Mailchimp’s story, on the surface, seems sort of miraculous.
Launched back in 2001, Mailchimp has grown into an email marketing behemoth. In 2016, it added nearly four million new users — increasing its total user base from 12 million to 16 million. In 2017, it posted more than $525 million in revenue, an especially remarkable number when you consider that founders Ben Chestnut and Dan Kurzius reached it without ever raising venture capital.
But Kurzius and Chestnut’s success doesn’t stem from divine intervention.
Rather, it’s a product of strong leadership and innovative thinking, exemplified by Mailchimp’s decision back in 2017 to expand its product offerings — including stripped-down web pages and a platform that puts a small-business spin on traditional enterprise-sales software systems.
But that’s not all they did. They also accompanied this expansion with a rebranding overhaul, which reimagined Mailchimp’s logo and name to better accommodate its size and utility. And it’s this decision which, at least on the marketing side, was truly brilliant.
Here’s what marketers should strive to take away from it.
Mailchimp was known originally as purely a small business email marketing platform. But they’ve now grown into something more wide-reaching than that — something with greater potential reach. Because of that, they no longer want to be known as strictly a small business email marketing platform, but rather a more dynamic marketing solution with benefits for both small businesses and enterprise customers alike.
The question Chestnut and Kurzius had to answer in considering how to make that transition, then, was: how do we articulate and amplify the fact that they we’re expanding in this way?
The answer? Rebranding.
As we’ve seen, Mailchimp’s rebranding efforts doubled as a way to communicate their elevated services in a way that drew attention. It’s easier to go from consumer to enterprise than the other way around — as a large consumer business, you have millions of customers already familiar with your brand, but as an enterprise company, you might only have 30 or so customers, and therefore less brand recognition — but still, you need to make it known to the enterprise world that you’re serious about what you’re doing.
Judging by the ad spots Mailchimp landed in places like The New Yorker — and the partnerships they solidified with companies like Facebook — it’s safe to say they succeeded.
For marketers, know that rebranding is more than a means of communicating something new. It’s also about getting attention.
In 1994, author Jim Collins wrote about how continually setting, pursuing, completing, and then resetting big, audacious goals was paramount to actualizing regular success.
Key to that process is the resetting piece: once you achieve a big goal, you have to go about achieving something similarly monumental.
That’s exactly what Mailchimp is doing in setting out to be an enterprise automation solution.
It’s a matter of staying relevant and competitive. Companies without big audacious goals become complacent and stagnate.
That goes for marketing departments, too.
One thing that deserves mention here: the changes Mailchimp made to its brand are by no means astronomical. All they did foundationally is change their logo and adjust their name from “MailChimp” to “Mailchimp.”
Although this might not seem like big enough a change to reflect anything as influential as a pivot from consumer to enterprise sales, consider that the first thing Mailchimp needed to do here was signal that a change had taken place — and that they were serious about making it. To do that, you need the adjustment to be fundamental — as the change in title and logo proved to be.
In fact, any change more noticeable than that runs the risk of being jarring to customers and rendering you unrecognizable.
Mailchimp has been around for 17 years — and since their rise to prominence, this is their first significant rebranding move.
I believe that’s one key reason their rebranding efforts have received so much attention. It was remarkable because it was unprecedented — monumental, even, at least in the context of the company’s history.
If you’re a marketer, that should show you something: if your company is of semi-significant size and stature, know that rebranding is a sort of one-time lightning rod which, if thrown correctly, can really reinvigorate excitement about your products.
At the end of the day, what Mailchimp really needed to do in changing its logo and name was update the market of its new ambitions.
That was the key goal. Attention for attention’s sake is valuable, but drawing attention to something you need for potential customers to know about is critical. If potential enterprise companies didn’t know that Mailchimp now offered enterprise solutions, after all, they’d be less likely to take Mailchimp’s sales team seriously when they hopped on the phone with them.
Ultimately, that Mailchimp understood this — that they knew rebranding was a key tactic they could employ in coincidence with expanding their product expansions — exemplifies the sort of smart marketing they’ve long practiced as a company.
There’s nothing miraculous about that.