In 2000, Gumtree was founded as a way to help Australians new to the UK – 20 years later with its Good Finds brand platform, it’s at the intersection of community, ecommerce and sustainable consumerism Hannah Rouch tells LBB’s Laura Swinton
Gumtree is a platform that has been just waiting for the 2020s to happen. The UK’s first online classifieds platform was founded by two friends back in 2000 – 2000! – just five years after Amazon and two years after PayPal. It was originally created to help antipodeans who had just moved to the UK get second-hand TVs and sofas for their new digs, but since then it has exploded into an incredibly broad community of 11 million users a month.
In that time, ecommerce, peer-to-peer and direct-to-consumer have boomed as has an awareness of more circular, sustainable ways of living as people seek to reduce their waste and impact on the environment. Now Gumtree has become an intersection between these two trends – a ‘recommerce’ platform as they pithily put it, a twist on the ubiquitous buzzword ‘ecommerce’.
Back in May 2021, Gumtree relaunched their brand platform ‘Good Finds’, an idea that chief marketing officer Hannah Rouch believes gets to the heart of why people love and use the site. This framework is built around the four principles (the ‘4Hs’) that shape the brand’s tone of voice: humble (“we don’t overpromise. What you see with Gumtree is what you get. No flash sales, just good finds”); human (“we are a people-powered platform’); honest (“we know we aren’t perfect, we lean into our imperfections. We are a 20-year-old platform and with that comes some glitches”) and humour (“because we are people-powered there are typos, upside-down photos, a natural humour too”).
Off the back of that, Gumtree’s recent advertising campaign has been playing with good-humoured, self-deprecating authenticity while also taking a shot at the manipulative hard sell found in other channels and on other platforms. It pokes fun at cheesy dancing mascots, sleazy topless hunks and QVC-esque presenters. It’s a campaign that launched in June, the creative was developed by Wieden + Kennedy London and the spots shot by Sweetshop’s Jim Hoskins. According to Hannah, this idea helps hone in on the enduring appeal of Gumtree.
“Over the years we had become so many things to so many people, for some a place to buy a car, for others a place to find a roommate. So, we wanted to strip Gumtree right back, to understand what made Gumtree Gumtree and why 11m people visit us each month.
We very quickly landed on our brand truth, Making Good Finds Happen. We knew that we wanted to be bravely honest about our platform and embrace the simplicity and ease of Gumtree,” says Hannah. “If you visit Gumtree and expect that instant buy or flash sales you’ll be disappointed. In its simplest form we show what Gumtree isn’t, to reveal what Gumtree is. So, we build a world of over-the-top sales tropes, including flash sales and cheesy salesmen only to strip this world right back to reveal the simplicity of our platform, real people selling real everyday items. We build a world of no frills, just good finds.
“We wanted to show how we’re powered by people not robots, real people selling real things. The campaign was really built on our brand principles of the 4H’s, be human, be honest, be humble and be humorous.”
It’s a campaign that lives on a variety of channels, from TV to social and in various online apps. In order to capture the breadth of what Good Finds means and what Gumtree offers, the team knew they’d need a decent volume of ‘snackable, short, sharp films’.
The other big project Gumtree has been working on is a new podcast. The Good Finds Podcast is hosted by comedian Rachel Parris and has welcomed guests like Pete Wicks, Scarlett Moffatt, Ellie Stewart and Cheryl Hole. It’s climbed up the charts with over 12,000 downloads – clocking in at number four in Top Comedy Interview Shows and number 14 in Top New Comedy shows. Needless to say of the brand’s 4Hs, the podcast has humour nailed.
As a channel, it makes sense for Gumtree. Podcast adoption has been growing year-on-year but there was an acceleration owing to the pandemic, Spotify alone recorded a doubling in listening hours in Q4 20201.
“In addition to audience growth, the medium is a really powerful and intimate way to connect to audiences and build cultural relevance. The numbers are something like 16m listeners every month in the UK, 44% aged between 18-34 and 72% of listeners act upon a brand’s message. That’s a massive opportunity,” says Hannah.
In terms of Gumtree's community and relationship building, and its need to connect with 18-to-30-year-olds, podcasting is also particularly useful. It’s an age group that is driving the growth in ‘recommerce’.
“For us, Gumtree has huge brand awareness but we wanted to build deeper connections with our existing audience and to expand our brand message into new channels where we could reach untapped audiences and non-users, to drive consideration,” says Hannah. “We’re seeing a rise in recommerce, fuelled in the most part by 18-30 year olds, for whom buying second hand is the norm. To date we’ve run traditional media but wanted to develop a brand platform that could allow us to connect more deeply to this audience.”
The podcast builds on relationships and brand equity built over two decades. Hannah believes that the intimate, slightly rambling nature of the show mirrors the joy of rummaging through the site to find a bargain. It’s something that bargain hunters enjoy in real life and virtually.
“Gumtree has been making Good Finds happen for 20 years. From sofas to motors, records to roommates. Gumtree isn’t one click instant buy, you have to scroll, search to unlock that good-find feeling. We wanted to create a fun way to bring out that message. And there’s nothing quite like an intimate chat show where you discover that celebrity fact that you can hardly believe,” says Hannah. “Our show sifts through the nonsense and outrageous headlines to separate fact from fiction and pull out that good story about some loveable and famous faces from the world of showbiz. The intimate and friendly discussion also leans into our core platform, connecting people to buy, sell and find what they need locally. It’s all about the simplicity of a chat.”
Gumtree chief marketing officer, Hannah Rouch
Listening to Hannah, it’s clear that the team sees Gumtree as more of a community hub than just a lifeless platform. While the brand has evolved and communities diversified beyond Aussies and Kiwis building a new life in London, its proposition and central model hasn’t. These recent marketing efforts, from the ad campaign to the podcast to upcoming collaborations are about reaching the different people who use the platform, not over-complicating it. “Supporting communities, connecting people and playing a significant role in the sharing economy is what drives our business,” says Hannah. “Gumtree means different things to different people and whilst many brands have evolved their model Gumtree’s proposition is as simple as it was at its launch in 2000. As a platform we problem solve, connect people and help people find what they need locally, affordably and sustainably.
“Gumtree has always supported its community through life’s milestones, from heading off to uni (laptops, flat shares, weekend jobs) to moving and renovating your house, becoming new parents through to empty nesters clearing out the attic. Our brand campaigns over the years have tapped into many of these moments and key audiences. What sets Good Finds apart is how it connects all areas of the platform. From jobs to cars, bikes to team mates...we make ‘good finds’ happen. It’s about the truth at the very heart of our platform, which we hope will help our brand as it evolves in the years to come.”
Like all brands, Gumtree has had to pivot and swerve over the past year and a half. On the one hand, it’s a platform that is one of the original ecommerce (or recommerce) platforms and the ecommerce boom was one of the big Covid trends. On the other hand, as a peer-to-peer platform, the community often exchanges goods in-person. So there were safety challenges and growth opportunities to deal with at the same time.
“With the very first lockdown we had to immediately pivot our comms and put measures in place to support our community, including introducing delivery on the platform via partnership with Parcel2Go. Our community’s safety was of the utmost importance and showing how users could get what they needed safely was priority,” says Hannah.
There were also some fascinating shifts and waves throughout the pandemic period – and at a macro-level the team also saw the pandemic boost existing interest in conscious, environmental consumerism, of which ‘recommerce’ is a significant part. “Owing to stock shortages, supply chains and challenged lead times we saw many turning to Gumtree to find items locally, from freezers and fridges with Lockdown 1 to bikes, kayaks and hot tubes over the summer as things began to ease,” says Hannah.
“As a platform we are a problem solver and facilitator and had never been more relevant to our users than during the pandemic when people needed to source items quickly and conveniently. But in any case, we were already seeing a rise in recommerce and the pandemic accelerated this shift to thrift with people wanting to make more conscious decisions around their consumption,” says Hannah. “This is all part of a broader movement, where people are looking to live more sustainably and be closer to their local community.”
Looking forward, Gumtree has more new projects in the works, with the likes of TikTok and Twitch becoming key channels in its quest to speak with vintage-hunting, bargain-loving and environmentally aware 18–30-year-olds.
“We have some really exciting partnerships and campaigns coming up in September including our first Twitch campaign and TikTok influencer collaborations,” says Hannah. “Both are new platforms for us but we’re really excited to see how the Good Finds message can translate and tap into communities and conversations across these platforms.”