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.
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.
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.
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.
Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
Tessa Wegert is an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy and services agencies, serving such brands as Bioré, Bratz, Food Network, illy, Hunter Douglas, Jergens, and Olympic Paints and Stains. An industry veteran, Tessa has worked in online media buying and planning, marketing, and online copywriting since 1999. She is an active freelance writer specializing in interactive marketing who has contributed to U.S. and Canadian publications, including "USA Weekend Magazine," "Marketing Magazine," "The Globe and Mail," and "The Montreal Gazette." She is frequently quoted as an industry expert and speaks regularly at industry conferences and events.
March 19, 2014