4 Branding Lessons from Asking MailChimp Anything

June 18, 2015

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Alyce Currier


We hold one AMA (Ask Me Anything) each month in the Wistia Community. During each AMA, experts from the video marketing industry (and beyond!) answer member questions via livestreamed video. We’re always looking for new guest experts, so please let us know if there’s someone you’d love to learn from!

Last week, we had the good fortune of spending half an hour with two marketers from a company we really admire: MailChimp! Marketing director Mark DiCristina, who joined us as a workshop leader at WistiaFest this year, and product marketing lead Allyson Van Houten gave us an insightful overview of how MailChimp balances brand and product marketing, measures the unmeasurable, and justifies wacky experimentation.

585 people tuned in live, but if you missed it, we’ve got you covered with this recap of our favorite moments!

The best results are often unmeasurable

MailChimp considered their sponsorship of the podcast Serial a success, but it was very difficult to truly measure its performance. Even though they were unwilling to use a special URL for tracking (see the next point!), they were able to see a lot of small indicators of the podcast sponsorship’s success.

“People were talking about MailChimp in a way they never had before,” Mark explained. In a sense, Serial pushed MailChimp into the cultural zeitgeist. Instead of trying to own or capitalize on that conversation, Allyson explained, MailChimp decided to “let people enjoy it for what it is.”

Sometimes, it’s okay to give up data to create a better experience

One way that many businesses track their brand and event advertising is to give people a special, tracked URL or landing page to visit. MailChimp has found that the return on this is not particularly great; “It’s a sucky experience,” Mark explained. “You’re going to be disappointed because nobody’s going to go to that link. They’re going to feel like you’re just trying to sell them something.”

While MailChimp does track many of their efforts, the main goal of their brand advertising is for people to walk away with a good feeling about the company.

Mascots can be fun, but a mascot does not a great brand make

Everyone loves MailChimp’s mascot, Freddie. However, according to Mark, “having a mascot is not a substitute for having a marketing strategy.” There are benefits to having a mascot, but the things that are really important are the whole experience the customer has with your service. One reason Freddie has been successful is that he represents some ideas that the whole company stands behind: making work fun, creativity, and independence.

In summary: making a penguin the mascot of your company isn’t going to do much for you if you don’t have an actual marketing strategy behind the mascot.

Having a “parts bin” can help justify experimentation

Sometimes, MailChimp’s wackier efforts are a great success on the first try, but the nature of experimentation is that sometimes you fail. MailChimp holds onto the components of every experiment in a “parts bin” that they can return to later. Whether it’s an idea, an animation, an illustration, or a way of interacting with a web page, nothing goes to waste.

On a similar note, MailChimp has a photographer who wanders around documenting things around the office each day. “It lowers the pressure of having to hit a home run; it’s just riffing on ideas and creating a great backlog,” Mark explained.

You can still watch the entire AMA in the Community!

June 18, 2015

Topic tags

Alyce Currier


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