Tumblr’s First CMO on How to Grow While Staying True to the Brand

Stephanie Dolgins discusses new gig


Current gig Chief marketing officer, Tumblr

Previous gig Principal, Dolgins & Company

Age 44

Adweek: You're Tumblr's first CMO. Why is there a need for one now?

Stephanie Dolgins: Tumblr did a tremendous job of growing its audience organically over the years. Right now we've just been building incredible momentum, and adding the marketing focus will help us tap our potential overall and help fuel our growth.

What does your day-to-day look like?

I'm about five months in. The first three months or so were about listening and learning—getting to know everyone at Tumblr and our partners, and gaining a deep understanding of our audience. And in the last month or so I've shifted that time to start to understand and build our team to execute against that strategy and dive into what we'll be doing as we go forward. From a day-to-day I also spend a tremendous amount of time sitting in on our product reviews and meeting with our internal teams, meeting with our partners and interviewing candidates for positions. To be honest, a lot of what I've been doing is getting us up to speed and now positioning ourselves for growth.

What's Tumblr's biggest challenge right now from a marketing standpoint?

One of the things about Tumblr is there's something for everyone, which is both a huge opportunity but can also be a challenge in terms of how we communicate the message in a very simple and meaningful way that's both compelling and easy for folks to understand. I also think that as we look to broaden our focus and audience—and this isn't unique necessarily to Tumblr—it's about finding and striking that right balance between staying true to your brand ethos and your core audience as you also look for new ways to expand and grow.

Speaking of growth, as social media matures, what's your take on the future of social media marketing?

For Tumblr, what we're seeing is a huge amount of growth on mobile. Seventy-eight percent of our audience currently accesses Tumblr through mobile devices, and we continue to see that grow. So a lot of what will be focused on in where we look for our audiences will be a mobile experience. For social that also plays an important role in how consumers use social media and where they are, so those two things go hand in hand.

You also deal with content development and partnerships. Because Tumblr is a platform that enables creativity and self-expression and creation, we look at how is content trending, what folks are doing and how it's creating this cultural dialogue. A lot of that also ties in very closely to the fandoms that exist on Tumblr. We look for partners that reach similar audiences and fan bases—whether it be The Voice or Comedy Central or Ellen DeGeneres—and think about ways that we can tap into our audience to create content experiences for partners, from helping them devise content strategies for their blogs to enlisting our creative community through our Creatrs program.

Final question—what's your favorite Tumblr?

That's a tough one—I have so many. I've been focused a lot personally—I'm doing a home design project—on interior design blogs and Tumblrs. There's one that I love, and I don't know if you'll print this: Fuck Yeah Interior Designs. But I also follow a lot of traditional brands like Wallpaper—I still have big love for Refinery29—and New York magazine as well as even Taylor Swift. I have found that the more that I explore Tumblr, the more engaged I become.

This story first appeared in the Sept. 14 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.