The success of Tumblr campaigns depends on the ability of brand marketers to make their ads and blogs as interesting as the user-generated content they'll ultimately sit alongside.
Since Tumblr's acquisition by Yahoo, users have been seeing an uptick in ads. This hasn't come as a surprise; Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said early and often that monetizing the microblogging platform "in a way that's meaningful and additive to the user experience" would be a priority.
She couldn't have known exactly what she'd be getting in the way of campaigns. And yet, some brands have spent the past few months producing initiatives that fit Mayer's description well. Not only are they meaningful in the sense that they provide value to the user - whether in the form of visual interest or informational content - but they also enhance the Tumblr experience. Brands are creating pages, photos, and animated GIFs that are worth reblogging and that users are happy to share…in spite of the fact that they bear the mark of the "sponsored post" dollar sign.
Picture the Trip of Your Dreams
To promote its Venture Card, Capital One is tapping into users' wanderlust and creating image-based content - something brands are finding great success with on the platform. Studies show that the majority of Tumblr posts include photographs, and that photos get the most notes (including reblogs). In the case of the Venture Bucket List Tumblr, Capital One is asking users to post their travel dreams. It then tasks artists and illustrators with turning those dream destinations into static and animated GIFs.
The brand encourages the use of the #BucketList hashtag to produce additional chatter on Facebook and Twitter, and is sure to emphasize the fact that the Venture Card can help consumers build up the miles they need to see Machu Picchu or travel throughout Eastern Europe ("So go ahead, Czech that off your #BucketList!"). Those who choose to follow the page are frequently treated to new consumer-inspired imagery to help them keep their travel dreams alive.
A Blog With Character
When last month The Art Institute of Chicago revealed a new exhibit called "Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity," which combines fashions from the 1800s with famous works of Impressionist art, it drummed up added interested with a unique character-driven Tumblr page. Following the exploits of fictional 19th-century Parisian Jean-Paul Brunier as he explores 21st-century Chicago, the blog features photographs of artwork on display at the museum alongside pictures of stylish modern-day Chicagoans.
When the page first launched it wasn't entirely clear whether the Art Institute was behind it, and that added to the intrigue. Now Twitter's being used to drive traffic as well; the museum is maintaining a character account with tweets written in the voice of Monsieur Brunier, as well as emailing video postcards that feature information about the exhibit's artists. As a means of providing interesting themed content and generating buzz among fashion-conscious social media users, the cross-era fashion blogger concept is clever as can be. Followers of the Impressions & Fashion page might even see themselves featured online.
Making a Scene
Comedy website CollegeHumor launched its first original feature film with a Tumblr campaign that leveraged the power of the animated GIF. Called "Coffee Town," the movie was promoted on the Tumblr-based CollegeHumor Staff Blog with a page skin, while the GIF appeared both on the blog and as an ad on Tumblr users' dashboards.
What's different about this campaign is the GIF content: it rotated the promotional poster with a selection of scenes from the film. This approach gave viewers a sneak peek, trailer-style, while also ensuring they'd recognize and recall the visual content used for branding across the web - a critical point for a movie distributed primarily through digital channels.
The success of Tumblr campaigns depends on the ability of brand marketers to make their ads and blogs as interesting as the user-generated content they'll ultimately sit alongside. Take a tip from Marissa Mayer, and aim for meaningful. Only then will your campaigns resonate with users.
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Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.
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