MailChimp CMO Tom Klein isn't keen on calling it a "marketing campaign" but admits the online store he and his team created isn't really about selling products created by the company's own customers, either. Instead, he says it was an idea intended to walk in the customer's shoes as well as gain understanding and empathy regarding the pain points involved in setting up an e-commerce shop. Somebody--a MailChimp employee named "Meg"--would then write about it in a quirky new blog intended to help customers and would-be customers avoid common startup pitfalls.
Regardless of what anyone wants to call it, it's an experiment which comes off as fresh and fun, if not a bit difficult to fathom.
MailChimp Has a Store?
MailChimp is an online email marketing solution that offers users things like email templates, custom forms and analytics to track results. So, why would such a company need a store? Check out one of Meg's blurbs:
[W]e can't build a store for the sake of building a store! What does that have to do with email marketing? What if we don't sell anything? We don't know anything about what it's like to be an e-commerce business! What if I mess it up?!?...Yeah, I mean, it sounds pretty cool and everything, but it's complicated! What will we sell? Where does the site live? Do we need our own social media? What do we call it?
Klein's response? "Good questions," Meg quotes him in her blog. "When you figure out the answers, write about them."
A Different Kind of Marketing for Customers
It's one thing to build empathy with customers and create fodder for a new hip blog, but what the heck kinds of physical products could the software company possibly sell? MailChimp marketing director Mark DiCristina had this smart idea: Partner with MailChimp users to sell their stuff with earnings from the store going to non-profits.
"For example, we love socks! And we love weird. So we reached out to MailChimp user Odd Pears to create exclusive-to-MailChimp socks to sell in our first collection," writes Meg (her last name never shows up). So, not only does the company help its customers do marketing in the digital realm, it figured out a way to help promote their creative abilities in the physical world, while allowing them to be philanthropic at the same time.
The Right Way to do a Blog
Sure, MailChimp is wading through the real-life bumps and potholes involved in building an online store which sells physical goods. And the company offers stellar advice on the subject, such as the importance of understanding your mission before picking a name for the business. Or, how much time and effort a professional designer can save a company when it comes to picking out an e-commerce template and designing a logo.
For me, though, the biggest takeaway was this: These people know how to do a really decent blog. Meg posts entertaining GIFs of herself that paint her as approachable and real. Blocks of text are interrupted with goofy images--such as Meg's head superimposed onto a dog's body in a laboratory. Hand-written stand-alone quotes delivered in a down-to-earth style seem to make a reader want to, well, read. And that's something right there, considering many Internet surfers seem to increasingly lack in the capacity to pay attention.
Check out the blog for yourself and sound off in the comments. I'd love to get your perspective regarding this kind of campaign.