When Adnan Syed, the Baltimore teen convicted of murder who became the inaugural subject of the hit true crime podcast “Serial” in 2014, was exonerated late last year, Mailchimp saw an opportunity.
Mailchimp delivers effective and timely marketing with a wink and a nudge
The email and newsletter marketing company had enjoyed an awareness boost as the sponsor of “Serial” when its quirky ad became a meme eight years earlier, and executives knew they could capitalize on Syed’s recent news—if they acted quickly.
Enter Wink, Mailchimp’s in-house agency. First concepted in 2020, Wink developed into its current 42-person iteration following Mailchimp’s $12 billion acquisition by Intuit in 2021. Meant to be cheeky—wink, wink, nudge, nudge—Wink is responsible for speedily crafting campaigns that promote the Mailchimp brand as well as inspire its small business clients.
In September, Wink negotiated a last-minute deal with The New York Times, the current owner of “Serial,” to include the original ad on the follow-up episode on Syed’s release.
“That was more complex than it may have appeared,” said Mark DiCristina, VP of brand experience at Mailchimp. “There was a lot of legal work to be able to jump through those hoops, and we worked quickly.”
Such agility helped Mailchimp produce more than 4,500 assets last year in the U.S. and four international markets, contributing to the company’s $762 million in revenue for fiscal 2022.
Along with quick turnaround marketing riffing off pop culture happenings or events such as the Super Bowl, Wink has also made it a core mission to increase inclusivity and diversity. The agency recently hosted a New York Fashion Week campaign to elevate Black designers and also created Bloom Season, a digital resource for entrepreneurs of color.
“It’s really about creating the right environment to move quickly and consistently across pop culture, across our communication, across everything we do from the top of the funnel through to the product,” said Michelle Taite, Mailchimp chief marketing officer.
Last year, Wink produced a campaign around the Super Bowl that deviated from the splashy TV spots of big brands. Instead, for every big-name player that aired a commercial, Wink ran an ad for a small business alternative brand in the same category on Twitter. The #BigGameSmallAds campaign, which traded big beer brands for microbreweries, came together in four weeks and increased traffic to the websites of those featured small businesses by more than 100%, Wink said.
“Super Bowl is a great example of us showing up and stealing the show,” said Katie Potochney, executive creative director and head of Wink. “We don’t have to have a big Super Bowl spot to get the attention for your audience and relate to them and show up in a really creative way.”
The agency also tapped into creativity last fall to have a little fun with competitor HubSpot. During a HubSpot conference in Boston, Wink executed a big ad buy, plastering its yellow signage over billboards, digital projections and taxicabs in the city to remind attendees that Mailchimp is also an option for their email needs.
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“We colored the city yellow,” said Taite. “That’s where the brand comes to life so well—when we're scrappy and unexpected.”
Wink is also better at representing the underrepresented. By teaming up with Black in Fashion Council, the agency promoted the collections of five emerging Black designers by giving them their own store at Fashion Week 2022. The 2,500-piece collection sold out within two days and the marketing helped drive 13,000 visitors to the campaign’s landing page.
As it looks to the future, Wink plans to continue such momentum and support for diverse groups.
“The ethos and the energy behind the work we did last year for New York Fashion Week will find its way into new and interesting opportunities for us,” said Michael Mitchell, senior director of brand and content studios. “We’re making sure we’re always keeping pace with Black culture and with what keeps us excited.”