Challenger to Watch 2019: Mailchimp
For leaning into weirdness
The chimpanzee logo, the sweaty hand hovering over the big red button before you send an email to thousands, the ad which pronounced its name ‘Mail-kimp’.
Mailchimp has always been a little weird.
So as it stretches its furry limbs into new markets in 2019, it’s great to see the company lean further into the quirks that first made it such an intriguing brand.
Through a new partnership with Square, Mailchimp users can now sell their products directly through landing pages. Until this feature was activated, landing pages were used mostly just to collect email addresses.
The partnership is part of a broader move to transform Mailchimp’s proposition from an automated email service to a ‘complete marketing platform’ offering landing pages, advertising and e-commerce. The transformation will see the Atlanta-based company compete for small businesses with established web and e-commerce platforms such as Squarespace, Wix and Shopify.
Squarespace and Wix are both platforms that focus on creating ‘beautiful websites’ and have launched their own respective automated email services in recent months, which sees them now fighting for a chunk of Mailchimp’s original email business. Things could get messy.
So how has Mailchimp been preparing for its new and bold ambitions?
A rebrand by Collins in 2018 saw the visual identity grow up, without “buttoning up”. A new hand-drawn illustrative style is introduced that leans into Mailchimp’s quirky and expressive brand DNA. And a bold shift to a banana-like yellow (a nod to the chimp again right?) as its primary colour helps Mailchimp stand out in a sea of sameness from its competitors who all seem to have a thing for blue.
And in January this year, in a brilliantly off-the-wall move, Mailchimp has channelled its inner-Netflix and started producing its own original content. Yes, you heard right. Original content. Exclusively on Mailchimp.com.
Taking Stock is a comedy/drama series about the day-to-day struggles of living the dream in a stock photography agency. It’s a little like HBO’s Silicon Valley. And Wi-Finders is an unscripted, original documentary series that tells the stories of people who have left their offices, work from anywhere, and are transforming the world around them.
Both shows broaden Mailchimp’s world beyond product functionality and expand it into the universe of entrepreneurs, startups and - it will hope - popular culture. Importantly, Mailchimp’s ability to connect with people on a very real and human (and occasionally weird) level is clear throughout each series and crucially that’s why this feels like it works. (Ok, If I’m picking holes, the acting in Taking Stock occasionally falls flat just a little…)
Episode one of Taking Stock sees the agency taking a “sad summer” photoshoot with its models looking depressed and in partial darkness because of a power cut. Whilst Wi-Finders’ Tokyo episode introduces us to Kenji – a 39-year-old male who’s occupation is as a friend-to-rent. Louis Theroux watch out.
Does it feel real? Mostly.
Does it feel human? Yes.
A little weird? Definitely.
And with Tom Klein at the helm as CMO, Mailchimp has someone who understands challenger thinking and the need to continuously drive imagination and differentiation into the brand and brand experience.
“We'll do a whole bunch of different versions of things, and it's the weird one that wins” Klein told The Drum.
We’ll see in 2019, if those small business customers are more drawn to the weird than the beautiful.