Advertising on Tumblr: Not for n00bs

Tumblr is a social network that connects people primarily by interests instead of by your existing friend network. It is very easy to remain anonymous on Tumblr if a user desires. The community and attitudes on Tumblr are very different from those found on other social media. This Business Insider article reports that Tumblr is a very valuable platform because nearly half of its 30-50 million active users are between 16 and 24, and are highly engaged with the content.

This is true, but the key to understanding the users goes much deeper than demographics. Tumblr is populated by One Direction fangirls, Whovians, social justice bloggers, Beyoncé enthusiasts, vegans, people who make fun of vegans, and overall extremely web-savvy users. The currency of the community is increasingly convoluted jokes (see Spiders Georg), and users have created this Tumblr-unique syntax where misspellings and weird capitalization are COMODY in themselves. Tumblr’s users also tend to be cynical about advertising (and vocal about it), so advertisers need to really understand the culture before they dive in. This is especially true due to the ease of sharing (and adding to) these sponsored posts; there are a lot of highly influential users on Tumblr who can cause something to go viral incredibly quickly.

Tumblr is a gigantic network and resource for young people who want to learn or talk about feminism, social justice, privilege, and sometimes the unethical nature of capitalism. Tumblr’s community has mixed these social issues with their cynical, sometimes mean sense of humor, which has resulted in a lot of jokes at the expense of white boys and their overuse of Axe. So when I saw this ad for Axe sponsored on my Tumblr dashboard, it struck me as strange.

It is black and pink, all caps, a similar font and aesthetic to Beyoncé’s eponymous album that was released in December. The text is “I washed up like this,” which is a variation of “I woke up like this” from that album. Here’s the issue: On Tumblr, the Beyoncé fans and the people who hate Axe, its typical consumers, and its history of sex-filled advertising are the same people. It is my prediction that this particular ad will cause a negative reaction in the intended audience’s mind; they will not be happy that this brand they hate is attempting to capitalize off of their Queen.


Denny’s Diner, on the other hand, is killing it on Tumblr. Instead of placing sponsored posts, they have a Denny’s page that posts content and interacts with Tumblr users on a daily basis. The person running Denny’s blog was able to recognize Tumblr trends (including criticisms of cultural appropriation) and create content that seamlessly incorporates Denny’s into the joke. Tumblr users are responding really positively to Denny’s; they are liking, reblogging, asking questions, submitting pictures of themselves at Denny’s, and creating buzz on Tumblr about Denny’s in general.


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