Brand is behavior - Mixpanel
Brand is behavior
Inside Mixpanel

Brand is behavior

Last edited: Dec 1, 2023 Published: Apr 20, 2023

The brand we're building at Mixpanel is not a fancy paint job. We're building a perception, an experience inside and outside the product that is different, memorable, and hopefully unique.

Paul Jun Principal Brand Strategist @ Mixpanel

If brands of the past were static, today’s brands are treated as living beings. That means we’re judged and measured by our decisions and how we show up in the world. Strange times.

Today’s brands are built differently: They’re open, collaborative, built with networks, and must adapt every few years versus every decade. They are more responsible for uplifting the communities and cultures they seek to be a part of. Over time, if a brand is truly authentic and delivers on its promises, the work will resonate within a culture and be part of that culture someday.

Brands are not built like Coca-Cola anymore. You can’t blast ads about happiness forever and build a global brand. That time is long gone, and the world in which a brand is built up or shut down is shaped by different cultures.

These days, customers will defend the brands they love and go after the ones causing harm. As Wally Olins said, “Branding is a profound manifestation of the human condition.” We do it because we need to belong. Brands matter to people because they become part of our identity.

So, what we recently shipped is really new at Mixpanel. We did it in-house and had the fortune of time to do something bold and different. What we’re building is not a fancy paint job. We’re building a perception, an experience inside and outside the product that is different, memorable, and hopefully unique.

Is it better? Who knows. Time (and data) will keep us honest.

What is a brand?

During an onsite with the EPD team, Mike Casebolt (Sr. Manager, Brand Design) and I started a discussion to help teams to understand that the brand evolution was more than a new look.

Most people think brand = logo or brand = website. That isn’t wrong, per se. We painted a bigger picture of how this evolution would affect everyone’s work and, ultimately, the company’s future.

Brand is not just a logo, a website, an illustration style, a typeface, and colors. These are essential elements of a brand. They’re tools to express ideas. A logo is a vessel for a story. But they’re only as good as the decisions we make and the promises we keep.

Another way to think about it? Brand is behavior. How you behave reflects what you believe. Decisions are not made on a whim but rather from your values, your strategy, what you stand for. And why building a brand is so insanely hard is because it requires cooperation and collaboration, creativity and focus.

By evolving the brand, our efforts across product, design, marketing, sales, partnerships, support, and community are enhanced by unified tools and flexible systems that allow us to build together.

Building a brand is not about creating a hit song. It’s about the emergence of creating music together.

A splash image showing various Mixpanel customer quotes and Mixpanel brand phrases

Why now?

If everyone sounds the same, looks the same, behaves similarly—and competitors shamelessly copy us over the years—then the goal is to do something different and true to who we are and where we’re going. You can mimic another company’s features and steal their copy, but you cannot copy their brand.

Instead, we spent much time answering the questions: What do we stand for? What is our unique point of view? What big idea do we believe in? What are we fighting against? Who are we inspired by? Why does analytics matter? Who does it matter for? How do we express our ideas uniquely, cohesively, at scale, and across time?

We explored world-building, science fiction, the history of data analysis, different technologies throughout time and how they impacted society, shapes, blobs, and various animation styles.

Another pattern was clear we had to move away from: claiming the outcome. “We increase your sales.” “We retain your users.” “We improve your funnels.”

Not a single product out there does any of those things. Human beings make decisions, and if those decisions are good, the outcome of increased sales or improved retention is theirs.

Design elements from Mixpanel's new webpage

What we do is help people achieve those outcomes. That’s where we realized a longer and broader path for us to take: Get event analytics into everyone’s hands. Let everyone have the answers from their data at their fingertips. It shouldn’t matter what your job title is. You shouldn’t have to wait for answers on how something is performing. Suppose you’re making decisions and creating change at your organization. In that case, you need analytics, or else you rely on wishful thinking or waste time on things that aren’t working (or worse, you are entirely unaware).

This nuance is critical to our brand: You can’t build something great with data alone. In the same way, the best films aren’t designed by test audiences or stunning photographs made from only the best gear. If you only follow the data, you create something hollow.

We believe in builders because they have a vision and ideas. They dare to try, despite all the odds of failure pushing against them, to create something new from their imagination and creativity. They build because they want to create change. You make decisions, and we get you answers. You have ideas, and we bring you feedback on the performance of those ideas.

Abstract graphic from Mixpanel's design team that alludes to the future of collaborative analysis

Expanding our vision

After a product’s function (what it does) and features (the bells and whistles that enhance the function), investing in a brand is about investing in the experience (the feeling): How does it feel when I am using the product or service? What story am I telling myself when I interact with this brand? And do I effortlessly transfer that story to my friends?

A Mixpanel ad on the side of a building

Throughout this process, we were focused on EPD teams and saying “product analytics.” Over time, we felt a greater pull toward expanding our vision. Depending on who you ask, if you say “builder,” you might get the perception of data analysts and engineers. We noticed a growing pattern of marketers and community organizers calling themselves builders. Almost half of our customers are in marketing teams.

Would you call someone like me a builder? What about someone that builds a team or an entirely new market?

Mixpanel design and brand philosophy showcased in a book

This isn’t a stretch. A builder is someone who creates and leads change. They build new companies, products, services, brands, or communities. Building is creative because it is collaborative. Builders have a vision and ideas. We see ourselves as the sharpening stone to your intuition and decision-making.

In the same way, the Creator Economy grew to tens of millions of creators worldwide; we believe that more and more people will call themselves builders because of the tools, resources, and communities that will be readily available.

The question is, who’s going to champion them? This became the focus of our work.

To build is to decide that progress is possible

This brand evolution has touched everything from product strategy to refreshing our cultures and values, visual identity, internal materials, and tone of voice.

The old logo visualized a funnel, but the company had outgrown its meaning over time. I saw it as a dotted line on a map. Mixpanel brought product analytics into the world in 2009. This new logo, the X, marks where we have arrived. It commemorates a new chapter and shows us the next mountain to climb. If we evolve the brand again in a few years, it’s a sign that we are headed in the right direction because we’re learning what is resonating and using that feedback to expand and further push our brand.

Another abstract graphic from Mixpanel's design team that alludes to the future of collaborative analysis

Did I mention that this work was proudly done in-house? It was important that we did the work—letting others be involved in the process to contribute and learn—versus outsourcing to an agency (nothing wrong with help). I’ve done this kind of work at agencies and it’s a different game. In-house was a different jungle. We got to live our values while building this work. By the end of it, everyone internally was ready for this next chapter.

There was a lot of education and knowledge to share, a lot of patience, check-ins, buy-ins, and experimentation. A lot of thrashing and building trust. All of this was possible because of trust from leadership to people who’ve never done this work—who were rightfully nervous or afraid because this impacts their job—but instead of letting fear drive decisions, we focused on the possibility of building better things together. We built this from our hearts.

We hope you feel it. And we can’t wait to ship all the exciting new products and features this year.

Let’s build.

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