Stanford Wins With Rich Media Email

If you’re considering a rich media email marketing campaign, you may face a trade-off. On the plus side, you can create a vibrant, eye-catching campaign that is likely to get the message across more effectively than a plain-text email message. On the minus side, however, is the fact that not all computer systems are capable of handling such snazzy messages, and a rich media campaign can potentially turn off as many recipients as it wows.

Stanford University faced this very situation recently. The athletic department had never conducted a rich media campaign, but Bob Carruesco, the assistant athletic director, says his group knew they wanted to try something new, and they thought such a campaign would be “novel and potentially effective.”

So they got together with to create a campaign around the athletic department’s 2000 football season. The campaign utilized inChorus Pro software, a tool for creating messages that go beyond plain text. The athletic department sent out its first such message last week, on August 30, to promote the September 9 game against the San Jose State Spartans.

Now, when I saw this message, I thought, “OK – that’s pretty cool. Lots of color, words streaming across a field, happy cheerleaders, etc.” If I were a Stanford fan (forgive the aside, but I can’t help it: Go Buffs!), I would take a look at the schedule, check out how to get tickets, and even play the game of virtually kicking the football to get discounted tickets.

But it wasn’t until I took a closer look at the message that I was really impressed. At first glance, I thought, “Well, that’s a nice little video.” Then I realized it wasn’t video at all; instead, it was the use of animation, graphics, and voice that brought this message to life.

And while that may not seem like much of a distinction to those with DSL, cable modem, or other broadband access, it certainly makes a difference to users with slower systems. I can’t speak for all who use different speeds or different types of computers, but what is clear is that those who use, say, older computers equipped with 28.8 kbps modems are more likely to have a better experience with this type of message than they would with streaming video.

The preliminary results are in, and they are as follows:

  • The message was delivered to approximately 6,000 email accounts.

  • In the first 24 hours, the open rate (which describes how many recipients viewed the message) was 23 percent.
  • Of those 23 percent who opened the message, 87 percent clicked through to the web site.
  • In the first 24 hours, the forward rate was nine percent, aided in part by a button within the email that said, “Forward this email to a friend!”

Another interesting note on this type of campaign: Often a marketer will rely on a fulfillment company to create a rich media message, but organizations have the option of buying the software and creating the animated message themselves.

Nintendo Follow-Up

To follow up on an earlier case study: I had promised to share with readers comments on Nintendo’s parental permission plan. I got surprisingly little feedback. Could it be that this isn’t that hot of an issue? Here is one remark:

    If Nintendo truly will drop anyone they are not sure of and make the parents re-register and confirm with the parents before sending any information to my kids then I might try it out. I still would be suspicious until I see that it is not a mass market blitz aimed at the parents through the kids.

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