A Friend Request to MailChimp

Thursday, February 26, 2015

MailChimp is a great product and friend of the podcasting community, so this may be weird to hear: I do not think MailChimp is a friend to the people who receive emails from them. I wish they would be. MailChimp made a product for advertisers and marketers, which is small percent of the people they interact with.

Email newsletters are a service no one asked for after the mid 2000’s, yet somehow MailChimp has made them rise in popularity. How many emails in your inbox right now are specifically for you? How many of the automated emails are emails you asked for? Chances are you did not ask for any of them, yet MailChimp has done a great job of changing that in some cases. In other cases, one of their customers has uploaded your email address to their system without your permission. With MailChimp, they make it seem easy to get off their list. You press unsubscribe and bam, you are off. Only you are not.

The way MailChimp works is that each time a MailChimp customer sends you an email, they create a campaign using their list of emails. When you hit unsubscribe they remove you from that campaign. Campaigns can be a weekly automated email, but in my experience most campaigns are a one-shot email, so you are unsubscribing from that one email you already received. I would guess this is not how they endorse using their product, but it is how people use it by their design. Your email is still in their customer’s database of people to email again in the next campaign.

MailChimp advertises on podcasts like the people listening are a friend, but if they were your friend they would let you remove your email address from that list you just told them you wanted to unsubscribe to. The unsubscribe button is not only misleading, it is dishonest.

My proposal is a tool at MailChimp that lets you type in an email address and see which companies can email you, and let you opt-out right there, all in one interface. They have the data, they could do this. It would show that they trust the people who get email from people who use their service. Less people would be hesitant about signing up for newsletters and it would build the trust they should strive for.

Update: “MailChimp Compliance Team” Reaches Out

I received an email from MailChimp wanting to clarify that they do not condone people using their service this way. I think that misses the point I was trying to make: the design of their product leads to the customers using the service this way unintentionally.

They also wanted to point out that I used the term campaign where I meant a list of subscribers. I’m not editing the original article, because just this morning I unsubscribed from a MailChimp newsletter for Shyp, where it was quite obvious the person using MailChimp forgot to make a copy of their master list:

You have been removed from ALL Users- - MASTER - - don’t DELETE.

When MailChimp surfaces the, what their customer thinks is internal-only, subscriber list name it becomes clear that there is a design problem.