How VisitBritain uses Tumblr to create the UK's future tourists

VisitBritain's head of marketing, Philip Taylor, says Tumblr is "edging out" platforms such as Twitter and Facebook in terms of growth and engagement.

VisitBritain: using Tumblr to reach the visual generation
VisitBritain: using Tumblr to reach the visual generation

The UK’s tourist board partnered with Yahoo to launch its own Tumblr blog, using idyllic images of Paddington Bear, thatched cottages and macaroons to appeal to the visual generation.

The idea is not to go in for the hard sell, but to lend the UK the elusive sheen of desirability to a cohort of future tourists in the United States, Brazil, India, France, Germany, and Arab Gulf states.

We’re trying to develop a sense of urgency, to convey that the UK is a place that’s happening here and now

Taylor told Marketing: "It’s about trying to tap into sentiment and a perception shift. It’s creating future demand.

"We’re trying to develop a sense of urgency, to convey that the UK is a place that’s happening here and now."

That approach signals a shift in mindset, since it differs from "hard-hitting" campaigns such as VisitBritain’s recent £1.6m China push, which directly aims to boost sales.

It also means Taylor is under more pressure to prove Tumblr’s worth for the long-term.  But in some ways, that’s proving easier than Twitter or Facebook, where a brand’s organic content might only appear once in a user’s feed.

Taylor said: "Unlike Facebook and Twitter, a lot of the content we’re posting on Tumblr resurfaces and it’s not just a moment in time."

One example is when BBC’s Sherlock aired in the US, VisitBritain’s posts showing landmarks featured in the programme were reblogged more than 50,000 times.

Taylor added that VisitBritain had become less precious about its branding, dropping logos from its Tumblr content to give the blog a more organic feel.

We have VisitBritain on all our assets, so trying to get that same message out without the brand stamped on there has been quite interesting

He said: "We have a great brand, we have VisitBritain on all our assets, so trying to get that same message out without the brand stamped on there has been quite interesting. It’s challenging for marketers, because we love to have a brand, and to have assurance that our authority is there.

"But great content stands up as assurance in itself, and we’re becoming more confident with that."

Other campaign highlights since the blog's October launch include 15m impressions for VisitBritain’s sponsored content, and more than 200,000 engagements – likes, reblogs or follows – during a three week period. VisitBritain is still working out how this will have a knock-on effect.

He said: "Tumblr is still new for us and we are trying to work out its ongoing events. But it is a good content distribution model for us."

Tumblr is growing fast, and has surpassed 420m global unique visitors and registered more than 220m blogs. According to a Tumblr spokeswoman, more than 300 of the world's top brands are on the service, bringing in an estimated $100m in revenue for 2015.

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