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Branded Content Loves Email

  |  August 22, 2013   |  Comments

There's no limit to the kind of content you can incorporate into your email campaign, and no better time to amp up your emails than now.

Email marketing has had its ups and downs, but it isn't in any danger of extinction. In part, that may be because it represents a valuable means of delivering content. I'm not talking about promotions or information about a current sale, but the same caliber of branded content that marketers produce for the web. Consumers are increasingly accustomed to receiving great content from brands, and brands are continually looking for ways to deliver it.

But it isn't always easy. When asked about the challenges of email marketing, marketers named "creating relevant and compelling content" as the top hindrance. It was also considered to be the most effective tactic "for achieving email marketing objectives."

When businesses do it right, consumers are still open to the idea of branded email. A study released earlier this year found that 63 percent of consumers "may buy from an email" they read on a mobile device. Almost 70 percent, meanwhile, will open an email from a familiar brand "whose products they already consume." Brands are responding by upping their game: eMarketer reports that one in four marketers is already using video in their email messages. Brands are looking for ways to "enhance the inbox experience," and video is high on their list.

There are other approaches, though, that provide a memorable, engaging email experience, elevating email from a sales tool to a content marketing must.


A cornerstone of branded content, storytelling is finding its way into social media, branded video, and now, email. Clothing and accessory e-commerce site Bluefly recently partnered with five fashion bloggers to follow their experiences living with a new style of luxury handbag. By way of a mini photo series called, "The Traveling Handbag," the brand invited consumers to click through to view online galleries of each blogger sporting a different look with the purse, and vote for their favorite for the chance to win the bag for themselves.


Because the galleries were rolled out over time, users had added incentive for making repeat visits to Bluefly.com. This approach also provided the brand with enough content and creative to justify multiple mailings.

Cross-Channel Consistency

To promote "The Hunger Games" series of films, Lions Gate Entertainment has long been feeding content into Capitol Couture, a site dedicated to showcasing the city's futuristic fashions as they appear in the film's dystopian society. Subscribers to the site receive stunning photographs of the films' characters in costumes both from past and upcoming installments.


There isn't much to the messages beyond the image and a brief description of what's hot in Capitol fashion, but Lions Gate does a wonderful job of maintaining cross-channel consistency: images from its email correspond precisely with the Capitol Couture site, Facebook page, and Twitter feed. The use of a dedicated hashtag - #ohsocapitol - expands the campaign's reach to social networks.

Cultural Relevance

During this year's Shark Week - an annual themed television programming event on Discovery Channel - Chicago's Shedd Aquarium seized the opportunity to demonstrate its knowledge of the fascinating fish. An email sent to its subscribers included shark facts, a family-friendly shark-related craft, and a PDF map to help museum visitors locate every shark on-site.


Shedd's strategy to piggyback on a major pop culture event showed a great amount of cunning. Content that might otherwise have gotten lost in its standard messages got a major boost, becoming timely and highly relevant to TV viewers and marine science buffs alike.

Email campaigns - particularly those that follow the high-concept content trend - require a lot of effort…but they don't necessarily require content that's new. Here are a few additional ideas for sourcing and recycling material as an email.

  1. Tell the story of how your brand began, using photos and events from your brand's Facebook timeline.
  2. Leverage visual marketing assets like Instagram photos, Instagram videos, and Vines.
  3. Reuse the animated GIFs from your Tumblr page.
  4. Feature an employee using your product, or discussing her experience at the company, in video form.
  5. Compile positive fan comments in an image gallery.

There's no limit to the kind of content you can incorporate into your email campaign, and no better time to amp up your emails than now.

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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