MailChimp's Message-led Repositioning

Are you one of MailChimp's 15 million users? Have you noticed the brand repositioning it's been stealthily executing right under our noses? I have, and I think there’s so much to learn from how it's using messaging as the foundation of a big strategic shift.

Brand positioning, a brief primer…

In marketing talk, positioning is how your customers think of and categorize your brand in their minds—especially when it comes to the needs that you meet and how you're different than your competitors.

Whether you know it or not, you’re constantly giving customers cues on how they should position you. Everything from your price to your web experience, from your product names to the events you sponsor, defines and solidifies your brand position.

Edgy, millennial, enterprise, nerd-chic, lifestyle, sustainable, minority-owned, entrepreneurial, bio-dynamic, etc.—the unique combo of adjectives that your brand conjures in your customers’ minds?  That’s your position.

But what happens when you want customers to think of you differently?

MailChimp ran into this conundrum earlier this year when it developed a suite of new features, including Facebook and Instagram Campaigns, which go beyond the user-friendly email marketing solution the company's famous for.

MailChimp homepage, April 2016

MailChimp homepage, April 2016

How to message your way through a repositioning (á La MailChimp):


1. Revise your promise

MailChimp homepage, April 2017

MailChimp homepage, April 2017

MailChimp's homepage over the last year tells the story of the brand's gradual, strategic pivot. 

The main headline before the repositioning started? "Send better email."  The main headline after the launch of Facebook Campaigns? "Send better email. Sell more stuff." 

Both were clear, concise, compelling brand promises, but they limited MailChimp in one very obvious way.

To take the repositioning to the next level, the brand ditched any mention of email on its main header and instead honed in on how the new features were enhancing its value proposition.

The current homepage banner headline? "Build your brand. Sell more stuff."

MailChimp Homepage on May 3, 2017: "Build your brand. Sell more stuff."

MailChimp Homepage on May 3, 2017: "Build your brand. Sell more stuff."

Only three words changed, but those three words tell existing and prospective customers that MailChimp is no longer a one-trick pony. It's got an entire arsenal of features to help customers market themselves holistically, on their own terms.

"Be yourself on a bigger stage" -- A second treatment of MailChimp's new brand promise. 

"Be yourself on a bigger stage" -- A second treatment of MailChimp's new brand promise. 

2. Create a new messaging hierarchy

With "Build your brand. Sell more stuff." MailChimp created a message that sits above its former brand promise.  

"Send better email" is still there, but it's now moved down a place on the messaging hierarchy.  MailChimp has also adopted  additional benefit-driven key messages that highlight the platform's new features such as  "Automate your marketing" and "Find your people."

Email marketing is still a huge part of the MailChimp brand (and it's probably the #1 reason people visit the site) but it now takes a secondary role in a messaging structure designed to get customers thinking bigger and broader about the many ways MailChimp can fit into their lives. 

3. Consider your category

A category answers the question, what are you?  Every brand needs to define a basic "what," and chances are it'll be something that there's already a lot of.  Many entrepreneurs, particularly innovators, resist this because they want to be seen as different to their competitors.  But being different only matters once your customers understand what you do.  

Reassessing and, perhaps even claiming a new category, as in the case of MailChimp, is really important in a repositioning campaign to eliminate confusion and help customers get to the even more pressing question, are you for them? 

Take a look at MailChimp's new "what" bolded in blue below:

MailChimp's no longer an email marketing company. It's now a marketing automation platform-- a solution robust enough to manage multiple aspects of customers' marketing funnels.

4. Keep what works

Friendly, relatable, clear, quirky -- these work for MailChimp and they've been the hallmarks of the brand from the beginning.  It's going going through an important strategic shift, but MailChimp's uncompromising in its dedication to being human, which might be its most important differentiator.

Delightfully democratic messaging.

Delightfully democratic messaging.

Clear copy, cheeky delivery. 

Clear copy, cheeky delivery. 

Do you want your customers to think of you in a new way?

My 4-week Articulation Intensive might be for you.  Get messaging that will help your customers understand what you do and think of you differently so you can grow.