Timing. Slack was launched in 2012 — that was year we saw headlines like “Stop Email Overload” (Harvard Business Review) and “Be A Bitch On Email, Or Be Email’s Bitch” (TechCrunch). So it turned out to be a great time for Butterfield and co. to be working on a chat and collaboration tool that had the potential to make up for many of email’s shortcomings. Oh and mobile had just started to get everywhere.
They were already well known. The fact that they were already well-known in the tech community from their Flickr days didn’t hurt Butterfield and his co-founders either. From the beginning, the product received tons of press that helped bolster Slack’s status as a tool that had the power to replace email. Just look at some of these headlines from 2013: “Flickr Cofounders Launch Slack, An Email Killer” (Fast Company), “Flickr founder plans to kill company e-mails with Slack” (CNET), “The Co-Founder Of Flickr Wants To Replace Email At The Office” (Business Insider).
The product was free. Slack is part of a recent wave of companies, which also includes MailChimp and Asana, that have adopted a product-driven approach to sales and marketing. Instead of optimizing for MQLs (marketing-qualified leads) or SQLs (sales-qualified leads), these companies are optimizing for PQLs (product-qualified leads).
Amazing brand. It’s as if the founders of Slack understood what it’s like to work in an office, on a team. So instead of blasting us with jargon, they developed a brand voice that sounds like the voice of a trusted friend or colleague — someone who’s in the trenches with us, but who isn’t afraid to crack a joke and have some fun every now and then. This playful-yet-helpful style carries over seamlessly into the product, where the colors, micro-copy, signature “knock knock” notification sound, and fun features like Slackbot all contribute to a cohesive (and lovable) brand experience. And perfecting that experience has been instrumental to Slack’s success.