The Re-Birth of Owned Media: Changing the Landscape with Tumblr



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One of the first sessions of Day 1 at SMW London welcomed Marshall Manson from Social@Ogilvy to lead a discussion with Michael Chrisment, (Global Head of Integrated Marketing at Nescafé), Pete Blackshaw (Nestle Global Head of Digital & Social) and Armand Khatri (Brand Strategist at Tumblr).

Nescafe has taken the bold move of building its .com website primarily on Tumblr. Why? Because they recognize Tumblr as a fast growing, social platform that grants them fluidity and agility to amplify and promote messages.

Before, brands built a website, and it would last for five years before needing a refresh, but this way, Nescafe felt they can better engage with their audience via Tumblr. It gives them the flexibility to stay in the moment and be highly relevant to an increasingly demanding audience. It’s also incredibly easy to manage, and millions of Tumblr users are familiar with the platform.

The importance of an owned channel was clear, they need a destination where they can drive people from their packaging and other calls to action. They also wanted a platform where they can amplify earned media and leverage positive word-of-mouth conversations, which is a coveted metric considering the trust people have in each other, especially friends. This “owned” platform does not need to be on their own infrastructure too. Khatri made the point that Tumblr should be considered not just as a social network, but as an architecture in which to build a presence.

When you visit it looks just like a website, there is nothing to say it’s on Tumblr – (that comes when you go to share content, though). A Tumblr website can be a Tumblr blog to some, and a normal website to others. The additional benefit is that once someone logs into their Tumblr they have the opportunity to subscribe. Tumblr doesn’t have an algorithm so you then have the opportunity to access 100% of your followers with your content – obviously depending on how often they login, how far they scroll back in their feed etc.

There was a question around the average age of Tumblr users, and whether that mapped to Nescafé’s target audience. In fact, two years ago, half of the Tumblr audience was under 25 years old. Now, half of the audience is under 35. Since it became more integrated with Yahoo, there are new features and more technology built into, and onto, the platform. These changes have helped older demographics better use, understand, and enjoy the overall Tumblr experience, both from a creation and consumption perspective.


Nescafe is not putting all their eggs in the Tumblr basket though. It was very important to them that it could form part of their digital ecosystem, and integrate not just with their other social channels, but also with their E-commerce, ratings and reviews, and customer service. They worked closely with their IT team to ensure that all the pipes and connections were in place. They recognized that they couldn’t make a move to be more engaged with their audience if they couldn’t follow it through in all of their channels. Necafe also doesn’t underestimate the importance of fueling these channels, and the conversation with their consumers want to have on them.

When asked about the SEO and analytics implications of this move, the Nescafe team was not concerned. For SEO, they’ll reap the benefits of engagement with their content, meaning the most popular posts should rise to the top. For analytics, it is in the early days, but the brand is testing and measuring to see how it goes. Other Nestle brands might eventually follow in Nescafé’s footsteps of a Tumblr-based website, but they will learn as they go.

For Nescafé, their digital presence in Mexico and the UK will launch in the coming weeks, and after that, 60 more markets will follow. China, Russia and Japan requires a different discussion to ensure they address local needs and specificities.

What can other brands learn from Nescafé?

  • Teamwork is key. This can’t be done in a silo and needs everyone to be involved from the start such as IT, Marketing, Legal, etc.
  • Think ahead. Look at what you have in terms of content as a base and look how you can expand and source it. Can it match the ambition?
  • Connectivity. Bridge your website to everything else you do, such as e-commerce, ratings and reviews, the contact page, and more.

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