Over the last few years, for those paying attention, Squarespace has been one of the most creative and bold content marketers around. From getting Jeff Bridges to make an entire album to put you to sleep, all the way up to having John Malkovich take on some of the most iconic characters in David Lynch movies, every campaign was swinging for the fences.
On Tuesday, the company opened its doors to a select audience as part of Fast Company's second annual Innovation Festival, and as part of his presentation, chief creative officer David Lee explained how the brand looks at its marketing through a product design lens. Lee outlined three specific examples in which they came upon new capabilities and features for the Squarespace platform as a result of collaborating with its users in marketing campaigns.
"We're a product company at the end of the day—we live and die by our product," said Lee. "We have this ability to partner with customers, and we're looking at using these opportunities as a product feedback loop, to really push what is humanly possible on our platform, and take those insights and lessons back into the product itself."
Lee first pointed to its collaboration with award-winning musician Leon Bridges, who was a Squarespace user well before the brand's Grammy Award campaign earlier this year. Lee says they took the opportunity of working with him to give his site a new coat of paint.
"What we realized with Leon is, this is a guy who oozes style, and when we worked with him we tried to really figure out how we could best represent his personal brand and style on his website, but we didn't actually have anything in our store, in our offering, that was in the postal code of that. So everything from the typography choices, how the images move, we worked in collaboration with him," said Lee. "And that sparked this idea that we never would've come up with all this if we didn't actually work alongside Leon. We tend to think we have all the answers and expertise, but it's funny how when you work with other people, how it opens up all these new opportunities, so that became the first part of, why don't we use these opportunities to make them a lot more valuable?"
He then jumped to another project from earlier this year with photographer David Guttenfelder, where the brand worked with him to redesign his site to include a selection of key photos accompanied with audio commentary from Guttenfelder.
We really wanted to try to enrich the photography experience, and we ended up doing something we had never done before," said Lee. "It's also almost like we created a new presentation platform. The difference between a website and a presentation are pretty minimal in the grand scheme of things. You're using a combination of audio, text, video and putting them together into a visual narrative."
The Field Stories site was built using the company's core content management system. "I'm not here to say we've created a next-gen presentation platform—we might be working on it, we might not be working on it," said Lee. "But the beauty of this is we never would've thought of doing something like this without actually spending time with David and discovering organically that this was the way we wanted to present and feature his photographs, and those capabilities are things that will go back into the company's product development plans."
A third example of how a marketing campaign influenced the actual product was the brand's most recent Super Bowl campaign, featuring Key & Peele's Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele in a whacked-out live commentary extravaganza. Lee says that creating a live-streaming event to run parallel to the big game required a site that was nimble enough to handle a wide variety of live-blogging content feed—from video clips and GIFs, to social posts, photos, and e-commerce—and make it look Super Bowl good.
"Even though it was built using the same product that everyone has access to, we had never thought of this use case for our blogging platform," he said. "If we were using it for this, why wouldn't someone else want to use it for another event?"
"Every single day what we're trying to do is redefine what the web looks like, and we use these marketing opportunities to stress test that, to really push the horsepower of what our platform can do."