posting pictures of blenders and washing machines, the luxury appliance manufacturer launched Now You’re Cooking, a blog dedicated to the joy of homemade cuisine.
The crisp, minimalist microsite engages followers with cook-along recipe videos and inspiring images. Electrolux also invites users to share their own inspirational posts with the tag #nowyourecooking for a chance to be reblogged by the brand.
Each featured dish is made, of course, with Electrolux appliances. As such, each recipe features a button that will take visitors to a page where they can learn more about the products. For instance, the recipe for ricotta fritters invites followers to check out the tabletop blender.
Most impressively, in April 2014, Electrolux took its blog live, streaming 15 different recipes over the course of three days, inviting viewers to follow along in their own kitchens. How’s that for an interactive, creative use of a social platform?
We’ve all written something in Sharpie—be it a grocery list, doodles in a notebook, or even a love letter. To showcase just how versatile and beloved its markers are, Sharpie turned to Tumblr.
With the tagline, “Uncapped and unplugged. Bold and behind-the-scenes,” the Sharpie blog is driven by a pretty simple concept: highlight the cool things people are making with their products. Whether they’re scouring Tumblr for cool designs or reblogging fan art, Sharpie is on the beat.
Oh yeah, and if you’ve ever wanted to know what music looks like, Sharpie has you covered there, too.
The selection of brands here proves how marketers in widely different industries with varied campaigns can succeed on Tumblr. Whether you’re in the business of making technology, movies, or pancakes, the micro-blogging platform provides an array of tools to unleash your brand’s creativity. And if you’re still hesitant to jump in, just remember to learn the language, use engaging visuals, and be open to taking some creative risks.
Sure, Tumblr may be a little different, but that doesn’t mean you should shirk it off. Like many wacky aunts, Tumblr has some great stories to tell.