I've never been so inspired by a marketing campaign that I've felt compelled to write about it, but I’ll admit it...I’m obsessed with MailChimp’s “Did You Mean MailChimp?” campaign. What has been dubbed a “gorgeously absurdist campaign,” began with three short videos which ran in theaters nationally. Channeling the aesthetics of Wes Anderson, MailShrimp stars a shrimp who croons for a life outside the mailroom, shaggy salad dogs take a dip before becoming part of a bizarre restaurant meal in KaleLimp, and a young girl punctures a birthday piñata to unleash thousands of miniature prisoners in JailBlimp. The films, which also ran on Hulu, were unbranded, so viewers had to actively seek out the creator by Googling each film’s title.
In partnership with New York-based marketing firm Drogo5, MailChimp built nine stand-alone projects, including these three films. Each project riffs on the company’s own name. To list a few, the MailChimp released WhaleSynth, an oceanic musical tool; Nail Champ, a competition for the best painted nails; and shocked the cosmetics world with SnailPrimp, a new anti-ageing treatment. They even sponsored musicians Dev Hynes and Bryndon Cook to form Veil Hymn, which released a single.
So you’re probably thinking, “great, MailChimp spent a boatload of money making silly fake projects that don’t directly promote the company's products and services. Who got fired? How is this an effective campaign?”
While I don’t know MailChimp’s KPIs, the company definitely increased brand awareness. On YouTube alone, KaleLimp was viewed over 186,000 times, MailShrimp received over 428,000 views, and JailBlimp over 470,000 times. Each of the nine projects also has a website which drives viewers back to MailChimp’s website. I imagine each was able to contribute to some substantial web traffic for the company. Furthermore, since the fake projects spanned the world of cuisine, film, music, and fashion, the company was able to score earned media placements in outlets such as FoodBeast and Pitchfork which would be unlikely to cover an email service otherwise.
Perhaps most importantly, MailChimp’s campaign captures the attention of creative marketing professionals, the company's most important target persona. By leaving the projects unbranded, MailChimp forces people inspired by the content to seek out more information, creating a highly interactive and engaging experience. Who would be so inspired by an advertisement that they would spend time scouring the internet to find out who produced it? Marketers, of course, the very people who MailChimp wants to sell their email platform to. Plus, by this point, these marketers haven’t merely enjoyed an ad for MailChimp, they’ve actively engaged with the brand. Not to mention the campaign itself also made some waves in the marketing world in industry publications like Adweek, The Drum, and Campaign, as well as other major outlets such as Techcrunch and The Guardian. Earned media in these top tier industry magazines is icing on the cake for a campaign targeting marketing professionals. I certainly know where I’ll turn when I find the need for an email marketing service!