Going Back to the Basics to Start the New Year

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you enjoyed the holidays. I did. Can you believe that it’s 2002 already? Made any New Year’s resolutions?

My resolution is to go back to the basics and see what brought me to the place I am now. That said, I thought it would be a good idea to go back to an article that was published on September 11 for two reasons: It goes back to the basics, and it gives you a chance to look at it again, since it was published on a day when other things were on our minds.

I wrote about a very old marketing principle called AIDA — or attention, interest, desire, and action. Before you pooh-pooh this altogether and send me scathing emails like “been there, done that,” hear me out. I will put this age-old principle to work with — you got it — email examples. We’ll also look at AIDA in the context of the brief and discover how it relates to your final email creative — whether it’s text, HTML, streaming video and audio, or whatever.

What’s a Brief?

Well, a brief is simply a document that succinctly summarizes relevant information about your communication goals. Some agencies call it the creative brief. Some call it the communications brief. Some call it an input summary. Whatever it’s called, it is, in my opinion, the most important document with which to start the creative process. In a nutshell, it is the foundation for all that comes after. (For the sake of simplicity, I’ll call it “the brief.”) Those of you who have used the brief on a regular basis know its importance. It can mean the difference between tepid and unfocused creative and creative that is compelling, relevant and motivating. After the brief is written, consider the following AIDA marketing principles.


OK, hopefully I’ve got your attention. But how does one attract attention with an email? Well, the subject line and the “From” line in an email are arguably equally important. As you’re crafting tempting subject lines, watch out for those words (such as “free”) that may give people the feeling that your email is spam.

So, once your audience gets past all that and does indeed open your email, you’ve proven that you’ve managed to attract that all-important attention. Hopefully, you have a benefit-driven headline that breathes life into the ultimate benefit you want to communicate to your target audience.

Notice I said “benefit,” not “benefits.” It’s imperative that you focus on bringing alive a single benefit creatively. If you try to shoehorn too many benefits into one creative execution, you will only confuse your target audience, and your message will not have as much impact.

Whether you call it the unique selling proposition (USP), the single-minded proposition (SMP), or the ultimate benefit to the target audience (UBTTTA), it’s all the same (OK, I made up the last acronym). In any case, you get the point. But, at the end of the day, it’s best to always refer back to the brief and make sure your creative is “on brief” and indeed captures attention.


Now that you’ve got your target audience’s attention, how do you keep its interest? Well, I’ll give you an example of an email promotion that kept my interest. That would be Harry and David. Have you ever seen the stuff it sends out via email? Wow! The creative direction is lovely, and the copy sings.

Picture this: the sumptuous visual of a ripe, juicy pear, just sliced in half. It grabs attention (for those of us who are hungry) and generates interest. Not interested yet? How about reading copy that talks about tart, crunchy Granny Smith apples, mellowed and sweetened with rich, buttery caramel? Mmmmm. The world-class art direction and compelling copy are a great testament to Harry and David and its email marketing efforts.


Once you have the audience’s attention and interest, the creative should elicit a desire to know more about the products or services of any given company. Since we’re using food as an example, let’s continue with Harry and David. Maybe you’re more of a savory person than a sweet person. In that case, let’s discuss one of its savory products, such as its new smoked salmon — which is legendary for its clean, fresh flavor and for the firm, flaky texture that salmon lovers crave. At this point, the desire should be so intense that your target audience will want to immediately find out how to get these products.


Simply put, this is the stage when your target audience is ready to act on your message. In the case of Harry and David, the obvious call to action would be “click here to order now” in response to mouth watering visuals and descriptions. Just make sure you give your audience plenty of opportunities to click: meaning, link everything — from the headline to your logo to the text calls to action and everything in between.

Bottom line: Make sure your creative is “on brief” and it gets your target audience’s attention, interest, and desire… leading them to action!

Take care, everyone… and have a wonderful new year.


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