Previously, Melissa was the CRO and Executive Vice President of Marketing and Creative Strategy at Cheddar. She has been named one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30,” Business Insider’s “30 Most Creative People in Advertising Under 30,” and Digiday‘s “Changemakers.” Melissa also led BuzzFeed’s global creative team responsible for creating branded content for advertisers and was a key contributor to the advertising model’s early success.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Melissa Rosenthal discusses her professional background and how she got connected with ClickUp
- Melissa describes her original vision for the agency’s creative department: make the brand feel human
- What is Melissa’s branding and advertising strategy?
- Melissa’s top social media tactics
- The alignment between the creative team and the executive team at ClickUp
- Who and what shaped Melissa’s methods for building the agency’s brand?
In this episode…
Every company has a logo, mission statement, and advertising strategy. So, amid the torrent of content that consumers face daily, how do you make your brand stand out?
Marketing expert Melissa Rosenthal says you’re not building a brand for the next three years — you’re building a brand for the next 20. Because of this, there are many areas you need to focus on, including social media, billboards, videos, and more. But according to Melissa, one aspect is more important than everything else: making the brand feel human.
In this episode of Agency Journey, Gray MacKenzie is joined by Melissa Rosenthal, the Chief Creative Officer at ClickUp, to discuss her strategies for building a strong brand. Melissa talks about her tried-and-true social media tactics, the culture of the creative department at ClickUp, and how she developed her marketing strategy. Stay tuned.
And be sure to check out ZenPilot, where we help agencies optimize their operations using our proven systems and processes.
ZenPilot knows that you are tired of wasting time on trial-and-error — that’s why we provide tried-and-true solutions that will help you grow and scale quickly and sustainably.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Melissa Rosenthal on LinkedIn
- Gray MacKenzie on LinkedIn
- Troy Osinoff on Agency Journey
Welcome to the Agency Journey podcast where we connect with agency leaders to uncover the hidden systems and processes that drive their success. Now let’s dive into today’s show.
Gray MacKenzie 0:17
Alright, welcome back to another episode of Agency Journey. This is Gray MacKenzie and this week, I’ve got the pleasure of bringing on Melissa Rosenthal, who is the Chief Creative Officer at ClickUp.
So it’s been a while since we’ve had ClickUp on the program; we had Zeb Evans on about a year ago, talking about ClickUp’s vision and traction and go-to-market. So, Melissa, I’m excited to have you on and talk about a lot of the creative things that you all do right now. Welcome to the show!
Melissa Rosenthal 0:45
Yeah, thank you for having me – excited to share.
Gray MacKenzie 0:46
So maybe real quickly, just by way of intro, I know you’ve got a background at BuzzFeed and Cheddar prior to joining ClickUp. You’re probably around nine months in, but maybe you could just give us a quick background on kind of your career trajectory, and what brought you to ClickUp?
Melissa Rosenthal 1:03
Yeah, absolutely. So I started at BuzzFeed very early, I was the ninth employee there. So it was kind of like the wild west of the internet days when everyone was trying to figure out modeling and kind of what would make sense, but I believed in it as the future of media.
So I joined as an intern, actually, and kind of worked my way up to oversee the global creative department, you know, hundreds of people globally, we expanded into different countries, it was an amazing and wild ride.
And, you know, the brand became pretty, pretty famous and well known. And that was it was, you know, really exciting and not having any experience in advertising or marketing. It was like a fast-tracked course and to kind of understanding, like, all the different kind of elements of marketing and creative look like and, you know, working with external agencies, as well as media agencies, and buying media, and it was pretty fascinating. So feel like that was my Crash Course. And it kind of everything. You know, media marketing related. Yeah, and creative.
Gray MacKenzie 2:07
That’s awesome. And then how did you get connected to ClickUp originally?
Melissa Rosenthal 2:12
Yeah, so after I can just briefly after, after BuzzFeed went to Cheddar built that, and then we sold it.
And then I was taking some time off to figure out what I wanted to do next, and was building like, a small SaaS company with my husband. And yeah, I mean, it just was kind of right place, right time, I heard of ClickUp. And I was very familiar with the project management space and the productivity space, I worked in pretty much every program and had my frustrations with all of them.
So, you know, it was when ClickUp reached out to me, I, you know, immediately was like, this is a kind of a rocket ship of a company. And they’re solving a problem that I’ve experienced for many years. And, you know, it was, it was kind of like a no-brainer, in terms of product. And once I got really into the product, then I just saw how powerful it was, and was pretty, pretty amazed at what no 17 built, and how they scaled it and what the organic growth looked like. So it was, it was that and a mix of a lot of other things that led me here, a lot of the community that had been built around ClickUp, just by means of how amazing the product was, and how passionate people were about it, and how they would go, you know, to the end of the earth to shout it from the rooftops to tell other people. And this kind of like viral coefficient, and this organic engine that was, you know, a big part of their growth was just really, really interesting to me.
I always wanted to go into software. So I felt for, for a brand and that product that kind of felt different in market. This was, this was something I wanted to jump on. And really, you know, help build out, especially on the brand side.
Gray MacKenzie 3:51
We touched on a huge part of the story, which was all organic growth. Or a number of years ago, and obviously companies Oh, is still super young. But that whole story of initial growth was that virality and sharing of the, of the platform largely. You have obviously taken a shift in that direction here to ramp things up over the past year. So what the creative department today I am trying to remember maybe your 16 or 17 different
Melissa Rosenthal 4:24
Yeah, we’re now about 20 across the whole about 20 now,
Gray MacKenzie 4:27
Has all of that been built? So what was the state when you joined? And then bring us through the state today and some of the things that you’re focused on?
Melissa Rosenthal 4:36
Yeah, um, when I joined leave, there were three people maybe four. So it was, it was very early. I had seen what they were doing and creative and I just saw this like blue sky opportunity to build a best in class like creative internal agency within the company. And what that allows you to do to be kind of, you know, vertically integrated is you know, the product better the team knows the product better. You’re able to operate on fire on all cylinders, there’s visibility within what, what’s being created, and what the outcome is and the and the KPIs and kind of the data sharing. And also, you’re able to take risks. So, you know, Zeb and I were aligned on kind of what the vision would be, and the Northstar of of making, you know, making this brand feel human and personifying the product and not just pushing features, but you know, talking to people as they are people, and not just, you know, even it’s even in a b2b model, you know, the best type of branding is when you’re speaking to people, so you know, with a consumer approach, so, you know, the Northstar is to make the brand feel, you know, feel human and every touchpoint that, that a person has, or business has feels that that way. So, now, the state of the team is, we’re 20 people, as I mentioned, we oversee kind of everything across content, and, you know, anything that is a collateral, or a piece of collateral comes out of my team. So video design, community, social, we kind of are constantly, you know, events, you know, we’re we’re constantly trying to push ourselves and, and push the marketing and push the brand and, and, you know, really, you know, make the brand famous to the right people. And that, you know, I think there’s a way to do that through really just understanding your audience and building things that people enjoy and attaching yourselves to things that are relevant and happening in the, in the world of what you want to be a part of.
Gray MacKenzie 6:34
How do you primarily measure that? Like, are we achieving that goal of making the brand feel human? getting the word out there? Yeah. I mean, I think
Melissa Rosenthal 6:42
there’s a lot of social listening, of course. So you know, when people write in, you know, they, they, it’s also, you know, I think there’s a lot of pieces to it. So it’s its product, its, you know, its customer service, its, its marketing, its engineer, it’s everything that kind of goes into that. So I wouldn’t say it’s just isolated to the brand or isolated to that creative team. But you know, that, to be able to do that you you know, you see it across social, you see the response, you see the ROI and what you’re what you’re delivering, people start to mention you in sales meetings in terms of being the best in class at doing x and y&z and it becomes this, this point of differentiation as a company. And you know, when you have multiple points of differentiation between best in class, customer service, and best in class, social visibility, best in class advertising and creative best in class product, you know, you really start to do that. So it’s, it’s not one team or one person, or it’s the entire company firing on all cylinders. But you start to see it in the market, you know, people writing in every day, how amazing the customer service team is, or how awesome the ads are, and the fact that they search for them, or, you know, they saw ClickUpon a billboard, and they told their boss about it. So it’s measuring on a lot of different ways. Specifically, like, you know, it’s both quantitative and qualitative, you know, based on kind of how we’re measuring and what what we what we need to see and kind of how we how we measure that.
Gray MacKenzie 8:09
Which one do you hear more frequently, I hear things that people see about ClickUp, but most commonly I hear, they have billboards everywhere, watch the game or the subway, or I was wherever I feel like I can’t get away from ClickUp. That’s happened a number of times, I’ll talk to somebody, and they reached out to us for agency operations help. They don’t know about ClickUp, we talked about ClickUp. And they’re like, I can’t unsee it everywhere. But then the other thing that we hear about, and I’m sure you hear about this all the time is the returning to work series and some of the great videos that you have done. Yeah. Which one? Do you hear more more comments about?
Melissa Rosenthal 8:45
It’s kind of equal now. Yeah. I mean, yeah, the video team did like a fantastic job on on that series, and they came up with it and pitched it to me. And then, you know, I was I was pretty on board, I think it’s a once in kind of a cultural moment where you can just synonymously attach yourself to work as a whole by relating to people’s, you know, the reality of what we’re doing in a way that makes it a little bit more lighthearted. But we can attach ourselves to you know, we can’t we can’t deal with the awkwardness of returning back, but we can handle all of your product activity. So it was pretty, it was pretty much a no brainer to do that. And just to bring people joy during what could be a stressful time and kind of giving them that laugh, but then also saying we have you in terms of your you know, your workflow and the way you want to work. So, yeah, no, that was I hear that a lot. And it’s amazing. And the team you know, is is ecstatic about the, the responses and the reception to that. And then the billboards. Yeah, I mean, I’m a huge believer in out of home, I always happen. And I think, you know, a type of advertising that you can’t skip, you can’t, you know, you can’t have automated by bots for views and, and you are able to hyper target and based on where you want to be and who’s around that area. I think it’s just, you know, it’s super powerful and it makes you look you know, enormous. So It’s a touchpoint on a customer journey. But I’m a big fan of the medium. So yeah, it’s a it’s a mix of we see your ads, and we love them. And we also see all your billboards, and they’re all over. And you know, that’s a kind of a perfect mix of, of, I think smart branding,
Gray MacKenzie 10:14
right? When you brought up one other thing, you brought up social listening earlier, and you are all over Twitter. Do you see everything on there? I mean, I’m sure you’re all aware all the socials. What’s your what’s your social platform of choice? If you did on Twitter and
Melissa Rosenthal 10:31
LinkedIn? So yeah, I mean, Twitter is incredible for listening and responding to real customers and people and I, you know, our approach has been, you know, not only responding from the, from the account, but we have, you know, people that are on the team and are passionate about the community and want to on want to be in touch with them, like, speak with real people. And I think when you do that, again, it’s like this really incredible point of differentiation, because having real employees jump in, is powerful. And then yeah, LinkedIn, I love just because it’s kind of this incredible organic media engine that I think some people do really well. But you know, as a company there, there’s lots of really interesting things that you can do there. So I’m a big fan of that platform to was a little more
Gray MacKenzie 11:13
tactical or granular, but it’s super common to see you press or exam or somebody likely to jump in, you ClickUp support is already or ClickUp Response Team is already handled from a social perspective, whatever the Yeah, y’all we’ll jump on it. How does that get coordinated? What platforms are you using to help keep that in place? And then it just kind of like, do you guys block time each day to do that? Or is that just happens to be part of what we do. Um,
Melissa Rosenthal 11:42
I mean, it’s a mix. So we definitely have a Slack channel where we kind of go back and forth on certain tweets or certain comments, but it’s really, again, it’s like passion, like we’re all looking through it, I blocked time on my calendar to go through tweets in the morning, and then in the afternoon, and then night. And then you know, check sporadically throughout the day. And same thing with LinkedIn, and kind of everything that kind of mentions us we use sprout as our as our tool of choice, but it goes way beyond sprout, like a lot of the coordination is really just kind of having, you know, me, and the social team and Chris and Zeb, just, you know, caring about the community and not, you know, letting the size of the company influence our ability to step in and, and have those real interactions. So that’s a mix of Slack and just blocking our time to make sure it’s a priority, because it is
Gray MacKenzie 12:29
the only thing that has become a larger part, at least from the outside of the go to market strategy has been paid ads, social tree running search, as well. But yeah, especially on social. How has that evolved? And is that been like, I guess in terms of channels? How’s that? customer acquisition? Yeah,
Melissa Rosenthal 12:51
I mean, we’re scaling up across a lot of different channels, you know, the things that have worked for us in the past, you know, they, they, you can continue to spend more, but you want to find efficiencies and other in other places. So yeah, we’ve scaled up our YouTube or Facebook or our social in general. And you know, with with an in house, video team and creative team, we’re able to create ads and printing and motion graphics, we’re able to create ads pretty much in real time, test a ton of different variations, see what’s working, what’s not working, iterate on those ads, you know, next day, and then put them into market. So there’s, there’s kind of this really incredible like life cycle that we have of being able to ramp and spend, but understand what’s working and what we need to pivot. And you know, have having predictive modeling in house and data warehouses is really helpful for that. Same thing with podcasts. So it’s a Yeah, I mean, we’re certainly ramping up our spend, but we’re doing it you know, anyone can spend money, but people can do it. Well. So it’s a it’s an art and a science. I would say,
Gray MacKenzie 13:47
that makes sense. But we just had Troy Osinoff from JUICE on the podcast who followed you at BuzzFeed. Great customer acquisition, there are a little while digging into some of the paid ads. But interesting to see all the channels kind of ramp up here. Coinciding with obviously the the funding received last year, new coming on board. Yeah. Absolutely. That’s been awesome to see. What is that? So internally? This is more of a not a personal question, but we’ll see how, how far you wanna go this question? How has the relationship with Zeb and with the rest of the exact team at ClickUp been around pushing forward some of the ideas and campaigns and types of go to market strategies that you’ve been putting? Yeah,
Melissa Rosenthal 14:37
I mean, that’s great to work with. He believes in in building brand and building a strong brand and, you know, having that be your legacy, because, you know, anyone can kind of do this, you know, to acquire customers, but when you build a brand, you know, you’re building a brand for 20 years and not a brand for the next three years. So, you know, we’re pretty well aligned there. And you know, a lot of the sentiment has been let’s take big, bad And let’s make sure we’re measuring them. And we’re iterating when we need to. So, you know, it’s kind of like figuring that, that, you know, that balance out. But yeah, it’s, it’s as long as we’re able to measure and then figure out what’s working and pull the levers, you know, in the smart and efficient way. It’s, it’s been pretty, you know, it’s been a great way of being able to test big things and go big. And I think, you know, you never know what’s going to hit, you know, you never know when you’re going to have something that just goes crazy. And people pick it up, and they’re love it, share it, talk about it wins us accounts. And I think that’s just the you know, it’s continuing to do that it’s emotion. It’s the same thing we did at BuzzFeed, it’s every day it was trying to break platforms figure out what would work for us. And, you know, you do it enough, you have enough wins. And all of a sudden, you know, you go from a company that I had to explain to people what we did to becoming, you know, a household name, where people just couldn’t get couldn’t believe that I worked there. So, you know, I think it’s that it’s, it’s, I’m starting to see that effect here. We’re pickups becoming that more of that household name, especially within, you know, work productivity. And I think like, we’re only going to go up from there. So yeah, I mean, it’s being able to measure it, of course, and that’s really important. So whatever I do we have, you know, there’s, it’s like, okay, let’s figure out, like, how much does this cost to execute? How do we want to execute it, but we’re really cost efficient with having the team in house. So you know, we don’t have to go out to an agency and spend, you know, hundreds of 1000s of dollars or be on a retainer, to be able to execute, you know, creative and kind of thought provoking ideas around the space really allows us to be different.
Gray MacKenzie 16:34
mentioned something about brand and a number of people talk about brand new, cancel it. drift talked about branding. Here’s the big the big moat. Who are some of the one who kind of final questions here. Who are some folks who are shaping the way that you were thinking about building the brand? At ClickUp? By your role building the brand, ClickUp?
Melissa Rosenthal 17:00
Yeah. I mean, there’s a lot of like, it’s kind of a mix of who’s doing what best in class, I would say, it’s definitely not like, my playbook is not like, let me see what everyone else is doing and kind of helped shape that. It’s a lot centered around like, human emotion, which is something I learned, like, early days is, you know, the best way to connect with people, I would say, there are a lot of companies doing a lot of different things. Well, like, you know, HubSpot built an incredible education, you know, like platform. And I would say they, you know, they did that incredibly smart, incredibly smart way, and became very well known for it. And I would say there’s others in the space that are kind of doing the same, but in terms of what and I’m always paying attention to those companies, but I would say in terms of what, you know, really sets us apart is that we’re not following. We’re kind of trying to lead the way with that, and taking little pieces of inspiration along the way. But it’s, you know, I mean, there’s a lot of consumer companies that inspire me to, like, I think, you know, they they built a community, and I think the companies that have built that community are the ones that, you know, we look to follow, because it’s like, why have they built that community, I mean, webflow has done an incredible job of it too. And, you know, they, they have that really great human relationship with their, with their customers and their businesses. And it’s, it’s very evident across social and the way that they even poke fun at themselves with web flow means, you know, they’re, they’re great. I’m gonna take like, there’s, there’s a lot that you can take from from pieces of chunks of companies like that, to form your own strategy and your own experience, too. Right.
Gray MacKenzie 18:29
That’s awesome. And then you’ll just officially moved into the new San Diego office, how’s that? How’s it moving? going?
Melissa Rosenthal 18:37
It’s awesome. Yeah, well, I mean, we’re moved in. So I would say, being in person, you know, especially as a creative person is, there’s no, there’s no way to kind of replicate that on zoom. You know, it’s not, it’s not the same as going into a room with on a whiteboard with a bunch of people and, and, you know, brainstorming in real time and fixing a problem in five minutes, you know, you can’t do that over zoom. So fully, fully support, like a hybrid and remote work culture. But I’d say like, you know, being creative in building brand, it’s much easier to do that in person. And, you know, sometimes you’re just sitting around eating lunch together, and you come up with an idea. That’s just like, wow, that’s the idea. So I think there’s a lot of kind of the passive benefits of being around other people. And that that energy that you can’t replicate, so yeah, it’s going really well. It’s an it’s an amazing office. We’re right outside the Padre stadium. So there’s a nice work park there. And, you know, we go to games all the time as a companies as an as teams. And yeah, it’s great. It’s been an amazing thing to see all these amazing people that I’ve worked with over zoom
Gray MacKenzie 19:40
in real life. That’s awesome. Well, no, we are tight on time. But I appreciate you coming on giving us the inside book and allowing us to dig into some of what’s driving. Yeah,
Melissa Rosenthal 19:50
yeah. And I’d say that the most exciting part is, you know, we’ve made a lot of progress over the past year, but it’s day one for us. You know, it’s always day one. And I think if you can always keep that mentality, you know, the sky’s the limit like we we have have very high beliefs in this company and what we can you know what we can do here and the way that we can transform work. And, yeah, it’s a, you know, it doesn’t happen overnight. But there’s a lot of, you know, hiring the best and the best in class people that are excited to build this, and you know, really can rally around it. It’s amazing. So the culture here is really special. And so that contributes a lot to it as well.
Gray MacKenzie 20:25
Yeah, that’s awesome. Anything else? Melissa, as we’re wrapping up here?
Melissa Rosenthal 20:30
No, I would say just stay tuned. We have a lot of really incredible, incredible ideas and concepts and creative and marketing and branding opportunities that we’re working on right now. A big event we’re about to launch so stay tuned for that. And no, it’s been great chatting and looking forward to seeing kind of what we do
Gray MacKenzie 20:49
next. Awesome. Well, I appreciate you coming on be willing to share.
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