MailChimp T-Shirts, CalTech Neuroscience, and Bits & Atoms Marketing

by Joseph Flaherty on December 28, 2010

MailChimp is the world’s greatest email marketing service. The product works flawlessly, it is designed perfectly from the perspective of a small/medium business, and they are consistently innovative with their marketing. Instead of buying tons of AdWords they promote an API. Instead of providing bland documentation they create whimsical marketing guides. Instead of giving away schwag to random folks at a marketing tradeshow, they send it out to their customers. The resulting products of these efforts are great examples of “Bits & Atoms” marketing.

MailChimp Tshirt

As a holiday gift  the fine folks over at MailChimp printed and delivered TShirts to their customers. It is a nice American Apparel shirt and has a high perceived value. Of course it is easy to impress people when you give them something, especially physical products, but what if your budget is limited?

MailChimp Email Marketing Guides

Give them something that looks real, like the MailChimp email marketing guides. The guides are consistently well made, filled with great information, targeted to specific audiences, and designed to look like real books, often from a bygone era of design. The result is effective. When you download the PDF it feels like you are getting a valuable eBook rather than some self serving corporate document festooned with a generic logo.

The science behind it

There is a neuroscientific basis to my theory. Antonio Rangle a professor of neuroscience at CalTech performed an experiment where subjects bid on items based on a text description, a photo of the product, and the product on the shelf. Bids for the physical product were 50% higher than the other two presentations. It stands to reason the more physical looking a digital object is, the more perceived value it will possess.

Is it working?

It is easy to make cool schwag and design hip looking materials when you are a small company with a niche audience. MailChimp is a rapidly growing company with over 19,000 people using their API (including massive partners like SalesForce, Google, Twitter, and EventBrite). It is successful enough to give $1MM to partners that use its API. Clearly are doing well in business while maintaining a stunning, consistent, and quirky design ethic AND helping to bridge the digital and physical worlds.

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