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

May 29, 2014

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.

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

October 23, 2013

You had me at hello – welcome messages with “wow” factor

by Darcy Grabenstein

If first impressions are lasting impressions, then the welcome email is key to subscriber engagement. A welcome email – or series of emails – sets the brand tone and sets expectations of things to come.

A glance at my inbox folder full of welcome emails revealed many subject lines that read “Welcome to [fill in the blank].” Yawn. A couple of the emails had subject lines that began “A warm welcome from [fill in the blank].” How nice. Now show me the money!

Several subject lines did include offers, ranging from 10% to 15% to 20% to free shipping. Some subject lines only hinted at offers. Some of those offers had expiration dates (boo); others didn’t (yay).

Athleta’s subject line – Welcome to the Team! – is in keeping with its product line of athletic apparel. JC Penney’s subject line includes specific instructions on what to do to complete the subscription process: “Welcome! Just Open And Confirm Your Email.” Alrighty then!

Most of the email “from” lines simply have the company’s name. That’s a good thing, especially for a welcome email. Ruby Tuesday, however, takes it one step further; its “from” line reads: Ruby Tuesday So Connected. Panera’s is “My Panera” – a nice way of inserting a bit of quasi-personalization into the mix. That’s the name of its loyalty card, and the welcome email actually does include first name personalization, along with the card number (however, the image slice for the number personalization doesn’t line up exactly with the card image):

Panera welcome email

I’ve subscribed to many emails, particularly B2B, that rely solely on the ESP’s automated, cookie-cutter subscription confirmation email. There’s a missed opportunity here. If the ESP doesn’t offer customization of the opt-in confirmation, then follow up with your own branded welcome email.

Here’s a look at a few companies that do a great job of putting out the virtual welcoming mat.

But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. While the welcome email is important, so is the subscription confirmation landing page. It’s yet another chance to acquaint the subscriber with your brand.

Ruby Tuesday’s landing page includes a clever play on words:

Ruby Tuesday welcome landing page

In true Sally-Field-Oscar-acceptance-speech style, Zappos uses its landing page to thank the Academy its subscribers, then gives a snapshot of what’s to come.

Zappos welcome landing page

Its welcome email continues the tone (friendly, enthusiastic) and style (italic headline) of the landing page. I think the “XOXO” might be a bit overkill, though.

Zappos welcome email

Athleta’s welcome email resonates with its female audience, repeating the mantra “Power to the she”:

Athleta welcome email

Moosejaw is the master of irreverence. Its welcome email is a case in point:

Moosejaw welcome email

“Madness” perfectly describes the Moosejaw experience. And that’s OK. It’s what Moosejaw customers come to expect. Anything less would be a disappointment.

Woot is another company that’s delightfully cheeky. Even its name reflects a fun-loving, laid-back attitude. A couple of excerpts from its welcome email say it all:

Woot welcome email excerpt

Woot welcome email excerpt

The UK’s Innocent Drinks also uses humor effectively:

Innocent Drinks welcome email

Moosejaw’s and Woot’s irreverent tone is in keeping with each brand’s voice. However, if a luxury brand, such as Tiffany, tried this it would come off as inauthentic and offensive. Tiffany’s welcome email is true to character – simple, straightforward, and incorporating its iconic robin’s-egg blue:

Tiffany welcome email

There’s no one-size-fits-all guideline for welcome emails. Successful welcome emails – like any email – are those that are true to the brand and resonate with their audience. However, a company must live up to the expectations it sets for product, pricing, customer service and more.

Otherwise, it’s like pulling out the proverbial welcome mat from under your subscribers’ feet.

April 17, 2013

The importance of copy

Filed under: Advertising,Branding,Writing — Darcy Grabenstein @ 10:03 am
Tags: , , , ,

Hawaii ad mock-upIn the season opener of “Mad Men,” Don Draper is pitching a print ad to his client that promotes Hawaii.

The mock-up shows a beach shoreline strewn with a man’s jacket, tie and shoes – with footprints leading into the ocean. The headline reads: “Hawaii: The jumping off point.”

Like Don’s client, I immediately thought of suicide. Then I realized that it was the copy that led me to that conclusion.

Instead of “Jumping Off Point,” if Don had used a headline or tagline of “Hawaii. Shed your cares,” I’m guessing his client would have bought the concept.

Not only does this episode emphasize the importance of copy, it also shows how graphics and copy must work together to create a clear, cohesive message.

We all know Don has a dark side to his character. Apparently, he let his personality cloud his copywriting. This also illustrates how agency creatives must listen to their clients, even when they think they’re right and the client is wrong.

Me? I’ll take a fact-finding junket to Hawaii any day.

Aloha.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

January 29, 2013

Digital marketing D – A – R – C, that’s me!

Hello My Name Is badgeMy first name, Darcy, is admittedly a bit out of the ordinary. Over the years, I’ve learned to answer to Marcy, Dorothy, Darby – you name it. One nickname that has stuck, however, is Darc (rhymes with parse).

That’s why, when I read a recent article, “How the HubSpot CMO Screens for Top Marketing Talent,” I couldn’t help but think “That’s ME!”

The article states (the comments in italics are my own):

“The perfect inbound marketing manager has a variety of different skills.
At HubSpot, we like to use the acronym ‘DARC,’ which stands for digital, analytical, reach, and content:

  • Digital means they live their lives online and are familiar and comfortable with blogging, social media, and the web in general.While we’re on the topic of names, Digital could be my middle name. For the past 12-plus years, I have lived/breathed e-commerce. My current focus is on email marketing. I remember early on being at conferences where they asked for a show of hands who uses email and IM… who texts… telecommutes… or has an online portfolio… and eventually a smartphone… a Facebook page… a Twitter account… a LinkedIn account… a blog… a Pinterest account. Invariably, I was one of the few who had my hand proudly held high. Truth is, my writing now flows directly from my brain, out my fingertips and onto my laptop screen. Don’t even think about asking me to write something longhand.
  • Analytical means they like to measure what they do, and they make decisions based on data.

    I’ll admit that I usually leave the actual number crunching to the analytical folks. But that doesn’t mean I don’t incorporate their findings into my work. This is particularly crucial when it comes to email marketing. With so many variables to test – from the “from” line to subject lines, copy, graphics, calls to action, landing pages, social sharing, time of deployment, list segmentation and more – “test, test, test” has become my mantra.
  • Reach means they have a knack for growing their network by creating a gravitational attraction to what they do – and people want to follow their work.You’re here reading my blog, aren’t you? My blog is one way I reach out to my peers and prospective clients. And, as they say, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. So I’ll post links to my blog on other networking sites. I don’t expect people to find my blog on their own – I make it easy for them to do so, by posting content where they live (and work) online.
  • Content means they are naturally a content creator, and they’re not afraid of it. (You’d be surprised how many people are scared of writing a blog article.)”If content is king, then I consider it my crowning glory. In the days of print publications, I was known as a writer or a copywriter. Now I’m called a content creator. It’s just semantics. What I do is develop messages targeted to a specific audience, with a specific goal in mind – such as generate brand awareness, educate, sell a product or service, increase membership or sway opinion. There’s a lot of buzz out there about SEO content, but the bottom line is you’ve got to write for real people, not the search engines, in order to establish a true connection.

So feel free to call me DARC. I’ll take it as a compliment.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

October 14, 2012

You can take the girl out of copywriting… but you can’t take copywriting out of the girl

After a copywriting career spanning more than 20 years, I decided to make a move to the account side of the business. I’m now managing email campaigns for a division of one of the world’s largest beauty companies. It’s stimulating. It’s challenging. It’s a learning experience.

It’s not copywriting.

I’m not saying I have regrets, but I am saying that I still need to feed my creative juices.

I can’t help myself. It’s the way I’m wired.

I’m one of those people who watch the Super Bowl not for the gridiron greats but for the 30- and 60-second advertising spots. I actually like to receive commercial emails in my inbox. I flip through magazines, giving equal time to headlines and clever ad lines. Most people record  TV programs so they can fast forward through the commercials. Or flip from one radio station to the next, in an effort to avoid the on-air advertising onslaught.

Not moi. I actually hit the pause button on my DVR so I can capture all the ad details. I sign up for text alerts not to receive the special offers but to see how they’re crafted. I make a mental note of billboards that not only catch my eye but capture the essence of a brand. I click on banner ads to see if they really click with their audience.

My favorite TV shows are (no surprise here) Mad Men and The Pitch.

Call me crazy. Call me whatever you want – but call me a copywriter.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

June 22, 2012

What’s in a name?

Filed under: Branding,Writing — The Hired Hand @ 12:41 am
Tags: , , , ,

Hand holding pencilI’ve been asking myself that question over and over again since June 10th. You see, I got (re)married that day, and I’ve made the decision to take my husband’s name.

As a writer, I struggled with the notion of changing my name. Darcy Silvers rolls off the tongue a lot easier than Darcy Grabenstein. It’s more than my name. It’s my byline. It’s my identity. But I thought my new husband might cringe if I kept his predecessor’s last name.

Besides, if I want a really memorable name, I think I’ve hit the jackpot. (Although I envision a severe case of writer’s cramp every time I sign my name.)

The first time around, I wanted to keep my maiden name. In retrospect, however, Darcy Landy sounds rather singsong, don’t you think? So I caved in to my first husband’s request that I take his surname. After all, he argued, he was the only son in his family; he wanted his family name to carry on.

What about moi? I’m an only child, and my father passed away when I was in college. So much for my family name.

This time around, I could have kept both my maiden name and Silvers, the name I’ve used for the over two decades. But it’s a bit much.

My new husband and I even toyed with choosing an entirely new name. That thought lasted about 5 seconds.

In the end, I decided to become a Grabenstein (Grab as in “grab a bite to eat” – en – steen). I think because Micah totally left the decision up to me, I was less inclined to rebel and want to keep my “pen name.”

Just call me the writer formerly known as Silvers.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

March 29, 2012

Pinterest and the perfect pitch

Filed under: Branding,Email marketing,Public Relations,Social Media — The Hired Hand @ 11:23 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

In the old days (before you could update your relationship status on Facebook), getting pinned was a precursor to becoming engaged. Today, it refers to a whole new kind of engagement. That is, if you’re talking about Pinterest.

It’s a visual way for people to engage with one another, and for brands to engage with their consumers.

Pinterest has taken scrapbooking to a whole new (digital) level. And one company – Kotex Israel – has taken the art of the pitch to a whole new level. Working with the Smoyz agency, Kotex created “Women’s Inspiration Day by KOTEX.”

Smoyz found 50 inspiring women on Pinterest, then created personalized, handmade gift boxes. The boxes were filled with items the women might want, based on their boards, and were decorated the boxes in styles that reflected each woman’s pins. Kotex is taking this “personal products” thing a bit seriously, don’t you think?

To receive their personalized gift boxes, the women only needed to re-pin Kotex’s invitation. According to Kotex, the project has had 2,284 interactions with total potential impressions of almost 700,000.

As the Israelis say, “Yofi!” (“Fantastic!”)

Engagement? Looks like Kotex is ready for a long-term relationship.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

March 27, 2012

Talk about sticking it to the consumer…

New Zealand agency Colenso BBDO went out on a limb with its recent ad campaign for crushed cider.

Colenso packaged twigs inside random 12-packs of client Monteith’s Crushed Cider. The point? To reassure consumers that Monteith’s is made using fresh fruit, not concentrated fruit syrup.

Billboards and mock apology ads read “Sorry about the twigs. Not from concentrate.”

My guess is they didn’t run this PR stunt by their legal department, which undoubtedly would have put the kibosh on the campaign.

Supposedly the stunt led to a massive run on their cider. That may be great in the short term, but what about the long-term fallout? It’s a sticky situation.

In my opinion, they should stick to more traditional methods, going back to the roots of responsible PR.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

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