Inspire Weirdness And Shun The Boring: An Interview with Groupon

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Some time ago I was talking with a friend on Twitter about how awesome Groupon’s copy writing was (Seriously, it’s worth subscribing to their emails JUST for that. The deals are also epic of course, but the writing – whoa!). That’s when I decided I MUST interview them. How does a company who’s been lauded as the fastest growing company in the history of the web maintain such consistency of brand? What was their culture like? Etc…so on and so forth. I reached out on Twitter and was eventually put in touch with Julie. Julie Mossler is the PR and Consumer Marketing Manager at Groupon. So without further adieu, my interview with Julie.

1)  Hi Julie, first off – thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for me. Let’s start with a little background on you. Can you share with us some of your history and then get into your role at Groupon?

I graduated from Mizzou with a Bachelor’s in Journalism, emphasis Advertising/PR. After college, I moved home to Chicago and worked for a few boutique and national firms representing everyone from Reynolds Aluminum Foil to the Hershey Company to Jim Beam Kentucky Bourbon. I found my way to Groupon in November 2009 where I currently oversee our PR and consumer marketing efforts, including our stunts, events and social media.

2)  One of the things that I’ve loved from Groupon from the beginning is the messaging you guys use. Can you talk about the culture within your organization and how/if that influences the personality of the brand?

Our company culture is crucial to our success. We work just as hard at keeping employees happy and inspired as we do serving customers and merchants; we’d fail as a company if we hung one of those posters that tells everyone they’re special and thought that was sufficient. We are a young team, with an average age of 25 among 850 employees in Chicago. Our staff enjoy their personal lives but it’s not uncommon for them to work 12 hour days because they want to. The masterminds in Editorial are responsible for the quirky, snarky humor and messaging that we’ve become known for and do a great job of reflecting the Groupon spirit to the millions of consumers who read our write-ups each day – and that personality is reflected internally through company meetings, pranks and pretty much any other opportunity we have to be weird.

3)  Something that comes up a lot when I hear people talking about Groupon is the copy writing that’s done in the emails and on the site. I mean – even if they aren’t interested in the deals people are reading those emails because it’s really that great. How do you encourage that kind of consistent creativity on your teams?

Our write-ups are a huge source of pride for us – they’ve received praise in the New York Times and Wall St. Journal and we’re beginning to be recognized as a training ground for great comedic journalism. Our editorial team is 90 people strong and built much like a magazine. They churn out about 200 pages of copy per day, or the length of the average novel.  This talent is cultivated by a corporate culture that rewards creativity, inspires weirdness and shuns the boring, regardless of department.

4)  To that same point and bringing the company culture back in to this, what do you look for in a new employee to ensure that the Groupon-ness continues?

Groupon looks for intelligent and hard-working people with a passion for their respective field and also the Groupon model as a whole.  With that in mind, we also seek out workers who maintain a healthy work-life balance and like to have fun both in and outside of the office. Many of our employees have improv backgrounds, which we believe maintains our culture.

5)   So. There have been a TON of copy-cat group/social coupon/purchasing sites pop up. How does Groupon differentiate itself in an increasingly competitive space?

Groupon is the original deal site and we continue to lead the way amongst the thousands of copy-cat sites worldwide.  There’s something to be said for launching 90 markets over two years; we know what works and what doesn’t for every industry, we know what customers like and we’ve set the quality standard that they expect. The quality is the biggest thing that sets us apart, both for the merchant and customer experience.

7)   There have been some recent attention given to the negative aspects to participation a program such as Groupon has for some businesses. For example the story of Posies Cafe. Many complaints center around the fact that Groupon takes 50% of all proceeds.

You can read our CEO Andrew Mason’s detailed response to this on our blog.

8)  A big part of the Groupon concept is that it encourages sharing to ensure that everyone actually gets the deal. As Groupon grows and grows, isn’t that part nearly a guarantee as scale is reached? Doesn’t that take much of the social nature away from the concept? Any plans to change this part of the model?

As Groupon gains momentum and awareness in every market, the deals definitely reach their tipping points faster, which we see as a positive.  Actually, we see the reverse…people are sharing the deal because it’s about to sell out and they want their friends to get in! Either way, people still enjoy sharing with friends and posting about Groupon deals because our features are inherently social…like two tickets to a wine tasting, $100 to a restaurant (who eats $100 in food by themselves?) or a deal for paintball.

9)   Finally. I have a special request from my friend Matt Singley. He wants to know who came up with your truly most EPIC unsubscribe page. I’d have to also applaud this awesome-ness!

It’s a secret. But, fun fact – “Derek” is really our founder, Andrew Mason. __________________________________________________________ Thanks to Julie and all of the other Grouponers I interacted with. They are truly a gracious and fun to work with bunch. If you haven’t heard of them yet (doubtful) you will soon. They have been getting an increasingly large amount of publicity surrounding deals like the one inked with Gap. Pre-logo change mind you. The Gap deal was their biggest most popular Groupon to date. Definitely a company to [continue to] keep an eye on!

 

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