However all that seemed set to change when in 2013 the platform was bought for a figure rumoured to be around $1.1 billion by web mega giant Yahoo. What once was seen as a cool and edgy place to be was suddenly the preserve of a company which seemed to embody the opposite of Tumblr's unconventional attitudes. Critics predicted that the site would haemorrhage users. Some pundits even began to pen obituaries for the platform predicting that it would soon cease to be of interest to both users and brands.
Those who wrote Tumblr off though have been proved wrong. Although the last twelve months have been a little bumpy at times the latest figures have actually seen the number of users start to grow.
Crucially too, Tumblr has once again become a platform that brands can harness to connect with young digital natives. This is because Yahoo has surprisingly not made the platform even more brand-friendly.
As Lee Brown, global head of brand partnerships, told The Drum: ‘We think billion dollar brands need that ability to create intent and as more and more time is spent online and on Tumblr, they have to have that opportunity to tell their story in their voice and tonality in their space to bring customers to their products and into their stories.’
The key for Yahoo has been to put Tumblr at the heart of its native advertising strategy. This new approach kicked off in the summer and is already paying dividends for some brands. Basically Yahoo works with a brand to create an evergreen micro site, which is hosted on Tumblr, it then uses its native advertising platforms on its high traffic search and content sites to drive readers to the content. In some ways it is a mix of native advertising and the content recommendation systems, which are an essential tool of some brands’ marketing plans.
The key for brands is not to lose sight of the demographic of the Tumblr audience and to ensure that the content that is produced works for those youngsters. Tumblr is also image and video heavy, so for some brands the sites they have created have been less about words and more about short films and striking images.
Although the usual suspects are on Tumblr - MTV, Coke etc, there a few companies that have produced compelling content that are not at first the type of brand that you would expect to feature on the site. One great example is General Electric , which uses the site to parade some arresting retro images, imaginative GIFs and interactive videos.
It is probably not being too unfair on Tumblr to suggest that its audience is US heavy. However savvy UK creatives have been using the platform for several years and it seems that the acquisition has not put them off. There is clearly an opportunity for UK brands to connect with that valuable audience if they have the right content to pull it off. The next year could be a fascinating one for Tumblr.
Commissioned by The CMA