Features Marketing

Lessons from a Creative Groundbreaker: Melissa Rosenthal, Chief Creative Officer at ClickUp

Melissa Rosenthal is the Chief Creative Officer at ClickUp, an all-in-one productivity platform that allows you to bring all your work into one place. From serving as an early leader at Buzzfeed to a Chief Revenue Officer at Cheddar, Rosenthal has been in the marketing and creative media space for a little more than a decade. In this time, she’s become a changemaker, innovator and expert in building a brand. As you read, make sure to check out the accompanying video interview where she dives deeper into her experience and insights.

Coming into the B2B SaaS space, Rosenthal found that the industry, while quickly growing, was often uninteresting and unchanging. This also meant it was rife with potential.

Rosenthal said, “I felt like there was a really a blue-sky opportunity to bring a or build a bold, creative, colorful brand, in a space that is often boring and very, very stagnant. There’s not a lot of innovation and marketing within SaaS, especially on the brand side. What I wanted to do is really humanize our product and create what could feel like your productive best friend. Through humor and a bit of self-awareness, I hoped to make something that would resonate in a way that a consumer brand might.”

Humanizing your brand and creating trust with customers

For Rosenthal, humanizing a brand and building personal connections with consumers requires a two-pronged strategy. First—she shows the personality of the company and its employees. ClickUp’s Superbowl ad featured a behind-the-scenes look at the company’s team.

“It was satirical, it was funny, and it really showed the joy and the humor that went into the actual creation of the ad and the people behind it. Marketing can be equally as powerful as the marketing that you’re doing on the more consumer-facing side,” Rosenthal said.

She also recognizes the value of her team’s networks for word-of-mouth marketing. Each employee is their own marketing funnel.

“Why not leverage the 1000 people that you have working at the company to bring in their own audiences? So, when I’m thinking about humanizing a brand, it’s taking advantage of people’s channels and funnels, and then also the humanization of your own marketing strategy within your own team.”

In the age of efficiency, how do you build a brand?

In the modern marketing scene, creatives must find more and more innovative ways to present authenticity. One way is to bypass the corporate filters that brand messaging must often go through before reaching an audience. But being unfiltered while maintaining a professional company image presents a challenge in itself. Rosenthal maintains that the key to standing out is to be unafraid to gamble on out-of-the-box ideas.

Rosenthal said B2B marketers often ask her how to get their leadership to trust them with bold decisions. She said, “Ultimately, being able to take risks and chances is how to set yourself apart from your competition at a high level, especially when you’re in a very competitive space as we are.”

Competitive jousting, made fun

Marketers must be bold to stand up to the competition. But Rosenthal highlights the importance of taking chances in a smart and calculated way while maintaining a fun and easygoing tone.

She describes one example of where this mindset paid off, allowing ClickUp to expertly maneuver an initially disadvantageous situation into a viral commercial. Their biggest competitor’s chief product officer made a joke about ClickUp’s airport ads in front of thousands of people at a conference.

“We saw this online, and we said, ‘oh my god, we have to do something with this’. So immediately, we took it, we cut it out, we created a track on a piano, and added a beat to it. We created a remix of it in which we made it a commercial for ourselves. It was almost like they were giving us free media. We put it out and it went viral…sometimes having competitive jousting and poking fun at your competitors in a lighthearted but smart way can grab the attention of a lot of people.”

Quick thinking is essential in Rosenthal’s craft. In the same way, ClickUp benefited from a competitor’s slight through fast reflexes. The same applies to marketing creatives adapting to the rapidly innovating world of artificial intelligence.

How do you think AI will affect the creative sphere?

For Rosenthal, the answer to this question is complicated. While AI is a brilliant and efficient new tool to use, she believes that people bring humanity to creative work that machines can assist in, but not replicate.

 “The hyper-focus now is on AI. It’s wonderful. AI is going to become the cloud. Effectively, it’s going to be embedded within everything. It’s going to enhance people’s ability to do great things. But also, let’s talk about the great things that people can do now, and maybe how AI will enhance it moving forward.”

Before we rely on AI to carry the weight of the creative work Rosenthal said that we disrupt boring industry norms and connect authentically and emotionally with customers.

“We are afraid to be bold, to challenge the status quo of what’s happening. Is it fear? Is it complacency? What takes away people’s ability to challenge and disrupt? Where’s something you can emotionally connect to? Or makes you laugh? Or brings you joy? I think when there’s so much noise out there, the ability to break through has become harder, but also more necessary.”

Standing out in the AI frontier

Many agencies worry that automated creativity will make them obsolete. Rosenthal doesn’t sugarcoat the possible consequences, but she offers a ray of hope.

“Written content marketing will suffer a little bit. But I think it’ll only enhance the creativity and need for people to stand out.”

But how do we do that? Rosenthal suggests video, experiential marketing and messaging that connects authentically with audiences. Marketers should use AI to speed production, not rely on it to create meaning. “The important thing is that we use AI to enhance the creative experience and not hinder it. Man meets machine is the right way forward,” she said. “If we can use [AI] tools in really innovative ways, we’re going to see creativity that we’ve never seen before. I’m excited about it.”

We’re so glad that we had the opportunity to connect with Melissa Rosenthal at Collision. Have you missed our other coverage from the conference? Read From the Ground Floor of Collision, One of the World’s Largest Tech Summits and We’re Going to a Tradeshow!

About the author

Jessica Zang

Jessica Zang is a student at the University of Chicago studying Economics and English Literature. At school, she writes columns for the newspaper, contributes to the fashion magazine and is part of the Women in Business organization. Outside of school, she loves reading, hiking, making her own lattes, exploring the city and any type of arts and crafts.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Check for errors 160x600 1