Jules Lund, the founder of Tribe a self-serve influencer marketing marketplace talks about his company’s $7.5m new funding, US expansion and that Keith Weed investment.
Keith Weed has retired from Unilever. After 35 years at the FMCG giant, its Chief Marketing and Communications Officer has stepped down.
Yesterday it was announced that his first investment post Unilever is with Tribe, an influencer marketing marketplace. Surprising? Headline skimmers might think so. Weed has been vociferous in slamming influencer fraud. On the first day of Cannes Lions last year Weed made three commitments on behalf of Unilever regarding the working arrangements with influencers.
Since June 2018 Weed has maintained pressure at an industry level to end influencer fraud. Why did he devote so much energy in his closing months as Unilever CMO to driving awareness and action against influencer fraud? The answer is Weed’s conviction that influencer marketing offers enormous potential.
“At Unilever, we believe influencers are an important way to reach consumers and grow our brands. Their power comes from a deep, authentic and direct connection with people, but certain practices like buying followers can easily undermine these relationships,” Weed was quoted as saying in The Drum last year.
In March Tribe completed a $7.5m investment round. We now know that Keith Weed was one of the investors. I wanted to find out more about the self-serve influencer marketplace, the Keith Weed investment and how Tribe planned to spend the newly-raised capital.
I caught up with Jules Lund, founder of Tribe this week via email. Here is the transcript from our exchange:
[SG] Congratulations on the Keith Weed investment. This brings with it enormous industry social currency for Tribe. Will Weed be an active investor in Tribe moving forward?
[JL] Thank you! Obviously, in terms of value, Keith brings more than money. His marketing wisdom, network, and credibility is undoubtedly world class. Regarding his involvement moving forwards, it’s something we’ll discuss in time, but Keith’s finishing 35 years with Unilever so I expect he’d like some time off first!
[SG] Congratulations again on completing the US $7.5m investment round in March. How will the capital be utilised? I note that 20% of your campaigns already originate from North American marketers and 25% of your app downloads are from North American creators. Is the funding all going on US expansion?
[JL] The funding is primarily to get us into the U.S., yes. We launched into the UK two years ago, so we’re replicating that in the U.S. with an office in New York. These offices at One World Trade Center will service the entire U.S market to begin with.
We’re also investing further into our product. We have 35 developers co-based in Australia and Manila in the Philippines. They are continually trying to make it easier for brands and agencies to connect and transact with our creator network.
[SG] Keith Weed name checked Tribe earlier in the year during a Marketing Week Live interview telling delegates: “As a marketer, we need to bring ... innovation into the business. Go out and find the Tribes and bring them into the business.” Did his seal of approval help get the investment round over the line?
[JL] Every bit counts but no, those investment decisions were well and truly made by the time Keith addressed that audience.
[SG] Keith Weed has been very vocal about influencer fraud. He devoted a sizeable chunk of his remaining months with Unilever to raising awareness globally about this issue. How does Tribe combat influencer fraud?
[JL] You've got to think about what drives fraud and largely it's incentivising creators to grow their numbers by valuing them on those metrics alone.
A lot of platforms focus the buying mechanic around reach or engagement, and while they are important metrics, it dismisses brands valuing the quality of the content that comes from a genuine customer and how greatly that resonates with audiences.
The TRIBE platform puts so many briefs live that creators will always have an opportunity to work with a brand they love and genuinely consume the products or services. They aren't sitting back and waiting to be pre-selected by a brand or an agency. Instead, they are given the opportunity to put their incredible content in front of their favourite brands and set their fee themselves.
Ensuring creators are genuine in their recommendation and allowing them to set and negotiate their fee as part of a marketplace is a huge step toward creating an environment for brands and creators that is built on integrity.
More specifically, we’ve always invested heavily in brand safety. And I suspect that’s a huge consideration for Unilever running 65 campaigns with us globally, but also in why Keith felt confident backing us.
Three years ago our data scientists built an algorithmic system that scans an influencer's audience every six hours for signs of fraud, like a historical spike in followers, or a spike in engagement. It even detects if the content has been ripped from somewhere online. We call it our AVS scan for Audience Vital Signs.
We don’t reveal a lot about our AVS scan publicly, but it scans every account on entry, then across our whole user base four times a day - every day.
We have a dedicated team of data scientists who continually refines the inputs and a full compliance team who manually reviews flags.
That’s at an AUDIENCE level, but our model is Content Upfront, which is the ultimate in Brand Safety because brands have 100% control over what CONTENT gets published.
Finally, at an INFLUENCER level, their professionalism is displayed as an Influencer Rating out of 5. So brands can make informed decisions at each touch point.
RELATED: The influencer fraud vigilantes
Like any tech platform, we’re not perfect, but our data team is relentless and proud. We don't just blacklist people because it's a complex ecosystem. We are transparent with brands and creators to flag any issues and we work through them on a case-by-case basis. It has to be a blend of art and science, human and tech.
[SG] The influencer marketing platform market is becoming saturated. Influencer Marketing Hub reports there are now 740 providers in this space. How does Tribe stand out from the crowd?
[JL] We’re a marketplace. We’re pure tech. We’re self-serve and our model is built on the content you get from influencers, not just the reach. All these elements combined lead to scale. We now have over $250,000 worth of branded content submitted to our brands every day and we’ve already paid out over $10.5M to everyday content creators.
From an influencer perspective, a marketplace is unique and provides both sides with a fair exchange. The added benefit of content upfront gives brands ultimate brand safety and the competitive nature provides unrivalled speed with 25% of all briefs receiving submissions in the first 20 mins. I'm not sure we've heard of anyone competing on those levels.
From a scaled content-generation perspective, we have all the benefits of a stock image library but shot to spec, by your customers, featuring your product and exclusively created for your brand - at speed and scale.
[SG] Where do you see your main competition? Indahash, Buzzoole, Takumi, The Studio, Influencer perhaps, or somewhere else completely? Could Shutterstock be your biggest potential competitor?
[JL] To be honest, I’m not really sure. All of the above and none of the above. We’re building for a future that doesn’t yet exist, so in my mind, it’s all white space.
[SG] What's next for Tribe?
[JL] Our mission is to unlock the world’s creativity. To help brand’s turn their own customers into their marketing and creative departments. But marketers are only coming to grips with the first part of that, the second part… well, we’re a bit early there. That idea of a whole new category, call it Customer-Generated Content is the big one.
First we need to help educate marketers that the majority of the pics and clips they need in their digital advertising, can, in fact, be generated by the very consumers it’s designed to engage. Their own customers are the fastest growing creative solution on the planet.
[SG] What's next for influencer marketing as an industry?
[JL] Maturity. The focus will now move from the authenticity of influencers to effectiveness. This will be helped in part with Instagram’s broad rollout of Paid Partnership tags and the ability to shop directly from the influencers posts - not to be under-estimated.
Plus it helps that the world’s greatest marketing influencer [Keith Weed] just backed influencer marketing. It’s a vote of confidence for all of those incredible influencer companies who are doing such an amazing job at building this category.
[SG] Finally, Jules last year I couldn't log into LinkedIn without seeing videos of you talking about the industry. I don't see you on the platform so much any longer. What gives?
[JL] Ha! No time! There’s one thing more important than posting on a social network. That’s building one.