Customer service

Mad Mimi: funky email marketing

mad mimi Anyone who has ever launched a new business, must have at some point experimented with email marketing.

Has any entrepreneur ever looked for an extremely funky kind of email marketing when looking for such a service? I can only speak for myself, and say that I wasn’t. Frankly, I didn’t expect anything as functional as sending out an email to be enjoyable and fun. Until I discovered Mad Mimi.

First of all, it was the name. I thought that a company that dared to call itself by such a name, would be something special.

Then there was the funky design of their web site that triggered my interest even more.

To cut a long story short, sending my first email with Mad Mimi was simply fun. Email exchange with its support team that welcomed me to MadMimi was refreshingly different. I simply could not resist contacting Mad Mimi’s CEO Gary Levitt and getting to know the man behind this funky brand. I greatly enjoyed my talk with Gary, who shared some useful tips on the importance of staying optimistic, and hiring only the best and most talented. Have fun reading my interview with Gary, and learning about Mad Mimi.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Gary, most of my Funky Brand interviewees have represented product brands – such as fashion, accessories, food and drink. I am very happy to interview you about Mad Mimi because I want to show to my readers that Funky Brands can also exist in a business-to-business context. Could you tell me when and how you had the idea of launching Mad Mimi?

Gary Levitt, CEO of Mad Mimi

Gary Levitt: I studied music at Berkeley College in Boston, and after graduation, played jazz in New York, worked as a bus boy in restaurants and eventually worked in commercial music production. One day I had an idea of building an online platform for musicians that would allow them to upload images and send out press kits. Although I received funding to develop this product, and hired coders, I never ended up launching it.

I guess the main reason for that was that I lacked deep understanding of how to build a product, and expected the coders I hired to do the creative thinking and architecture for me. The coders were into ... coding, as opposed to designing the product and making it work on the market. Plus, I myself lacked the experience to know how to manage the development of a product.

SCHMOOZY FOX: How did you make the switch from the press kit product for musicians towards Mad Mimi, which is an email marketing service for a much wider audience?

Gary Levitt: Mad Mimi simply seemed like a logical step in a direction that I thought had more potential for commercial success than a niche product for musicians. The interface we had created for musicians was good enough for everybody to use -- and so Mad Mimi was born.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Mad Mimi is quite an original name, did you come up with it?

Gary Levitt: Yes. I originally planned to call the company simply Mimi, but then had the idea of adding “Mad” to it when I was renting space next to another company called Madstone productions.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Good design -- be it product design or brand visual identity -- is an important element of Funky Brands. To me, Mad Mimi looks pretty eye-catching! Even the colors of your site look quite different from what one would, I suppose, associate with email marketing!

Gary Levitt: I wanted Mad Mimi to stand out from the crowd not least by giving it amad mimi email marketing fun, eye-catching visual identity that would make it memorable. I was once leafing through an issue of Creativity Magazine where I saw a list of award-winning designers. It seemed like a great idea to work with the best and most talented, so I contacted one (David Bamundo) who designed Mad Mimi’s logo.

This is pretty much how I’ve thought at every crucial step of building the company. For instance, when I looked for software developers, I sent out my brief to about 80 meticulously selected top programmers. I was lucky to end up working with really talented people who helped me build Mad Mimi the way it is now -- and are in fact continuing product development.

The same philosophy of hiring the best and most talented applies to selecting customer service reps for Mad Mimi. We receive 1, 500 emails of customer inquiries per day, and have a dedicated force of 16 customer service reps around the world.

I have generally focused not on resumes (I’ve never actually used a resume to influence a decision to hire someone) but on energy instead. We typically don’t take a cost cutting or outsourced approach to staffing our front lines with low paid employees. We’ve instead focused on creating top-down culture where every lead developer and C-level executive does customer service along side dedicated customer service staff. The customer service infrastructure isn’t “designed” as such, but has rather flowed naturally from the ownership out to other members of the team. We feel that our profitability and growth is in a large part due to this approach, and it’s a crucial part of our brand.

SCHMOOZY FOX: I experienced Mad Mimi’s customer service first hand.  Actually, I must say, I assumed that the first email I received from Mad Mimi was an automated response.  And yet, something told me there was a real person interacting with me at the other end.  It felt different and nice.

Gary Levitt: (Laughing). Indeed, we don’t do automated customer service! There are real people who are there 24/7 to help you. We say that we like to hire friendly geeks for this kind of job, but really, anyone cool, friendly and passionate is great to be in customer service.

SCHMOOZY FOX: And finally, Gary, how would you describe the essence of Mad Mimi’s funky brand?

Gary Levitt: It’s simplicity, warmth and loveliness. Yummy loveliness! :)

Mashable gives a positive review to Mad Mimi

Need rebranding? Don't just change your logo, think brand strategy

Old Apple logoI am often asked to explain what brand strategy stands for. In my experience, many people still associate branding, and brand strategy, with graphic design -- logos, web sites and other elements of visual identity. Whereas visual identity is absolutely essential in branding (and SCHMOOZY FOX works with a great team of designers to take care of it!), it's just one step in a broader activity which is brand strategy.

Brand strategy is your overall business strategy that has an objective of building a  S T R O N G  B R A N D.

This may sound rather simple, but in reality, a good brand strategy is a very complex exercise.  A good brand strategy can determine your success, and no brand strategy is often a recipe for a failure (see my previous blog post Brands do not take care of themselves).

Rebranding is a good chance to sort out your overall brand strategy. Often, companies feel like getting away from a tired image, and creating something more consistent with market needs.  This "something" is often, in their view, a change of look and feel. Often, their rebranding efforts are only about changing a logo.

But the reality is, even after improving their logos, many companies don't sort out their bad customer service, or improve product functionality. It's astonishing that many companies simply do not think that these strategic elements have anything to do with their brand!

Today, I want to share with you a story  published on Inc.com, How to rebrand your business successfully. It summarizes a rebranding project that was done by Seattle's Coffee Company (part of the Starbucks group). See how the company measured the size of their market, did competitor research, re-thought their customer base, and improved distribution channels.

All of these activities are characteristic of brand strategy and should be considered within any rebranding project.

From Mallorca with love: interview with Camper shoes

Miquel Fluxa from Camper Camper shoes was one of the first funky brands featured on this blog back in 2008.  When Camper opened its shop in Brussels, I thought that a Funky Brand Interview would be spot on for SCHMOOZY FOX’s blog.

And here it is! I had a chance to talk to Miquel Fluxà from Camper.  A son of Lorenzo Fluxà who founded Camper in 1975, he is responsible for business development and brand extensions at Camper. Educated at ESADE and Stern Business School in New York, where he studied business administration, Miquel thinks that one of his professional strengths is the ability to understand and work with creative people such as designers.

The Mamba shoe

“I am not sure if I can call myself creative, at least in the sense of expressing myself through visual arts. But creativity is a very important element at Camper, and I very much enjoy working with highly creative designers who develop shoe designs, as well as those who have collaborated with us on our Casa Camper hotel chain project.

Casa Camper Berlin

SCHMOOZY FOX welcomes Miquel Fluxà to the blog about funky brands! All images in this interview were provided to SCHMOOZY FOX courtesy of Camper.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Miquel, first of all, what makes Camper shoes a funky brand?

Miquel Fluxà: Camper is without any doubt a FUNKY BRAND according to SCHMOOZY FOX’s definition!

Camper together with Bernhard Willhelm AW2010s

We are constantly working on delivering new ideas to the market and we do it with passion and creativity. We think differently and we want to be seen different, although not in a loud, showy way, but with austerity and discretion.

We are serious about what we do, but do not take ourselves too seriously, so we like to add a twist of understated imagination and irony to everything we do. We have a strong core belief that we try to transmit to consumers through product, retail and communication so that they can feel the Camper experience.

Camper together with Romain Kremer AW2010s

SCHMOOZY FOX: And now, could you characterize the Camper brand by only 3 words? What would they be?

Miquel Fluxà: Authentic, thoughtful and imaginative. We are authentic because we have been shoe-makers for over 130 years and we are committed to the long term.

Camper on Madison Avenue in NYC

Quality and craftsmanship remain at the heart of what we do and what we are. We are thoughtful and caring with the people, culture and environment where we work. Camper means “peasant” in Catalan and we have always been connected to the Mediterranean rural world.

And imagination and creativity have always been in the core of the company, applied into every process from the pre-production phase until the recycling, always trying to do things in a different way.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Could one say that these are also the reasons why customers like Camper?

Camper store in London

Miquel Fluxà: Yes, we think so!

We believe that our consumers know Camper values and share them. Our products reflect what we are: our know-how and creativity have always been the common thread of our collections, and we have now taken this to an upper level: Extraordinary Crafts, Creative Quality and Quality Execution, under which we combine our passion and experience with new ideas to create shoes that are useful, innovative and full of personality.

We think that this is something that our consumers take deeply into consideration when they decide to purchase a pair of Camper shoes.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Camper was founded by your father. What made you decide to join forces with your father and continue building Camper as a family business?

Miquel Fluxà: Although Camper as a brand was founded by my father in 1975, the origins of the company go back to 1877, when my great-grandfather founded the first shoe factory in Spain and later  my grandfather continued with the factory. That makes us the fourth generation.

Although there was nothing planned and we had no obligation to continue building Camper, there is an important sentiment of responsibility of continuing the family business.

It also a great luck to work in company like Camper, which is an international company with fantastic people working all over the world, an interesting company with great projects, and based in a fantastic place like Mallorca!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Camper has a worldwide presence. What do you think are the countries where Camper is loved most?

Miquel Fluxà: Considering that the Spanish and European and some Asian countries like Japan and Taiwan consolidations took place in the 80s and 90s respectively, the presence of Camper in these mature markets is broader than in the new ones. However, the last decade has represented the introduction and development of the brand in the United States, Asia, Australia and more recently Russia.

We are confident that Camper lovers can be everywhere in the world. New technologies such as the social media have allowed us to collect information about unexplored markets and we are surprised of the quantity of fans that Camper has in countries where we do not even have a selling structure.

SCHMOOZY FOX: What are the main distribution channels Camper uses?

Miquel Fluxà: Camper is distributed through its own stores that we operate directly, and through multi-brand stores and department stores. The wholesale activity is currently the most important one.

The company was born in 1975 and during the first years the products were marketed only through multi-brand stores. However, we realized that the best way to create a whole Camper experience for our customers was by setting spaces that would allow them to interact with the shoes and the brand.

As a consequence of this reflection, in 1981 we opened our first store in Barcelona, and in 1992 we opened our first store outside Spain in Saint Germain in Paris.

SCHMOOZY FOX: As regards your online shop, what are the challenges and advantages for the consumer to buy a pair of shoes online ? What do you do in order to bring the in-store buying experience to the online world?

Miquel Fluxà: Probably the biggest challenge for us is to enhance consumers’ online purchase experience when they decide to buy shoes through our online shop and, therefore, we focus on three different factors.

First, we provide customers with as much information as possible about the shoes: detailed description, high quality pictures from different angles, quick search menu. Then, we seek excellence in our pre-sale and after sale customer service. Finally, we want the online purchase to be a total Camper experience as it would be to buy in a physical store.

Madrid Fuencarral Storesmall

For us the online store is another Camper store, only with a different format and approach to the customer, and we consecrate our efforts to ensure that the customers feel that they are at a Camper store, providing them with the same quality, service and warranties.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Finally, how does Camper plan to continue being a funky brand in the future?

Miquel Fluxà: We will keep on trying to make creative shoes, executed with quality and comfort and maintaining our commitment to sustainability. We will continue increasing our creative network with consolidated and future talents. But above all, we will remain faithful to our origins and values!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Thanks for this interview, and I wish you a lot of success with Camper!

Is your brand ready to go online?

Last week, I attended a business development conference in Brussels. Although not exclusively, the majority of the conferences and mini-talks were about e-marketing and online channels in general. The main focus was on tips and tricks of using online tools in order to achieve results. DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE BEFORE GOING ONLINE

What results? This, of course, depends on each individual company, but you'd be amazed to know that only very few companies know what they want to achieve before establishing online presence. Often, they gotta be online just for the sake of it, because it's en vogue, or because hey, all of their competitors are already jumping on the bandwagon of all things web.

FIRST, THINK BUSINESS STRATEGY

Indeed, tapping into social media for brand-building purposes should be for sure on any brand's radar screen these days. But it's how you use it, and how you link it to your overall business strategy, that's important. If you haven't figured out your brand's DNA yet, and have a vague idea of what your customers love (or hate!) your brand for, it's not yet time to engage in high-intensity Twittering! Read my article Why sweet Cheerios went sour on YouTube to learn what can go wrong if you jump into social media too fast.

On many occasions at the afore-mentioned event, several people came to me asking how to use Twitter or Facebook, and were not able to explain why they wanted to do that. One guy gave me a fancy answer, "To show that we know how to do that".  Show to whom? He wasn't so sure.

DEFINITION OF BRAND STRATEGY

Unfortunately, a holistic strategy approach towards online brand building -- the kind that involves thinking through the basics of one's overall business strategy before starting a Facebook fan page -- is still very rare.  In this sense, a smart brand strategy, which is essentially your company's business strategy that focuses on building a strong brand on all levels of your company, from logistics to customer service to web design, can definitely be the way to go.

SOME TIPS BEFORE YOU GO ONLINE

To give you some tips on what should be kept in mind before launching your brand's presence on the web, here is a short presentation that I had prepared for last week's business development conference.   These slides are pretty general, but if applied in the right way to YOUR company, they can create amazing results.

Can a brand exist without a name?

no-name-restaurantYesterday I had dinner at a very nice restaurant in Brussels. The service was excellent, and food was enjoyable. A funky item on the menu was a mix-it-yourself salad. The waiter brought me a piece of paper with a list of ingredients, and all I had to do was tick off the ones I wanted in my gastronomic concoction. I liked playing the "ticking the box game" and was quite satisfied with the resulting salad.

A nice idea, which, combined with great service, led to a high level of customer satisfaction I for sure experienced.

This is all good, but what was the name of the restaurant?

Well, I have no idea!

The next time I go there, I'll invite my friends to a ¨place where you can mix your own salads", but I won't be able to give them its name. The thing is, I did look for the name of the place above the entrance , but simply couldn't see any. I am sure it must have been there, just well hidden.

The waiters' uniform didn't have any signs of the name either. One of the waiters was wearing a T-shirt with a logo of Havana Club, a bar in a totally different part of Brussels which probably had nothing to do with the "place where you can mix your own salads" .  Another waiter had an altogether different logo on his T-shirt. Total confusion!

This particular no name restaurant certainly has a lot of nice things about it, which for me personally resulted in the most precious thing all businesses should strive for: customer satisfaction.  With some help of a visual identity consultant, this particular restaurant can introduce some logic and consistency to its look and feel, including a logo, interior design, the way the menu looks and the style of the waiters' uniforms. Higher brand awareness is guaranteed!

But for the moment, could I say that for me, this restaurant has a BRAND, if I can't even remember its name? I'd argue that it actually does. Although there are very many definitions of "brand" out there, the simple definition is that of a "personality" of a company, human being, country, exposition, etc.  A set of unique character features, if you will.

The no name restaurant that served me dinner last night, has a "personality" of a friendly place that allows you some creativity and participation in making your meal. A good brand name, if easily detected and memorable, can only enhance this personality.

Good branding has nothing to do with trying to make a lousy business look nice. Chances are high that people will remember your name, but it will be tied to a bunch of negative connotations. Good branding is about first helping companies manage their business well, enabling them to provide good service and have authentic values and THEN translating this work into what's actually visible to the final customer. Trying to dress up a bad business into a nice package simply won't work.

So, the "place where you can mix your own salads", just sort out that name stuff, and the rest will follow.