The Hired Hand – Not just another blah-blah-blog

July 15, 2014

Appily ever after

Filed under: Uncategorized — Darcy Grabenstein @ 8:18 am

by Darcy Grabenstein

The email subject line read: An invitation from Maeve and Karl for Darcy Grabenstein

Curiosity got the best of me, so I opened the email, which revealed:

Wedding invitation email

I consider myself fairly tech savvy, but this is my first wedding invitation via app. Of course, I could have gone to the website, but I wanted to get the full app experience. So I downloaded the app to my smartphone:

AppyCouple icon

And this is what I saw when I opened the app and logged in:

AppyCouple1

I’ve got to admit, it’s certainly a cost-saving (and tree-saving) alternative to a traditional printed invitation. If you haven’t already seen it, here’s a look at the app’s features:

Appy Couple Wedding RSVP

“Our Story” gives a pictorial view of the couple’s life together:

Appy Couple - our story

The couple can include all the romantic details of how they met. My advice? Just make sure it doesn’t fall into the “TMI” category. Maeve and Karl did a nice job on their “how we met” story:

Appy Couple - how we met

The Gallery allows the couple (and others!) to upload photos:

Appy Couple - photo gallery

Family and friends can sign the couple’s virtual guestbook. In the true spirit of social media, the app invites guests to “start the conversation”:

Guestbook

Appy Couple is a one-stop wedding app, as it also includes a registry and a cute countdown to the big day:

Countdown

There’s a section for travel information, especially important for a destination wedding or one in a remote location such as Alaska:

Travel

Want to send a message to the couple? There’s an app (section) for that! You can either send a group or a private message:

Messaging

And if you’d like to make a virtual toast (complete with bubbles), go right ahead. Just don’t spill champagne on your smartphone.

Toasts

My take on this? As one who’s a traditionalist when it comes to life cycle events, I must admit that this app lets the couple create a truly personal experience.

So what’s next on the app horizon? An app for divorce? Of course!

May 31, 2014

Hire me – Part II

Filed under: Advertising,Public Relations,Social Media — Darcy Grabenstein @ 11:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,
Toast

To new beginnings.

The day I was laid off from my job at the ad agency (along with 11 others, thanks to the loss
of two major accounts), we had tickets to a Phillies game that night.

My son (of legal drinking age for five whole days) and I did what any self-respecting Phillies fans would do… we started “tailgating” that afternoon at home. I promptly poured him a beer, poured myself a glass of champagne and toasted to new beginnings… and then I promptly posted my celebratory photo on Facebook. I’m not one to cry over my glass of wine; I’m one to raise it in toast.

As we got ready to head to the stadium, I kept thinking what a great PR idea it would be to
announce my job status at the game. After all, there would be thousands of prospective employers fans there (well,
only about 24,000 fans – but that’s another story).PR at the Phillies game

“So I got me a pen and a paper” and I made up my own not-so-little sign. Forgive the improper grammar; I couldn’t resist citing those familiar song lyrics. What did my sign say? It read: “Hire me! Darcy G at LinkedIn.” I promptly posted it on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Since we were in the nosebleed section, I didn’t make it on camera or the jumbotron. I’m getting a little more mileage
out of my photo, however, by blogging about it.

To cap off my stellar day, my seat number was 13, and the Phillies lost 4-1 to the Mets.

There’s always tomorrow….

May 29, 2014

May 6, 2014

Emails even Mom would be proud of – a look at Mother’s Day promotions

Filed under: Advertising,Design,Email marketing,Writing — Darcy Grabenstein @ 12:08 pm
Tags: , ,

by Darcy Grabenstein

U.S. online consumers will spend an average of $162.94 on Mother’s Day gifts this year, down 3.6% from $168.94 last year, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation. The survey said 29% of consumers plan to shop online. As email marketers, it’s our job to get a slice of that Mother’s Day pie. Let’s take a look at how online retailers are promoting the holiday. I’ll start with a few emails I saved from last year’s swipe file. The first is from JC Penney, reflecting its epic (or epic fail?) rebranding effort. I give JCP credit here, with its clever “mother’s may” and bold graphics and color. JCP Mother's May
Next is one from Rachel Roy, with an attention-grabbing subject line: Happy MILS Day! 20% Off. The headline, too, may cause you to do a double-take. Mother's Day Rachel Roy - Happy MILS Day! 20% Off

And a favorite of mine, uncommon goods, uses a brilliant play on words to tout its preferred shipping: “Don’t you think Mom would’ve liked A Faster Delivery?” Mother's Day - uncommon goods
Fast forward to Mother’s Day 2014.

I’d like to give a shout out to Wayfair, which used the subject line “Mom’s the word: Get gifting with hand-picked favorites she’ll love.” (Full disclosure: I used “Mom’s the word” for a Mother’s Day email when I was a copywriter at Lenox.) Pine Cone Hill uses copy to sell without overdoing it. The headline — THE MOTHER LODE — draws you in.

Pine Cone Hill - Shop Mother’s Day Gift Picks - and Get It Shipped for Free!
Bath & Body Works has an all-encompassing subject line: Give Mom The World! All NEW Fragrances + $6 Fine Fragrance Mist & More! The body of the email pays it off, promoting fragrances inspired by other countries.

Bath & Body Works
Some emails focused on new moms. This email from Nordstrom tugs at the heartstrings. It’s a study in pink. My question is whether a blue-themed email was sent out as well. Nordstrom - Mother's Day Gifts for the New Mom
David Yurman takes it a step further, using cause-related marketing. The subject line reads: Gifts that Help New Mothers. The copy-heavy email explains that a portion of its proceeds will benefit a foundation promoting maternal health. As an added bonus, those who contribute will receive a jewelry box as a thank-you gift. David Yurman - Gifts that Help New Mothers
The following retailers used cross-promotions in their emails. Jack Spade keeps it all in the family, promoting the kate spade new york site. The subject line serves up a dose of motherly guilt: Your Mother Would Love To Hear From You. It’s paid off with the headline below. Jack Spade - Your Mother Would Love To Hear From You
Burlington Coat Factory includes a co-op promotion with 1-800-flowers. The subject line spells out the offer — Just in time for Mother’s Day – 20% off at 1-800 Flowers — but doesn’t feature any of its own products. It also appears that there may have been special characters, such as hearts, that did not render. Burlington Coat Factory

Speaking of flowers, ProFlowers gives its subject line a sense of urgency with “URGENT: Last Chance for a $19.99 Special for Mother’s Day!” The layout and copy are straightforward, simplifying the purchase decision (even for those with hard-to-shop-for moms). It convinced me. My mother will be receiving a colorful bouquet, courtesy of ProFlowers.

ProFlowers - URGENT: Last Chance for a $19.99 Special for Mother's Day!

 

Like flowers, chocolates are popular Mother’s Day gifts. This Godiva email does a good job of promoting gifts for all the moms in your life — mom, wife, sister, friend.

 

Godiva - Mother's Day is May 11 - We've got a Plan!

 

Not all Mother’s Day emails receive this mom’s approval, however. Take the Dirt Devil email, for instance. The subject line is filled with good intentions: Make Mom’s Life Easier This Mother’s Day. And the headline is spot on (pun intended). But do moms really want a vacuum cleaner for Mother’s Day? One year I received a waffle maker for Mother’s Day; it was one of those gifts where you say “You shouldn’t have!” and you certainly mean it.

Dirt Devil - Make Mom's Life Easier This Mother's Day

 

And what about this email from J. Peterman? I expect more from the cataloguer known for its creative copy. I’m sure Elaine from “Seinfeld” would agree. A “Roses are red, violets are blue” rhyming poem? Seriously?

J. Peterman - Final Day - Mother's Day Celebration - 25% Off + Free Shipping.
In this Dean & DeLuca email, the cheesecake gets lost on the white background. I’m sure the monochromatic look was intentional, but a darker plate would have made the product pop.

Dean & DeLuca Free Shipping for Mother's Day Begins Today!

This email from Michael Kors leaves me scratching my head. The subject line reads ” For the Mother Who’s Ahead of Her Time.” I’ll admit it’s cute for an email promoting watches. But the watches definitely are mini and petite, as the hero image focuses on the model (who’s not very “Mom-ish”) as opposed to the product.

Michael Kors - For the Mother Who's Ahead of Her Time
On the other hand (pun intended), Fossil uses a simple but effective subject line: Got a great mom? We’ve got a great watch. The design showcases the watch, and the copy (“momentous savings”) is subtly clever.

Fossil - Got a great mom? We've got a great watch.

I doubt that the folks at Belldini meant to give a plug to MailChimp, but that’s what they did when they forgot to remove the template copy in their email. With their offer of 20% off sitewide, I’m sure moms will forgive them.

Happy Mother's Day From Belldini

 

As Mother’s Day approaches and we wax nostalgic over fond maternal memories, an old song comes to my mind. With lyrics by Howard Johnson and music by Theodore Morse, the song “M is for the Million Things She Gave Me” debuted in 1915. While its words paying tribute to moms everywhere still hold true today, I took the liberty of creating my own acrostic (in the spirit of Rachel Roy’s MILS email) paying tribute to Mother’s Day emails. No “Roses are red, violets are blue” for me:

M is for the Millions of potential gift buyers
O is for the Offers we that can’t be refused
T is for the A/B Tests we love to conduct
H is for the list Hygiene we practice
E is for the Emails sent hawking Mother’s Day
R is for the big ROI we hope to see

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

April 12, 2014

My smartphone was lost… and I was lost without it

Filed under: Culture,Email marketing — Darcy Grabenstein @ 10:44 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

iPhoneby Darcy Grabenstein

The other night, I thought I lost my smartphone at the gym.

Sheer panic set in. For those of you who are parents, you know the feeling. I’m not equating losing a phone with losing a child by any means, but the initial symptoms are similar. A sickness grabs the pit of your stomach.

I didn’t realize how much I rely on my smartphone until I thought it was missing. I felt almost as if I had lost a part of me. In addition to the traditional phone contacts, I’ve uploaded playlists for teaching Zumba. I have all my information loaded in a fitness app that I use every day. I have message threads from my family that I’ve saved for sentimental reasons. I’ve got my email accounts synced. I have dozens of apps downloaded for convenience.

All that could’ve been gone — poof! — in a flash.

And then there’s the issue of unauthorized access to my data, although my phone locks after a few minutes of idleness.

I’m not alone in my dependency on my smartphone. We’re so tethered to our mobile devices, that it’s hard to imagine life without them.

The statistics speak for themselves. According to Pew Internet Project research on mobile technology, as of January 2014:

  • 90% of American adults had a cell phone
  • 58% of American adults had a smartphone
  • 32% of American adults owned an e-reader
  • 42% of American adults owned a tablet computer

Marketers can’t ignore the fact that more and more consumers are accessing their information on mobile devices. Emails and websites must be optimized for mobile. Whether it’s adaptive or responsive design, it’s responsible design. It will become the norm, not the exception.

BTW, I found my smartphone hiding in the cup holder of the elliptical machine, exactly where I’d left it.

Now if only my glasses had a homing device….

February 28, 2014

Using cause-related emails as a PR tool

Filed under: Branding,Email marketing,Public Relations — Darcy Grabenstein @ 12:55 pm
Tags: , , ,

by Darcy Grabenstein

Many companies use cause-related marketing to boost their brand image, build goodwill and create positive PR. This is widely apparent at holiday time and during October, for example, as businesses jump on the breast cancer awareness bandwagon.

Following are several examples of how companies employ cause-related marketing in their email campaigns.

Bon-Ton

Bon-Ton wisely incorporates social media into this anti-bullying campaign, using both Facebook and Twitter (even asking for a retweet). The subject line, although a bit long, is designed to attract anyone who wants to join in the (virtual) fight against bullying or who simply can’t resist a contest: Support STOMP Out Bullying + enter for your chance to WIN!

While the email audience is likely parents, not kids, Bon-Ton also encourages subscribers to send a text for discounts. Bullying has become a hot topic lately, and the moms who receive this email probably will give Bon-Ton a few brownie points.

Bonton email - stomp out bullying


Calvin Klein

Calvin Klein includes a celebrity endorsement – from model Christy Turlington – in this striking email. The fact that the email is in black and white makes it stand out from others in the inbox. The subject line is as simple and straightforward as the email itself: Calvin Klein Supports Every Mother Counts. However, the preheader is basically a repeat of the subject line. Instead, CK could have stated the offer: We’ll Donate $1 for Every Bra Purchased.

Calvin Klein email - every mother counts

Alex and Ani

This email also captures your attention, but with a strangely compelling image. Who knew monkeys were so fashion conscious? Alex and Ani is betting on the hope that its subscribers are environmentally conscious, too. The email is a perfect example of how to tie in a cause to your product line. And the subject line – Monkey around for charity – and headline add a lighthearted touch.

Alex & Ani email - animal welfare

AT&T

Most of us can agree that texting and driving can be a deadly combination. This email from AT&T promotes its participation in the “it can wait” campaign. The dynamic subject line of this email is an effort to personalize the message: [First name], take the pledge to end texting and driving.

While I’m not convinced that a pledge alone will keep people from texting and driving, I applaud AT&T for taking part in this educational campaign. (However, pledging via Facebook for all your friends to see is a clever option.) What’s truly admirable about the website is that the sponsors’ logos are not plastered everywhere. In fact, the “Champions” (sponsors) are accessible from a link in the footer. (Other sponsors include Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, among others.) The campaign, apparently geared more toward teen drivers, includes the hashtag #itcanwait and video endorsements from the likes of One Republic, Demi Lovato, Olympian Gabby Douglas and more. Other videos, on the par of those you might remember from your driver’s ed days, are also featured. There’s even a simulator so you can see how texting impairs your driving ability.

AT&T email - don't text and drive

Brooks Brothers

This email does a nice job of driving traffic to retail stores. The subject line says it all: Ends Today – Enjoy 25% Off When Donating a Coat. And the headline has the double meaning of both physical and emotional warmth.

 Brooks Brothers email - give a coat, share the warmth


Belk
 

Belk also drives traffic to its stores, but takes it a step further by emphasizing support for the local community.

Belk email benefitting local charities


Walmart

Walmart leaves me wondering how I can help fight hunger. Personally, I’d like a few more details before I click through to its site.

Walmart email - help make a difference for hungry families

Ethan Allen

While I give credit to Ethan Allen for offering a discount, I’m not sure 20% is enough for victims of Hurricane Sandy. The subject line reads: Still recovering from Sandy? We’ve extended our special savings offer. (Full disclosure: I’m a New Jersey resident.) The question is whether those hit by Hurricane Sandy would even have Internet access, depending on when this email was sent and how long the offer ran. To truly reach those most impacted, the email could have included wording along the lines of: Know someone who is a victim of Hurricane Sandy? Share this information with them today!

Ethan Allen email - discount for Hurricane Sandy victims

H&M

“Join us in global change. Vote to make a difference” reads the subject line. The H&M Conscious Foundation asks subscribers to vote on which three initiatives it should support. I find this interesting, as H&M in the past has been the focus of complaints regarding labor violations in Third World countries.

H&M email - vote for your favorite cause


Jos. A. Bank

With all-American colors – and even a photo with an American flag in the background – this email plays to the patriotic pride of its subscribers. The rather long subject line spells out the promotion: Buy 1 Suit, Get 2 FREE + ‘Give’ 1 to a Returning Veteran.

Jos. A. Bank email - helping veterans

Stella & Dot 

Stella & Dot follows suit (pun intended) with this subject line – Support our troops – and offer:

Stella & Dot email - support our troops

Michael Kors

Michael Kors uses an indirect product tie-in to its campaign against hunger.

Michael Kors email - campaign against hunger

Warby Parker

Following in the footsteps (pun intended again!) of TOMS shoes, Warby Parker donates a pair of glasses for every pair purchased. By the way, TOMS also donates glasses as well as shoes.

Warby Parker email, donating glasses to those in need

Juicy Couture

Instead of featuring a photo of a needy child, Juicy Couture features a photo of Lydia Hearst. Who is Lydia Hearst, you ask? Obviously the subscribers know who she is, since the subject line is: Lydia Hearst hearts Operation Smile!

Lydia Hearst is an actress, fashion model, columnist…and, yes, socialite and heiress to the publishing fortune. As someone who has developed materials for a company in support of Operation Smile, I have to wonder about this approach and can only assume that it resonates with Juicy Couture’s audience.

Juicy Couture email - Operation Smile

Supporting a cause is commendable, but it works even better when the cause ties in to your company’s product line. Asking subscribers to join you in the effort increases the likelihood for buy-in, and creates a sort of team spirit. I would suggest that, depending on the size of your company, you focus on a single cause instead of diluting the effectiveness across several causes. And any time you can share a personal story of how the campaign positively impacted someone’s life, it creates an emotional pull that draws in your subscribers.

February 14, 2014

Mattress Marshals saves the day… er, night!

Filed under: Consumer products — Darcy Grabenstein @ 1:46 pm
Tags: , , ,

Pile of mattresses

by Darcy Grabenstein

The “average” American sleeps about six to seven hours a night, so finding the perfect mattress is important.

My husband and I have yet to find the perfect mattress.

Our saga reminds me of the Hans Christian Andersen tale, “The Princess and the Pea.” Even after piling 20 mattresses on top of the problematic pea, the princess still couldn’t get a good night’s sleep.

While we haven’t resorted to 20 mattresses, we have topped our mattress with foam padding and two mattress covers. Soon, I’ll need a stepstool to get into bed.

I’m not writing to vent about any particular furniture store or mattress company. Instead, I want to tell you about the Mattress Marshals. (I’m not making this up, folks.) Mattress Marshals is an independent company that comes to your home to inspect your mattress and determine whether your issue is covered by the warranty.

This is a valuable service, as it avoids any we-said/they-said regarding consumer complaints. The company provides measurable, quantifiable reports.

I guess you could say Mattress Marshals specializes in undercover operations.

So what’s next in terms of consumer protection? The pillow police (to make sure you don’t remove tags before their time)? The comforter cops?

As a consumer, many resources exist to resolve product complaints. You just need to do a little research. Thanks to Mattress Marshals, we’ll be receiving a new mattress within a week. So if you need mattress mediation, help is available.

I rest my case.

Image: Flickr/Eric Abderhalden

February 11, 2014

My predictions eerily came true

Filed under: Data,Direct mail — Darcy Grabenstein @ 10:54 pm
Tags: , , ,

Bank of America logo

by Darcy Grabenstein

In my recent post about Office Max sending a direct-mail piece addressed to “Daughter Killed in Car Crash or Current Business,” I posed similar possible scenarios. I pondered the ramifications of a marketing piece addressed to “Overweight mother of three” or a rehab clinic sending an email with the subject line “Fallen off the wagon again?”

Well, my predictions became reality when Bank of America sent a credit card offer addressed to “Lisa Is a Slut McIntire.” The insult didn’t end there; the personalization also was repeated inside the mailer itself.

I can’t help but chuckle. This incident reminds me of the heyday of “Saturday Night Live,” when Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin traded barbs during the Point/Counterpoint skits. His responses to her began with “Jane, you ignorant slut.”

Luckily for Bank of America, McIntyre was somewhat amused as well. Not worried that her reputation would be tarnished, McIntyre promptly posted images of it on Twitter. The bank responded with an apologetic Tweet, and a staff member followed up with a phone call.

The data dilemma apparently is linked to the Golden Key International Honour Society, which was doing a joint promotion with the bank. In any case, it’s Bank of America and the society, not McIntyre, who should be worried about reputation.

I said it before and I’ll say it again: Companies need to do due diligence when it comes to data.

February 4, 2014

Tag(line), you’re it – the ultimate mix-’n’-match game

Filed under: Advertising — Darcy Grabenstein @ 12:11 am
Tags: , , ,

by Darcy Grabenstein

With the Super Bowl ads only hours behind us, I couldn’t help but turn my thoughts to some of advertising’s most memorable – and some perhaps most questionable – taglines.

One of the more questionable that comes to mind is “RAID kills bugs dead.” Isn’t that a bit redundant? As my sons would say when one of us unsuccessfully tried to one-up the other with a joke, “You killed it.”

Let’s take a look at some truly killer ad slogans, but with a twist. I’ve assigned them to brands that I think would be much more appropriate.

After all, industry experts would tell you that a great ad slogan shouldn’t be generic. In other words, you shouldn’t be able to simply insert any company name and the slogan would still be applicable. Of course, Nike turns that theory on its head with its famous “Just Do It” campaign. You could, in fact, substitute just about any other company and the phrase would work equally well. Alka-Seltzer. Just Do It. … Expedia. Just Do It. … XYZ Grad School. Just Do It. I rest my case.

So if you’re ready for some post-Super Bowl fun and games, let’s get started.

got_milk

Got milk? (California Milk Processor Board) —-> Evenflo® Breast Pump

Don’t leave home without it. (American Express)
—-> Hardware store duplicate keys

Where’s the beef? (Wendy’s) —-> Chippendales Male Revue Las Vegas

You’re in good hands with Allstate. —-> Massage Envy

You’ve come a long way, baby. (Virginia Slims) —-> Hospital Birthing Center

We bring good things to life. (General Electric) —-> Cryogenics facility

The quicker picker-upper. (Bounty) —-> Red Bull

Take it all off. (Noxzema) —-> Nudist colony

Just do it. (Nike) —> Just Dew it. (Mountain Dew)

And my personal favorite:

We try harder. (Avis) —-> (drum roll, please) —-> Viagra.

Can you think of any ad campaigns you think would be better suited for another company? If so, share them here.

Let the games begin..

January 31, 2014

What small businesses can learn from Super Bowl ads

Filed under: Advertising,Branding — Darcy Grabenstein @ 2:35 am
Tags: , ,

by Darcy Grabenstein

Small businesses may not be able to foot the $4 million for a 30-second Super Bowl spot, but they still can learn a few things from the big guys.

Brand building

Brand_Loyalty

Super Bowl ads are often more about branding than selling. Think
back to last year’s Super Bowl spots. Chances are, you may remember the ad but not the company it represented. Or the company but not the product.

Not every marketing effort has to be about selling a product or service. It also can serve to build your brand. While these marketing efforts may be more difficult to tie to the bottom line, over time you’ll realize their value.

Exposure

Last year’s Super Bowl had over 100 million viewers in America. That’s a lot of exposure. Some viewers, like myself, watch the Super Bowl strictly for the ads (unless, of course, the Eagles miraculously make it to the showdown).

As a small business, you’ve got to know your target audiences – and which advertising channel is best for reaching them. Think quality, not quantity. You could advertise in a medium that reaches thousands, but if none of them are your target audience you could be throwing away your advertising dollars.

Humor

A little humor can go a long way in advertising. Of course, many of the Super Bowl ads go heavy on the humor.

Humor can only work if it resonates with your brand. If, for example, a funeral home used humor in its advertising that probably wouldn’t go over too well with the public.

Use humor judiciously. It should be used to give your company/brand a personality; it should not be the focus of the marketing itself.

Emotion

Many of the most memorable Super Bowl ads are those that tug at the emotions. They capture moments that we all can relate to at some point in our lives.

Storytelling is how you bring emotion into advertising. It’s how you connect on a personal level with members of your target audience.

So, no matter which team you’re rooting for on Sunday, take a good look at the Super Bowl ads. Then see which advertising principles you can apply to your own marketing plan for 2014.

Photo: Flickr – One Way Stock

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