Mailchimp has changed a lot since it was founded in 2001. In the beginning, it was a side project of a small web-design firm; the company name followed the popular compound-word trend of the era. (Compare PayPal, founded in 1998; Typepad, 2003; Grooveshark, 2006.)
The company survived, thrived, and diversified. And the name – never the company’s strongest feature, to be honest – began to look dated. Time for a rebrand?
Nope. Mailchimp is doubling down on its 17-year-old name.
“Our name used to make a lot more sense. When we started, we only did email marketing. Nowadays, we also have an easy-to-use landing page builder, audience management tools, marketing automation, and more, all to help your business grow. Maybe so much you’ll outgrow your name, too.” – Full-page ad, New York Times Sunday Magazine, Nov. 18, 2018
I often advise companies to consider a name change when the old name isn’t telling the right story. (Even better: Don’t limit yourself at the outset with an overly descriptive name.) But creating a new name can be expensive, time consuming, and emotionally wrenching. Mailchimp has chosen instead to rebrand in a different way: by changing the story rather than the title. Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars on a new name and logo, they’re investing in old-school advertising and friendly, new-style web design. Last year, they ran a cheeky campaign that explicitly mocked their own name; they even came up with a real product called Fail Chips.
The Mailchimp story caught my attention because I’d recently worked with a client in a similar situation. The CEO came to me because she was sure her 10-year-old company had outgrown its name. I love developing new names, but one look at this company’s website told me the name wasn’t the problem. In fact, it’s a powerful name (and a registered trademark, to boot); it just wasn’t being supported effectively. I ended up doing a verbal rebrand that changed everything but the name – tagline, elevator pitch, mission statement – so that the name now resonates more clearly. And I suggested some new directions for a much-needed visual reboot as well.
I’m looking forward to sharing the results of my everything-but-the-name rebrand as soon as the new site goes live. In the meantime, I’m getting a kick out of Mailchimp’s nose-thumbing at the conventional wisdom. Sometimes, the best way to change is to stay the same.