Apu Gupta, CEO/co-founder of Curalate: “The whole Web is becoming hi-def.”
Company helps companies & brands track conversations about products
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Somewhere along the line, you’ve heard someone refer to the visual age that we’re entering. Fewer of us are reading and writing more than 140 characters, while more of us are watching, browsing, swiping and sharing discoveries on Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr.
Now the increasing dominance of the visual Web has become not just an interesting observation — it’s a business imperative. How to take advantage of the increasingly visual nature of the Web?
Enter Curalate (tagline: “smarter marketing through imagery”). The Philadelphia-based company launched in May 2012 with “the realization that increasingly consumers were communicating with pictures rather than words,” CEO and co-founder Apu Gupta said in a phone interview. “What we’re betting on is that there’s a fundamental shift in consumer behavior happening. The whole Web is becoming hi-def.”
More than 500 million people are regularly using Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr, and most of the communication between users takes place with pictures — to the tune of 200 million photos a day — rather than words.
Curalate: A technology platform to make sense of the visual Web
For instance, a college student might take a photo of a cute pair of jeans at the Gap, but never mention the Gap in a caption, much less enter a #gap hashtag. But that brand moment should still matter to the Gap. Which is why companies like the Gap, Kraft Foods, J. Crew, Neiman Marcus, Better Homes and Gardens, Sephora, Campbell’s, Swarovski and others have hired Curalate to dig into the visual Web and let them know how customers are interacting with their brands.
“Most retailers have a discoverability problem” that Curalate helps solve, Gupta said. “We’re able to bring social data down to the product level.”
Curalate’s underlying technology and team of 30 — including several data scientists — trawls the visual Web and turns hundreds of millions of pieces of digital flotsam and jetsam into actionable data. It works both with companies directly and with marketing agencies representing more than 400 top brands.
“We teach them how to fish,” Gupta said. “They have to unlearn what they’ve been taught through the lens of Facebook. What we find with Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr is that the real engagement is initiated by the consumer instead of the brand.”
The centerpiece of Curalate’s offering is a drool-worthy analytics and marketing dashboard that provides rich details about the kinds of conversations and engagement people are having around brands and products.
“We scan every pixel from every image and we fingerprint it,” Gupta said. “We know how popular the image is, where it came from and who it belongs to. So I can say to the Gap, ‘Your most popular picture is x,’ and the Gap can decide to promote it or run an email campaign or decide to shift its advertising to reflect what people are talking about.”
How brands are using visual intelligence
I first heard of Curalate a few months ago on the SoLoMo Show podcast in a segment highlighting a new study that the company conducted showing which kinds of images get the most traction on Pinterest (multiple colors and reds, not blues; closeups, not faraway shots).
Those general learnings can help inform any company’s marketing efforts. But what’s even more useful is sifting through visual analytics relevant to your brand.
Gupta cited one client, Kahlua, that conducted a social media campaign using Curalate. Prior to the campaign, he said, the data from Curalate showed them that “people were thinking of Kahlua in more ways than just as a beverage.” So they ran a campaign showing how to use Kahlua as a pantry item that can be incorporated into baked goods. The result? Some 16,000 more subscribers to its email list, lots of sharing of content across Pinterest and a larger number of people “who began to think about Kahlua in a completely new way, taking it from the bar to the pantry,” he said.
Other clients have begun using Curalate analytics to update the window displays in their retail stores as the brands’ buying teams log into their dashboards to identify clothing trends.
I think it’s fair to say that Curalate is worth a look. Even if your brand isn’t particularly fetching, your customers are becoming more visual oriented. Sooner or later, you’ll want to learn how they’re engaging with your brand in these nonverbal corners of the Web.