How We Think Marketing Minutes

What Ice Cream & Monkeys can Teach us about Marketing

The Idea


Ever since Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely landed in our book library, we’ve been talking non-stop about the concept of market norms (where money motivates people) vs. social norms (where age-old traditions, pride, and relationships motivate people).

Often, we cut out the human parts of business–like small talk about a client’s recent vacation–in order to dive right into the “important” stuff.

But these simple exchanges are the very things that help your business relationships transcend beyond market norms into the social norms realm, resulting in deeper trust, smoother projects, and loyal customers.


Case Study


MailChimp High Five copyMailChimp, an e-newsletter service, understands the monetary benefits of being human and shifting the focus off the dollar sign.

First, they made a monkey their mascot. A monkey that talks to you. Guides you. Helps brighten your day. (Then you realize you’re forming a bond with a cartoon animal, but hey, it feels good to be loved).

Then, in 2009, MailChimp switched to the Freemium model,a tactic inspired by Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day in which companies can use their helpful tools for free if they have under 1,000 subscribers. That’s a lot of free accounts. The ratio is 10:1, free users to paying users, to be exact.

Relying on social norms–through a supportive monkey and free use of their tools–MailChimp has cultivated a giant cheerleading squad. They’re vocal, loyal, and likely to stick with MailChimp, even when they outgrow the Freemium offering.

[By the way, we reap the benefits of their sweet deal, and here we are touting their awesomeness to all of you. Case in point.]


How it Affects You


It’s hard to recognize the benefits of being human to your bottom line when you’re trying to efficiently take care of “business as usual,” but they’re there…we promise.

Next time you meet with a client, ask how their day is going. And really listen to the answer. Look at photos of his kid dressed up as a dinosaur for Halloween. Share her pain over the loss of her four-legged friend. Offer advice without expecting anything in return.

Give yourself the time and space to have fun, to enjoy work, to be human. And know that this isn’t a silly indulgence. It’s the start of a long and happy business relationship.