Long seen as an enthusiastic advertising supporter of content, particularly podcasts–Mailkimp!–Mailchimp is now significantly investing in its own new entertainment division called Mailchimp Presents. It launches this week, with more than 50 original series, films, and podcasts aimed at entrepreneurs and small-business owners.
Mark DiCristina, head of brand and Mailchimp Studios, says they started working on the idea about 18 months ago. “We started thinking about how we could begin to create things that we have more ownership of so that we have creative control, but also share with our audience directly and create a different type of relationship,” says DiCristina.
At launch, the content is a mix of original productions, licensing agreements, and creative partnerships with production companies like Pineapple Street Media, Pop Up Magazine, and Los Angeles-based Scout Productions. Mailchimp Presents’ own internal team is about nine people, with backgrounds at such companies as Turner, AMC, HBO, and Netflix. The company also says it’s working with award-winning directors and producers like Jason Woliner (Human Giant, Last Man on Earth) and Hrishikesh Hirway, as well as notable talent like Jay Duplass, Samin Nosrat, and Big Boi.
Branded content is far from a new concept. Years ago, brands of all stripes were hailing it as the savior of all advertising. Too many, however, simply swapped the word “commercial” with “content” without actually changing the hard sell into something anyone would actually want to watch. And Mailchimp’s new division sounds a lot like Shopify’s recent launch of its TV-and-film division, which also wants to inspire new entrepreneurs.
Last month, Mailchimp launched a new ad campaign around its new suite of marketing, website, and CRM tools, but DiCristina says that while the brand’s advertising and new content initiative are related, they’re two distinctly separate parts of Mailchimp’s overall strategy.
“What Mailchimp Presents allows us to do is liberate ourselves creatively a little bit to be able to tell rich and compelling stories, and let the communication about our platform and our products be a little bit more direct,” says DiCristina. “It’s the awareness layer that we’ve obviously already been investing in with things like podcast advertising, but it’s evolving and maturing into this storytelling and entertainment space.”
DiCristina aims to create content that revolves around the experience of growing a business, focusing on universal themes like striking out on your own, feeling like an imposter, staying true to yourself, and finding your people. Sarita Alami, production lead of Mailchimp Presents, and the company’s brand marketing manager, says they’re hoping to tap into a market and appetite for creative content specifically aimed at entrepreneurs.
“It’s become clear to us that for all of their independent mindedness, entrepreneurs share the thread of common experience, no matter who or where they are. That’s the lens that we’re using as we create this work,” says Alami. “That experience and how it’s similar across entrepreneurs. These folks are often isolated, thinking about work all the time, we have this great opportunity to create content that resonates with them in a way that hopefully reminds them that they’re not alone.”