From Serial to singing shrimp: Mailchimp on playfulness

With its surreal ads and cheerful branding, Mailchimp has shown that B2B marketing doesn’t have to be dull and boring. We talk to head of brand Mark DiCristina about how its playful approach helped Mailchimp become a $4 billion business

If you’ve ever been responsible for managing newsletters or email promotions, you’ll know the slight sense of dread that comes with hitting send. The moment where your fingers hover over the mouse, you take a sharp intake of breath, and hope that you haven’t made an embarrassing typo or left ‘INSERT LINK HERE’ somewhere in the text.

In 2005, Mailchimp introduced an animation to its software which summed up how its users often felt at this moment. Customers preparing to send an email were met with the sight of a chimp’s sweaty finger hovering over a big red button along with the message ‘prepare to launch’ – giving them a chance to stop and think before releasing their work into the world. Once they hit send, they received a virtual high-five.

Known as ‘the sweaty monkey finger’, Mailchimp’s animation aimed to bring some humour to what can otherwise be a stressful process, and is often cited as a great example of empathetic design.

“It was funny, it was light-hearted, but it also acknowledged the anxiety that people feel when they’re about to send a piece of communication that’s going to a lot of people and you’re thinking, ‘I hope I didn’t mess this up’,” says Mark DiCristina, head of brand at Mailchimp. “It’s a moment of anxiety that we tried to add some levity and empathy to.”