Web sites with attitude

I’ve seen a couple of sites lately with mascots that have something to say and say it with an attitude. I guess whether you think their comments are clever depends on your point of view. Or your age. Or what you expect from a business Web site. Or your mood. Or something.

Here are some examples.


MailChimp is an email marketing service. Their mascot is a chimp, and he’s got a lot to say. Sometimes it’s clever, sometimes it’s, well, odd.

MailChimp saying "Monkey see, monkey do. I'm only wearing a mail bag, how about you?"

MailChimp saying "Hal, I'm just a poor boy from a poor family."

MailChimp saying "Hi Gail. New shirt? Very nice."

Notice that the middle one has a link. It goes to a YouTube video: “The Muppets: Bohemian Rhapsody”. They link to many clever things around the Web.


You’ve probably heard about Groupon: an online service that offers coupons for businesses in your area. Each day’s coupon comes via email, with a picture of Groupon the cat and the saying of the day. They’re funny, silly or just a little strange. Here are some examples:

Groupon cat and the statement of the day

Groupon says "Which dried fruits are specifically processed for the socially rejected?"

Groupon says "I named my son after my husband and my husband after my boat."

If you click on the arrow in the email they send, you go to a Web page describing the offer, and more detail about the saying. See what you get by clicking on the one about children and matches.

This one doesn’t have a mascot, but…

This one doesn’t have a mascot. But the business name and the domain name are a bit unusual:

Logo for Shit Creek Consulting

Note the the logo: they have the paddle.

And they have the right attitude for the name. Here’s part of the description: Smug? You bet your ass we’re smug. We won’t waste your time and all we ask is that you don’t waste ours with your indecision. Call us if and when you are serious.

So what?

Well, that’s a good question. Does having an attitude like this matter? Does it reflect a big change on the Web or in business? Or is it just a few companies pushing the boundaries?

I observed a usability study where some people were put off by an attitude like these examples. And I have to say that some of these comments surprised me. I have to guess, though, that they know what they’re doing. Maybe they don’t want customers who offend easily, or who expect a pin-stripe-suit attitude. Or maybe times have just changed.

You’d certainly want to know your users before doing this. And you’d want to carefully develop good personas for your development team to clarify the boundaries.

What do you think?

What have you seen? What do you think when you see a site with an attitude like this? Send me a note or write a comment below. If you have other examples, include a link.


4 Responses to Web sites with attitude

  1. I have to say I don’t like the animals–they seem both too cutesy and too clever, and it makes the companies seem like they’re trying to hard to be irreverent. The consulting however has a sassy, snarky quality that I think really fits its niche–the message seems to really match up with the company’s business.

  2. JaneEYB says:

    I do use MailChimp and find the comments irritating, though not enough to change companies. The comments seem rather juvenile and are rarely funny (and wear thin when you are using the site every day) but I’m not offended by them.

    I liked Shitcreek Consulting though I imagine it must lose them some potential clients.

  3. Jeff says:

    I think the “edgy” attitude is going a bit far. Wouldn’t you want to show a positive attitude to your customers, rather than a cocky? What benefit is there to showing this type of attitude? Would clients enjoy encountering this type of edgy attitude in customer service or in sales? This attitude may work for a brief time (while you have no competition), but the established bell-weather businesses realize this is not a wise long-term marketing solution.

    It also wears off on kids – you see similar attitude messages in movies and TV, and kids develop the edgy attitude at a young age.

    • Hal Shubin says:

      I’d love to do a usability study specifically about this topic. I agree with the comments: too cute, irritating, a bit far. I think MailChimp is doing very well, so it either works or doesn’t hurt too much.

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