Launching our first brand campaign

Inside ConvertKit
8 min read

This month at ConvertKit we launched our first major brand campaign.

Our brand is something that’s always been important to us. We exist to help creators earn a living online. That mission is behind every decision we make as a company. From product features, to educational materials, to storytelling, blog and social media content, and our creator-facing teams we want to be known for serving creators. And that’s why our first brand campaign puts creators in the spotlight.

Because ‘working in public’ is one of our values, I want to share a look behind the scenes at creating our campaign and give you some insights into the decision making and creative process that went into bringing it to life.

ConvertKit helps you find your audience faster

Titled “Find your audience faster”, our campaign aims to show the ways in which ConvertKit helps creators on their journey to success. Creators have big dreams and we want to help them reach those dreams faster, and the way to do that is by growing an audience.

We’re kicking off the campaign with two ad spots, each depicting important steps in the creator journey; the hard work that goes into making something, the courage it takes to share it, and the pride a creator feels when they find an audience who loves what they’ve created.

Because we aim to make creators the hero of our brand, these videos tell the stories of two fantastic artists: Whitney Manney, a fashion and textile designer with a keen eye for color, and Calvin Arsenia, a harpist and vocalist with a flair for live performance.

Beautiful photography of Calvin and Whitney is carried through into static display and social ads too.

Find your audience faster static image ads

You can expect to see Whitney and Calvin popping up around our website soon, and next year we plan on creating more ads in this series to tell more stories. Every creators’ journey is unique and we know that the more stories we tell, the more creators will be able to relate to one of our ads.

Why we’re investing in building our brand

We want ConvertKit to be an iconic brand that positively impacts the world and drives creator culture. We’re dreaming big and have a vision to help creators earn a living to the tune of $1,000,000,000. And at this point in our history, we’re well on our way with our company trajectory and can start investing in brand marketing to introduce ConvertKit to more creators than ever before.

Because here’s the thing: we don’t actually define our brand. Creators do.

Every interaction you have with us – whether it’s using our software, seeing an ad, reading our blog or talking to our team – leaves an impression on you. These impressions add up to form the way you see our brand.

And unlike direct marketing (which aims to get someone to take immediate action with a click or signup) brand marketing is more about showing up and saying who you are and what you stand for. It’s a long-term play for building a reputation and awareness within a community. And I’m not going to lie, it’s a little scary to invest in.

After realising that our initial budget of $300-500k wasn’t going to get us the reach we needed, we set aside a cool $2 million for this brand campaign project. The vast majority of that budget has gone toward media spend to get our messaging in front of creators on YouTube, in social media feeds, around the web and on podcasts too.

Needless to say, this is the biggest budget we’ve ever invested in a marketing campaign, but we know that to reach our company goals and to build the kind of iconic brand we want to exist in the world, we need to get comfortable spending this kind of money. We need to make those same kinds of risks creators take every day.

If we want ConvertKit to be the tool creators think of when they start building an audience, we need them to know who we are. We need to be on their radar.

But when the results of brand marketing aren’t immediately measurable, how do you know if you’re making the right choices? If the money you put into it is paying off? Quite simply, we won’t know for sure for a while. And we’re okay with that.

Seth Godin explains it well in his book This is Marketing:

“The approach here is as simple as it is difficult: if you’re buying direct marketing ads, measure everything. Compute how much it costs you to earn attention, to get a click, to turn that attention into an order. Direct marketing is action marketing and if you’re not able to measure it, it doesn’t count.”

“If you’re buying brand marketing ads, be patient. Refuse to measure. Engage with the culture. Focus, by all means, but mostly be consistent and patient. If you can’t afford to be consistent and patient, don’t pay for brand marketing ads.”

ConvertKit has grown a lot over the past few years, and we’re in a position now to be consistent and patient with this.

We're excited about the launch of this campaign and while we’ll resist from measuring the success of these ads with direct signups, we’re making the investment in the hopes that further down the line we see more artists and creators using our software in the future.

The process for creating the campaign

At ConvertKit we’re a team of entrepreneurs with a ‘do it yourself’ spirit that runs deep. But this was a project we knew we should hire outside help for. We needed guidance and input from a team who had created campaigns at this scale before.

Enter Mekanism: a full-service agency with an impressive client list, but more importantly a team of wonderful humans. They’re experts in both the creative and media distribution sides of a campaign and we’ve loved working closely with them over the past three months to bring this campaign to life.

After a vital ‘get to know you’ phase where we brought the Mekanism team up to speed on who we are, who we serve, and how we do it, they pitched us three potential directions for the campaign. We settled on “Find your audience faster” because we loved the depiction of the creator journey that would be represented in the ads.

Putting hard work into making something then sharing it with the world is scary. And we knew that creators would be able to relate to the moment of pride you see on both Whitney and Calvin’s faces at the end of the ads.

With our creative direction settled, Mekanism enlisted the Wade Brothers to direct and produce the videos. In their treatments, we loved the way the brothers adapted the pacing of each ad to match each creator. Both Whitney and Calvin were heavily involved in the scripts for their videos which was really important to us. We didn't want our ads to feature actors playing creators. We wanted our ads to be a true reflection of real creators’ journey.

Shooting an ad campaign during a pandemic

While we made a conscious choice not to go with a “in these unprecedented times” type of campaign that addresses the pandemic and how it is impacting creators, COVID-19 was of course something we still had to contend with in making these ads.

With the Wade Brothers based in Kansas City, we focused our casting efforts on artists based there so they wouldn’t need to travel.

And instead of overseeing the production on set as would usually happen in the ‘before time’, Mekanism’s creative team and I all observed the filming in a remote video village they’d set up.

We were able to see a direct feed of what the camera was capturing on Zoom. The Wade Brothers production team could roll playbacks for us so we could see a shot in slow motion, and we could make notes of corrections or favorite moments. It was pretty great to be able to sit in on a production happening in Kansas City from my apartment in Spain!

A look through the camera at a shot of Calvin on set A look through the camera on Whitney's shoot

We shot on three locations across two days: Whitney’s studio, a workspace Calvin uses, and the Scottish Rite Temple theatre (with the stage serving as the final set for Calvin’s video, and the backstage as Whitney’s fashion show dressing room).

It goes without saying that everyone on set other than the onscreen talent wore masks, and negative tests were required to be on set by all. The coronavirus certainly made shooting an ad campaign more difficult (and more expensive), but I’m glad it didn’t stop us.

This is just the beginning

This brand campaign is the start of many brand marketing projects we’ll be doing in the future. We’re excited to partner with more creators to tell their stories not only through our films and on our blog, but in our advertising too.

What do you think of our first ads? Is there anything else you’d like to know about the process of creating them? Hit us up on Twitter @ConvertKit and let us know.

And don’t forget to check out Whitney and Calvin too. We’re oh-so-proud to have their names featured alongside ours in the ads, and we know they’re on their way to stardom. The future belongs to creators like them.

Charli Prangley

Charli is ConvertKit's Creative Director. Born in New Zealand but currently living in Valencia, Spain she’s passionate about side projects and helping creatives improve their craft and process. When she’s not designing and leading the Brand team at ConvertKit she's creating content for her design-centric YouTube channel and podcast sharing insights into life as a professional designer alongside tutorials and advice on design tools and concepts.

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