brand interviews

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

Best of SCHMOOZY FOX 2010

With this post, I want to bring to your attention the best posts that were published on this blog in 2010. They 've attracted most of the traffic because I think they give some of the most useful tips to anyone who wants to build a Funky Brand™. If you want to brush up on your knowledge of branding, here's your chance! BRAND STRATEGY

Image by Levy Fulop on Flickr

ONLINE BRAND STRATEGY

FUNKY BRAND INTERVIEWS

Photo collage

  • Theo loves you: an interview with Wim Somers, founder of a very stylish brand from Antwerp.
  • Interview with Anders Wall, CEO of a Danish upscale brand of bicycles, Biomega.
  • From Mallorca with love: interview with Camper shoes.
  • Interview with Jean-Pierre Lutgen, CEO of Ice Watch.
  • Interview with Isabelle Cheron, Creative Director of Kipling bags.
  • Interview with Nathalie Colin, Creative Director of Swarovski.

PERSONAL BRANDING

RE-BRANDING AND BRAND REPOSITIONING

BRAND NAMING

CREATIVITY AND BRANDING

taarten van abel

How Funky Brands can be creative: 7 insights from the Creativity Forum in Antwerp

A cake by Taarten Van Abel, a creative company mentioned during the conference. I thought it would be a good symbol for female creativity

A cake by Taarten Van Abel

On Thursday, I attended an event dedicated to creativity. The conference took place in Antwerp and was organized by an organization called Flanders District of Creativity. This year, Flanders DC gave the stage to creative and inspirational women.

Creativity fuels Funky Brands — innovative, edgy, contemporary products and services that stand out from the crowd. Funky Brands are worth experiencing over and over again, and importantly, bring positive functional and emotional benefits to those who use them.

For examples of Funky Brands, visit the Funky Brand Interviews section.

Here is my summary of 7 insights from the event that can be applied to Funky Brands:

Image by pumpkincat210 on Flickr

1) MAKE SURE TO INCLUDE CREATIVE, PASSIONATE AND KNOWLEDGEABLE WOMEN IN YOUR BUSINESS TEAM

Women’s signature style of doing business can be referred to as lifestyle entrepreneurship. This means that often, women’s main motivation behind starting a business is not just cash, but first and foremost, creating value for their customers.

If you are a team of men, invite at least one talented woman who will surely bring a different perspective to your business.

2) BE AUTHENTIC IN YOUR BRAND PROMOTIONS

Randi Zuckerberg, who’s in charge of the Creative Marketing department of Facebook, gave examples of authentic ways in which Facebook has communicated with its members.

In a short case study, Randi demonstrated a difference in reaction from Facebook fans to two photos of celebrity Eva Longoria. One photo of Eva was pure glam, whereas in another shot she looked more like someone you’d meet on the street rather than red carpet. Interestingly, the simple photo raised a massive wave of “likes” on Facebook. This taught Facebook itself to use friendly, amateur-like images of its employees in the company’s communications campaigns.

Don’t exclude glamorous and stylish visual expressions of your brand, but it’s worth exploring more authentic ways of connecting to real people, at least once in a while.

Here’s an image that captures the main points of Randi’s presentation:

Image courtesy of Visual Harvesting

Image courtesy of Visual Harvesting

3) IF YOU WANT ENGAGED CUSTOMERS, MAKE THEM PLAY A GAME WITH YOUR BRAND

Jane McGonigal, a game designer from the Institute for the Future, spoke about solving world problems by encouraging people to play more games. Jane defined games as “unnecessary obstacles that we volunteer to overcome.

If we take the example of golf, what’s the fascination behind trying to hit the ball with a stick and make it fall into the hole, instead of just picking it up by hand and placing it there? But even if the final purpose is to make that ball fall into the hole, nobody would ever be interested in having no obstacle to overcome, and no thrill to experience.

Image by Levy Fulop on Flickr

Image by Levy Fulop on Flickr

The truth is, people like the excitementenergy and thrill of playing a game. In similar terms, nobody wants a dull and unmemorable experience of learning about your product, buying it in an unexciting environment, and experiencing its dull features.

Engage your customers in a thrilling game, and enhance the funky brand experience!

4) DEFINE YOUR BRAND NOT IN LINE WITH PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY, BUT WITH WHAT YOUR CUSTOMERS REALLY WANT

Diane Nijs, a professor of imagineering1 , gave an example of the Dutch bakery Taarten Van Abel.

The bakery owner built a funky brand by redefining his product from simply a cake, to the expression of festive spirit. As Diane pointed out, people rarely buy cakes to eat them. They buy them as symbols of celebrationfeast, and enjoyment. Taarten Van Abel has grasped this and began to create cakes that are works of art. The brand of Taarten Van Abel has become so well-received by people that the company has decided to launch a TV channel for kids, in which its symbolic cakes have given ground to stories and fairy tales.

5) UNLOCK THE MEMETIC POTENTIAL OF YOUR IDEA

Memetics is a theory of mental content based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution, which was originated by Richard Dawkins in the 1976 book The Selfish Gene.   Meme is a unit of human cultural transmission analogous to the gene, and psychologist Susan Blackmore talked about ways of how this sort of replication happens in culture.

Memetics would be worth checking especially for those who are fans of viral marketing. Why do some ideas fly and replicate themselves, and others just sit on the shelf unnoticed? Maybe memetics is a field that you should look into in order to understand why some brands just fly and become funky, and others never get noticed.

6) IN ORDER TO STAY CREATIVE, BE WHO YOU REALLY ARE

According to Baroness Susan Greenfield, a UK neuroscientist, the essence of creativity is daring to be who you are, your individuality.

eccentric dude

Some of you might know that it’s not always easy to stand out from the crowd and be different. Sometimes, the simplest thing to do is to conform and have an easy life. That’s why there are so many dull and unexciting brands out there!

But sticking to who you really are, daring to be, can also come across as magnetically charismatic if you manage to find creative ways of getting your value across. Your Funky Brand might not be liked by everyone, but those who’ll notice you, might fall in love, and isn’t it a huge reward?

7) BRING STRUCTURE TO CREATIVE PROCESS

Christie Hefner, Playboy’s former CEO, talked about structured creativity. Creativity is often associated with wild out-of-the box thinking, and structure is probably the last word that comes to mind in this respect. And yet a rigorous approach to the creative process is always beneficial to building a successful brand.

This is a very valid point in relation to Funky Brands.

When you build a Funky Brand, combine teams of creative people with experts in brand strategy. This can be especially powerful when you want to build a strong brand through online channels. A lot of brands nowadays want to splash out all the creativity they have, and expose it through social media, without having a rigorous brand strategy in place. Don’t fall into the trap of unstructured creativity, be funky and be smart!

Image by wilgengebroed on Flickr

Image by wilgengebroed on Flickr

Invitation to join two new LinkedIn groups

funky  brands by SFToday I want to draw your attention to the two new groups on LinkedIn recently created by SCHMOOZY FOX. First, there's a group called FUNKY BRANDS.

Here is a direct link to this new LinkedIn group and I invite you to join it!

Another LinkedIn group recently created by SCHMOOZY FOX  is called Affordable Luxury.  It is also very relevant to all those who are in the business of building innovative, striking (aka "funky") brands. Here is the direct link to this LinkedIn Group.

In one of my previous articles called How Funky Brands Can Be Profitable, I discussed how a consumer product or service could succeed if positioned in the affordable luxury segment.  This segment can also referred to as mass luxury or new luxury.

From SCHMOOZY FOX's perspective, there's a close link between two groups.

In fact:

The Affordable Luxury group falls nicely with the concept of funky brands.

There are several ways of looking at it.

In fact, most of SCHMOOZY FOX's clients are consumer goods or services seeking to craft a brand strategy that will aim at their positioning as affordable luxury brands. And in our experience, most funky brands are exactly affordable luxury products or services!

Just have a look at our Funky Brand Interviews with all those brilliant businesses that have been built based around such elements as creativity, design, affordable luxury and fun!

SCHMOOZY FOX invites you to become members of one of both groups on LinkedIn!

Schmoozing and fun are guaranteed! :)

Funky Brand Interviews are one year old!

Photo by Theresa Thompson on Flickr Today, SCHMOOZY FOX's  Funky Brand Interviews are turning one!

Since last June, we've interviewed founders and top managers of some of the funkiest brands out there. In each of these interviews SCHMOOZY FOX has tried to uncover personalities and interests of real people behind brands, as well as learn insights into these innovative companies from a personal perspective of people who work there.

From the Dutch lingerie queen, to a talented photographer who helps people build funky personal brands, to a funky T-shirt brand and a top luxury fashion designer -- all of our interviewees could identify with SCHMOOZY FOX's concept of funky brands. And this is definitely something to celebrate!

Below is the list of all SCHMOOZY FOX's Funky Brand Interviews to date, and there will be more funky ones coming soon!

And don't forget, we'll continue to celebrate throughout the summer! If you are a funky (or funky-to-be) startup, you can learn how you can benefit from some top-notch brand strategy coaching that we've arranged for you FREE of charge! Learn more here.

OUR FUNKY BRAND INTERVIEWS TO DATE

Interview with Rowan Gormley, CEO of Naked Wines

Interview with Marlies Dekkers, the Dutch "lingerie queen"

Interview with artist Thaneeya McArdle

Interview with Kyan Foroughi, CEO of Boticca,com, an online jewellery market place

Interview with James Payne from Baileys Irish Cream

Interview with Tekin Tatar from BeFunky.com

Interview with Wim Somers from Theo

Interview with founders of Lotty Dotty

Interview with Michael Chia, a photographer who helps build funky personal brands

Interview with Martin Bachmann, CEO of Maurice Lacroix watches

Interview with Anders Wall, CEO of Biomega bikes

Interview with fashion designer Tim Van Steenbergen

Celebrating one year of Funky Brand Interviews

Photo collage

Today I have some important news for you!

At the end of June, SCHMOOZY FOX will be celebrating one year of its Funky Brand Interviews.  And in this respect, we have some great gifts to offer to those who want to build a funky brand!

Last June, an interview with Rowan Gormley, CEO of Naked Wines, a UK-based online wine retailer, marked the start of the new category on our blog, Funky Brand Interviews. Since then, SCHMOOZY FOX has published interviews with founders and top managers from such famous brands as Marlies Dekkers, Baileys, Tim Van Steenbergen, Theo , Biomega and others.
Today, we’re announcing a call for up-and-coming funky brands!

If you know talented and passionate entrepreneurs setting up an innovative brand, please spread the news to them!

Rules of the game

Very simple! All that we require is:

That you are a start-up, either just launched, or seeking market entry That you want to build a very successful brand to fall in love with

That your main industry is Consumer Goods or Services, particularly in the "affordable luxury" segment

Our prize

SCHMOOZY FOX will identify three semi-finalists, all of whom will be interviewed for our blog. Out of the three interviewees, we will select 1 finalist, who will also receive a:

FULL DAY OF BRAND AND MARKETING COACHING by SCHMOOZY FOX

It’s a great way to start building your brand awareness online through SCHMOOZY FOX's social media channels.  It's also a fantastic opportunity for ideas-rich and cash-poor start-ups to get smart advice on how to get on the right brand & marketing track right from the start!

How to apply?

Please write an email to olga (at) schmoozyfox (dot) com with the subject “Funky Brands”, or publish a post on our Facebook page, and tell us why your company is, or has the potential to become, a funky brand. For funky brand criteria, visit our blog.

Timeline

Submissions will be accepted until July 17th, and winners will be announced in August.

Please note that SCHMOOZY FOX’s past and present clients, as well as interviewees, are not eligible for participation! :)

Please spread the news, and happy schmoozing!

Baileys Irish Cream: enjoy life!

Celebrity endorsement: Kim Cattrall for Baileys As part of the Funky Brand Interviews series, I am happy to talk to James Payne, Global Communications Manager at Baileys Irish Cream. Baileys is one of the best-selling liqueur brands globally and originated in 1974 in Ireland.  R&A Bailey & Co. who created Baileys became part of Grand Metropolitan, which merged with Guinness to form Diageo in 1997.

Today SCHMOOZY FOX talks with James about the recent celebrity endorsement of the Baileys festive bottle by actress Kim Cattrall, as well as the activities undertaken by the Baileys team in order to connect to fans of this drink through online channels.

SCHMOOZY FOX: James, the Baileys Facebook fan page has almost 800 000 fans. That's a massive number! When did you launch your Facebook page and how much time did it take you to reach this number?

James Payne: Anne Katherine Elmsgard, a fan in Denmark, launched the page early in 2008.  We got in touch with her later that year and asked if we could help her to manage the page and do more with it.  She was actually really keen for us to get involved because, while she really loves Baileys, she didn’t have much time to actively manage the page.  The fan growth has been completely organic – most of the growth took place between October-December last year.  The page went from less than 200,000 to over 600,000 fans in three months.  While we have fans on the page from all over the world, Latin countries seem to have really embraced the fan page.  Italy is the country with most fans – almost 220,000.  In terms of languages, Spanish speakers are the biggest group, followed by English and Italian speakers.

SCHMOOZY FOX: What's the profile of somebody who likes Baileys? What would be some of the most common characteristics, not only in terms of age, gender and place of residence, but also in terms of the emotional motivations that trigger your customers' interest in this brand? James Payne: Baileys has an incredibly broad consumer base – its delicious taste appeals to so many people!  This makes it harder to describe a typical profile in demographic terms.  I think it’s more useful to consider the kinds of characteristics that Baileys drinkers have in common.  People who drink Baileys frequently tend to be people who enjoy life to the full and savor all the pleasures that life sends their way.

Baileys is very much a ‘feel’ brand not a ‘think’ brand – it’s not about how many years it’s been in a barrel or how it makes you look to people who don’t know you.  It’s definitely more about the amazing sensation of it melting on your tongue, warming your mouth and tantalizing your taste buds; it’s about the warm feeling you share with good friends when you can have your guard down and be yourself completely - moments when, because you know each other so well, a look or gesture can communicate a thousand words or have everyone laughing out loud.

SCHMOOZY FOX: And do you think that Facebook can help you get in touch with such people?

Baileys festive bottle

James Payne: Facebook has become so ubiquitous in so many countries that there is clearly an overlap between Facebook users and people who love Baileys – the organic growth of the fan page is a really good demonstration of this.  The challenge when you’re dealing with a ‘feel’ brand like Baileys is that it can be difficult to properly bring the brand to life via short status updates or wall-posts.  We’re still learning what our fans want.  We’ve asked them and in many cases they want to hear about things like new ways to try Baileys so we regularly share recipe cards on the page.  We’re keen that the fans communicate with each other too so we regularly add new discussion topics and polls to the page.  We try to offer them special and exclusive content too – for example, this week we’re posting an exclusive behind-the-scenes video of a recent celebrity photo-shoot that our fans will get to see first.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Why are most of the status updates on your Facebook page both in English and Spanish?

James Payne: There are slightly more Spanish-speaking fans than native English speakers on the fan page, but we believe that English is likely to be the most widely understood language so we lead with English and follow up with a Spanish translation.  Ideally we would have an Italian translation too, but three translations would start to look a bit clunky.  A new functionality allowing geo-targeted status updates launched on Facebook last week so we are investigating how best to use this to communicate with our global fan base most effectively.

SCHMOOZY FOX: You've just featured some great behind the scene photos from your photo shoot with Kim Cattrall, who played Samantha in Sex And The City. In the photos, she's wearing a dress designed by Patricia Field to launch the Baileys Festive Bottle which comes with a red bow. Is it the first time Baileys is doing a celebrity endorsement? Could you tells us a bit more about Baileys' partnership with Kim Cattrall? Why was she chosen?

Images courtesy of Baileys

James Payne: I’m sure it can’t be the first celebrity endorsement in the brand’s history, but it is certainly the first recent partnership with a celebrity.  In many countries we have sponsored high-profile TV shows like Sex And The City, Friends and Desperate Housewives when they were at the peak of their popularity so there is that link between Baileys and shows with celebrity-filled casts.  In this case we wanted someone to launch our Baileys festive bottle who embodied the qualities of the brand.  I’ve already mentioned that Baileys drinkers tend to enjoy life to the full and savor all the pleasures that life sends their way.  I think people can see that in Kim and the characters that she plays.  She also genuinely loves Baileys – I think that’s pretty clear from the behind-the-scenes video!

SCHMOOZY FOX: What other activities are you planning to undertake in 2010 in order to build online brand presence for Baileys?

James Payne: Our key focus for Baileys in the digital space is to find ways to build a closer relationship between the brand and our consumers.  We want to find ways to recognize and reward our drinkers.  Facebook allows us to do this in a limited way, but we can do this in a much richer way if our consumers sign-up for The Baileys Lounge on Baileys.com.  This is our exclusive members experience, with new recipes from top chefs and mixologists, life and style content (from party tips to expert interviews) and exclusive offers and competitions to give something back to our consumers.  It’s a really good way for people who love Baileys to get regular treats and surprises through the e-mail updates.

SCHMOOZY FOX: many thanks for this interview, and I wish a very sweet 2010 to yourself and the Baileys brand!

Marlies Dekkers talks about her lingerie revolution

Second in the SCHMOOZY FOX funky brand interview series, this article reveals the personality of the Dutch fashion designer and entrepreneur Marlies Dekkers, creator of the successful lingerie brand marlies|dekkers. In this interview, Marlies Dekkers shares her enthusiasm, drive and passion for the fashion empire she has created from scratch and turned it into a successful business and lingerie brand of choice among many celebrities. It's an inspirational story for all women entrepreneurs who dare to be.

Interview with Rowan Gormley, CEO of Naked Wines

An interview with Rowan Gormley, CEO of an online wine retailer, based in the UK: Naked Wines. In charge of Virgin Money and Virgin Wines in the past, Rowan Gormley started his own venture, Naked Wines, in 2008. He talks to Schmoozy Fox about the social networking features of his business, and the Naked Wines brand personality.