StumbleUpon Gets Brand-Friendly Face-lift

Company plans marketing push for 2012

Content discovery service StumbleUpon may be one of the biggest drivers of traffic on the Web, but the company's design and branding haven't kept pace with its growth, said CEO Garrett Camp. That's why it's unveiling a new design that Camp calls the "biggest change ever made" in StumbleUpon's 10-year history, as well as a new logo and branding.

The biggest functional change is probably the new Channels feature, which allows brands, publishers, and celebrities to share content. There are more than 250 Channels at launch, including ones for Funny or Die, GE, and The History Channel.

StumbleUpon might look like just another social media site for promoting content, but Camp said it works a bit differently than, say, a Twitter account. Channel owners don't have to worry about timing their posts just right or making sure they don't overwhelm their fans with too much content. That's because StumbleUpon customizes recommendations based on interest and activity, so the service might still recommend an article even if it was first shared 12 or 24 hours ago, and it can limit recommendations for each user to the topics that they've expressed interest in.

The site has also been redesigned to make it more visually driven and friendly to new users. The redesign, along with the new logo (which replaces StumbleUpon's traditional blue and green with an orange circle and more road-like lettering), is supposed to convey the idea of possibility and forward movement—namely, the brand messaging that StumbleUpon developed with its agency Huge.

Huge's Peter Wolfgang said that StumbleUpon's messaging previously came from a "traditional Silicon Valley perspective," emphasizing the "hardcore technical attributes" of its product. Huge tried to create designs that made the service friendlier to general consumers, using the metaphor that StumbleUpon's Web recommendations take users on a journey through "awesome" content. (Although Huge was included in Adweek's feature on Brooklyn, N.Y.-based agencies, it was actually the Los Angeles office that worked with StumbleUpon.)

And with that consumer-friendly branding, the company has plans for a big marketing and publicity push next year. Those plans include more outreach to consumer publications (rather than just the tech press) and advertising in locations like bus stops.

While a redesign can reinvigorate a property, it also poses risks—such as the backlash that social news site Digg stirred up with its redesign last year. Camp said the company has tried to mitigate that risk by testing the new design extensively with users before today's big launch. And if old users prefer the old layout, they can stick with it for the next couple of months while StumbleUpon irons out any remaining bugs.