Why Mailchimp’s ‘year in review’ pissed me off and how Blue Apron’s blew it out of the water

We product marketers all know that the end of the year is flush with product marketing opportunities. Roll up emails for product momentum, speaking to observations and trends to boost thought leadership or showcasing customer success from using our products and services.

As these “year in review” emails started flooding my inbox, two stood out to me. They hit my inbox about a day apart. One was from Blue Apron (or I found it when I logged in to change something, I can’t remember) and one was from Mailchimp. I have large respect for both companies and their brands. I’m a customer of both companies and use their products every week. But one email really pissed me off.

Here’s a glance at both emails.

If we compare the two, one thing immediately becomes clear; who the emails are about.

Let’s count.

Mailchimp: 8 “we/our”, 2 “you”
Blue Apron: 0 “we/our”, 7 “Justin/I (you)”

Now, normally I don’t count words. The last time I found myself counting words was making sure my term papers or article submissions were long enough. But the way I felt after reading that Mailchimp email made me go back and count words after I realized why I felt so confused and pissed off. And if there’s one thing I did learn from writing term papers on marketing strategy, it’s that “people will forget what you said but they will never forget the way you made them feel.”

And I was feeling starkly different emotions after reading each email. Let’s break it down.

Blue Apron’s email:

Oh wow, an email from Blue Apron that’s not my weekly menu! I mean, I love getting those because it talks about the new and exciting recipes I’m getting that week and reminds me how awesome it is to not have to go to the grocery store on a weekly basis.

Oh cool, it’s my year in review stats! Let’s check out what I did in 2016… Awwww, it’s my first meal! I remember cooking that! Holy crap, I cooked 198 meals in 2016? I subscribed like halfway through the year, that’s crazy. 198 meals spread across 16 cuisines and 84 ingredients? Wowza!

And holy sh*t! I saved 1419 minutes from not going to the grocery store?! That’s 23.5 hours, that’s one whole day of my life I got back! Not to mention I stopped having to shamefully throw out about 30% of groceries I would buy and not use before they go bad.

Wow… I don’t normally share things on Facebook but this is pretty rad. Maybe my friends will actually comment on this or I can gift some of my free meals to one of my friends. *Click

Kudos to Blue Apron. This “year in review” experience was brief, customer-centric and the stats were captivating. When I read this as a customer, I felt accomplished, proud and excited to continue using Blue Apron…especially in New York where it’s actually cheaper than going to the grocery store for the same food.

Let’s compare this with Mailchimp’s email.

Oh cool, another “year in review” email from Mailchimp, I like them and their email software, let’s check it out.
*Reading, reading reading…
Okay, this looks somewhat promising, let’s see what these facts and gifts are. Don’t understand immediately how it pertains to me but let’s check it out.
*Navigate to page that is too long for my screenshot software to capture

mailchimp 2016 product marketing 2
mailchimp 2016 product marketing 1
mailchimp 2016 product marketing 4

Lots of bananas, awesome. On brand for Mailchimp. Annual report, cool. Okay, first thing…one fifth grade class adopted.

Okay, let’s see what else.
2 New York Times articles featuring their CEO.

4 pounds of coffee consumed daily by the Support team, 5 Mailchimp sports teams, 6 new office murals, 8 Freddie vinyls (wtf are those?)
Big monkey picture
(It’s about here that I start frowning)
9 entrepreneurs enrolled as civic innovation fellows, 10 national recruiting events attended, 13 tons of server infrastructure added, 15 coffee hour speakers.
(Here is where it becomes annoyingly evident that none of this has anything to do with me or any value, sentimental or otherwise, to me unless I’m a Mailchimp investor or employee)
23 babies born to Mailchimp parents, 30 podcasts sponsored, 32 night school classes..

What the flying f*ck, Mailchimp?! What does any of this mean? It’s like you’re trying to tell me something, I know it! But I’m halfway down this god forsakenly long page and I’m clueless. Utterly clueless. Not only am I clueless, I’m tuned out because none of this is relevant to me, about me or about the benefit I derived last year from using Mailchimp.

Turns out they finally talked about what Mailchimp customers did last year…in the last 10% of the page…that is so long my screenshot software came back with an error when I tried to snapshot it. 90% of this page, which gives “The Neverending Story” a run for its money was about them. And it’s not even thought leadership or useful insights. It’s like they made a Google Form and told everyone to come up with “whatever metrics you can think of” to include “in our agonizingly long annual report that isn’t really relevant to any audience except employees but we’re going to blast to our entire customer base anyways and call it marketing.”

Mailchimp 2016 product marketing finally customer

People will forget what you say, but they will never forget the way you made them feel

I’ve had pronounced negative responses to few emails in my life but this was one of them. When I finally got to the bottom (which had no CTA or directions regarding how to interpret or action on all this random information), I wasn’t just clueless, I was pissed.

If you want to do an annual report, fine, but send it to your investors or your employees. Don’t send it to your customers unless it’s bursting at the seams with relevancy. How dare you forget that you are not your customer. How dare you clutter your customers’ inboxes with pointless, boastful emails with meaningless information. How dare you devote a sprint’s worth of design resources to a never-ending marketing web page that delivers zero value to prospects or customers and serves literally no purpose except to talk about yourself. How dare you make things all about you. Shame on you, Mailchimp.

Thank you, Blue Apron, for making the end of the year about me. For showing me all the value and ROI I derived from using your product. Thank you for not wasting my time, keeping things brief and impactful and telling me what to do with the information you’re putting in front of me. A thousand product marketing praises. You truly speak the language of your customer.

The bottom line

  • You are not your customer. This should be tattooed on techies’ foreheads. It’s the first thing we learn regardless of what department we work in. I’m truly disappointed in Mailchimp here because they don’t forget this in the majority of what they do and produce. What’s really sad is their 2014 annual report did a better (albeit not perfect job) of keeping this in mind. (What happened, Mailchimp?) But this was so far off the mark that I’ll never forget the way it made me feel.
  • Always consider your audience and your goals. This is a two point checklist that can save you a lot of face, effort, time and money. “Why do we want to make this, what’s the goal we’re trying to accomplish?” and “For whom?” I almost ran into this tripwire this week when my boss looked at the deck I was going to present at the company all-hands to bring everyone up to speed on our pricing change. To save time, I thought I’d re-use the slides from the sales training. He asked me those two questions and I immediately realized my mistake and redid the deck.
  • If you’re going to bust down the door to my inbox, you better be knocking with value. A customer’s inbox real estate is the highest value real estate on the face of the earth…err…cloud. You are fighting with thousands of other buyers for this real estate. And if you come your customer’s house and make them sit down and listen to you talk about yourself for an hour…if someone did that to you in your house, would you invite them back?