Cincinnati Startup Pingage Signs With P&G to Bring Business to Pinterest

Startup Looks to Speed Brands' Slow Movement Onto Fast-Growing Network

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Pinterest hit 10 million unique monthly visitors last year faster than any website ever and now tops 30 million, per comScore. Yet many big brands still have no presence there, and even ones that do, such as Walmart and L'Oreal's Maybelline, attract only low-five-figure followings.

Pingage President Bob Gilbreath (left) and CEO Michael Wohlschlaeger
Pingage President Bob Gilbreath (left) and CEO Michael Wohlschlaeger Credit: Mark Bowen

Sensing a void, Cincinnati-based start-up Pingage hopes to become to Pinterest what Buddy Media was to Facebook -- offering marketers a simple way to manage content and build followings. Thanks to a demo day in January at Procter & Gamble Co. arranged by the Brandery seed-stage accelerator, the startup recently signed two P&G brands for pilot projects to do just that.

The startup recently closed $850,000 in seed-stage venture capital from CincyTech, Vine Street Ventures and North Coast Angel Fund among others.

But it's clear brands have been slower to warm to Pinterest than to Facebook or Twitter, said Pingage president and co-founder Bob Gilbreath, a P&G alum who at WPP's Possible and its forebear Bridge Worldwide worked with P&G and other CPG brands on social media.

In part, that's because Pinterest is harder to understand and doesn't respond readily to promotional offers, he said. "On Pinterest, people are not going to follow a brand unless great content comes into their feed."

Mr. Gilbreath also believes many brand managers are suffering what Reckitt Benckiser U.S. Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer Laurent Faracci recently described as "social fatigue." They aren't eager to deal with another social network.

But he also believes Pinterest is the first social network truly built for marketing. Its user base is heavy with women 18-34 in Middle America sharing images of things they'd like to eat, cook, wear, make or buy, he said.

So unlike Facebook or Twitter, Pinterest may not get credit for bringing down regimes or relationships, but might get moms to add Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup to grocery lists. That helped attract another early Pingage client, Conde Nast's digital shopping list app Ziplist, whose CEO Geoff Allen was a Pingage mentor at the Brandery.

Marketers can get much more mileage from their content on Pinterest than other social media, Mr. Gilbreath said, because80% of pins are re-pins, compared to 2% of tweets being re-tweets. "The viral loop with Pinterest is unlike anything we've seen before," he said.

Pingage believes brands should post 15 to 30 pins daily, so it's made arrangements with magazine publishers and other content aggregators to supply them.

He's confident enough in the medium that Pingage is working for big brands entirely on pay for performance (though there's a monthly-subscription model for bloggers and smaller enterprises). The target metric may be anything, including increased follower counts, re-pins or sales where that's possible to measure, he said, but added that he wants the metric "to get as close as possible to sales."

Mr. Allen declined to say how he's paying Pingage, but he's happy with the results. Using Pingage since December, ZipList's follower base has grown 70% a day on average to now over 52,000, he said, five times the users ZipList has for its Facebook app after three years.

"We don't have the budget of a P&G or a Dove Chocolate to put out millions of coupons," he said. "So for us in such a short time to organically get so many followers is remarkable."

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