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

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.

January 1, 2014

Jingle sells, jingle sells… the ho-ho and ho-hum of holiday emails

Filed under: Design,Email marketing,Writing — Darcy Grabenstein @ 5:58 pm
Tags: , , ,

by Darcy Grabenstein

As we start a new year, let’s take a look at Christmas emails past. The 2013 holiday season was filled with promotional emails galore. Here are a few that caught my attention.

Black Friday

Gymboree gets the award booby prize for one of the earliest emails, hitting my inbox on Nov. 4. Home Depot, Lillian Vernon and Skis.com weren’t far behind, sending holiday emails on Nov. 8.

Bebe brings it on with this headline: Bringing Sexy Black Friday

I’d like to give a shout out to these companies with subject lines that set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd:

Betsey Johnson
A Black Friday Offer You Can’t Refuse
Bon-Ton
☑Get your BLACK FRIDAY list ready | Over 500 Door Busters
Ready, set, click! Shop 500+ Black Friday Door Busters online.
$100 COUPON ends tonight! Black Friday Round ❷…
Current Catalog
❸ ❷ ❶ Black Friday Triple Offer Starts Now
e.l.f.            
☻☺☻☺☻☺☻ ☛
bbbbbbbbBBBBBLACK!
Ethan Allen
Black Friday Goes Red: Are you ready?
(I’m a sucker for alliteration…)
Fisher-Price
Black Friday Frenzy! 20% Off, Plus FREE SHIPPING!
(interesting how both the e.l.f. and Hartstrings subject lines were exactly the same; Hartstrings showed up first in my inbox…)
Hartstrings
bbbbbbbbBBBBBLACK!
Imagine Toys
Tech the halls
(and in true J. Peterman style…)
J. Peterman
Unequivocal Blackness Today – Up to 67% Off & Free Shipping
Jared
Gift Ideas She’ll Definitely Take A Shine To + Free Overnight Shipping!
Judith Ripka
Bling in the New Year with Judith Ripka
Magic Cabin
Black Friday savings with all the fixings
(That one gave me an idea for a subject line for a Black Friday reminder email:
A second helping of Black Friday sales)
Nasty Gal
BLACK OUT—40% Off All Black Everything!
Nicole Miller
Don’t Go Cold Turkey – Shop Our Sale. Up to 70% off.
The Container Store
Oh! Oh! Oh! FREE SHIPPING on Stocking Stuffers

Both Ikea and Mod Cloth had similar headlines with a play on words that captured both the immediacy of the offers and their value:
Ikea           
Seize the days
Mod Cloth
Seize the deal

Mod Cloth also wins points for including content as well. The subject line – Feast your eyes on 5 Black Friday Tips + our fab 50% off sale! – says it all.

Modcloth email

Other headlines that caught my eye:

Backcountry
This should jingle your bells
(perfect branding…)
Bissell
May all your holidays be clean and bright
J.Crew           
those stockings aren’t going to fill themselves

When it comes to content, Wal-Mart does it right. The subject line – Be prepared with your Black Friday Ad and Map – tells you exactly what to expect in the email. The email includes a link to a store map so shoppers can navigate the aisles (and crowds).

Wal-Mart email

Cyber Monday

Here’s one subject line that caught my attention, as opposed to all the Cyber Week and other offers out there:

Avon
Cyber Sunday! FREE Shipping & Up to 50% OFF!

And now for the emails that made my list of nice and not so nice…

Ho-ho

Fossil earns extra points for a compelling subject line – The feeling is virtual – and copy that pays off the concept, which is promoting e-gift cards.

Fossil email

Ugg also ties in its subject line – Looking for the perfect gift? You’re getting warmer – with clever copy:

Ugg email

Nordstrom also slips in a cute email selling slippers:

Nordstrom

Vineyard Vines manages to tie in product to the holiday with both subject line – Check it out! New Sport Shirts are in… – and headline/imagery:

Vineyard Vines email

Tiffany brilliantly builds on its brand equity (See? I told you I like alliteration):

Tiffany email

And Dwell Studio puts a clever spin on last-minute shopping:

Dwell Studio email

These emails use compelling design to convey Christmas messaging. Nicole Miller keeps you coming back with its 12 Looks of Holiday:

NicoleMiller

Shopbop promotes its holiday boutique with a unique visual:

ShopBop email

And J.Crew separates itself from the rest of the pack with this simple email:

J.Crew email

Ho-hum

Here are a few emails that made me go “Huh?” I think Bergdorf Goodman confused Christmas with Easter:

Bergdorf Goodman email

Neiman Marcus missed the mark with this one:

Neiman Marcus email

And Bumble and bumble lives up to its name. This email had me pulling out my hair over the headline:

Bumble

Now that Christmas 2013 is behind us, what are your New Year’s email resolutions for 2014?

December 14, 2013

We’re so sorry, Uncle Albert – heartfelt apology emails

Filed under: Email marketing — Darcy Grabenstein @ 10:17 pm

by Darcy Grabenstein

First, let me send my sincere apology to Paul McCartney for using part of the lyrics from “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” I’m sorry if I caused you any pain.

As email marketers, we cringe over what can possibly go wrong with our deployments – typos, broken images, broken links. And we lose sleep at night over the even bigger bloopers – missing or expired promo codes, products that sell out before the promotion is over, website glitches and more.

Let’s face it – it’s not the end of the world (although it could be the end of a job, depending on the severity of the error).

What resonates with customers, however, is how your company handles such “whoopses.” A sincere apology – especially when combined with an additional offer – can go a long way to restoring trust in a brand.

In this example from Rocawear, the company speaks its customers’ language with “Our Bad!” The subject line – We Apologize – Take An Additional 10% Off – gets right to the point. What I find interesting is that Rocawear did not remove its sharing link at the bottom of the email. (Of course, promo codes like this end up on sites like RetailMeNot anyway.)

Rocawear - We Apologize - Take An Additional 10% Off

Humor can help turn a negative into a positive. This Forever 21 email is the cat’s meow:

SORRY! Our cat ate our website speed.

And this Lily Pulitzer email combines humor with genuine appreciation of its customer base:

Lily Pulitzer - We've taken party crashing to a whole new level

Sometimes an apology is expected/demanded, and sometimes it’s just a “nice to have,” as in this email from Bargain Catalog Outlet. When an item is unavailable, it’s more of an annoyance or inconvenience, so an apology email is simply a value-added gesture. The subject line draws you in: Ooops! Didn’t Get What You Wanted? … Please accept $10 OFF your order*. (However, not sure I’d include the asterisk in the subject line.)

Bargain Catalog Outlet email

Put “OOPS” in the subject line and you’re certain to attract attention, as in this one from Skis.com: OOPS – we didn’t mean to send that last email.

Skis.com email

The use of a Post-It® note in the email design is a cute way to say “We screwed up.” Skis.com does eventually apologize, inserting a bit of humor, but doesn’t include any special offer to make up for the mix-up. (I do wonder what the previous email said, though.)

From a public relations perspective, your mea culpas shouldn’t be limited to email alone. If the problem affected a majority of your customers, such as the site was down, an apology on the home page is probably a good idea. Your customers probably will take to the social networks to air their grievances, so you should moderate these and respond when appropriate.

Sorry if I got a bit long-winded here, but it’s an issue that I am passionate about. Forgive me?

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.

October 16, 2013

A copywriter’s take on subject lines

Filed under: Email marketing,Writing — Darcy Grabenstein @ 2:38 am

While email subscribers sign up for emails to save money on products/services, keep up with industry trends or simply to be entertained, those of us in the industry usually have ulterior motives when opting in to an email list. I subscribe to hundreds of emails – and to email subscription services like Milled, Mailboxr, Patroneer and The Swizzle – so I can keep swipe files on everything from copy to design to offers and more.

Often, I come across emails with subject lines that are so clever (or so bad) I’ve just got to share them with my colleagues. So sit back and enjoy the show….

A purr-fectly good example of a bad subject line

One of my copywriting mentors would cringe every time he saw “purr-fectly” used in conjunction with any cat-related product. I feel the same way about the use of “Egg” in this 87-character (!) Golf Warehouse subject line (bold emphasis is mine): Eggcellent Easter Savings! Free Ship + Egg-stra 10-15% Off Clubs, Clothes, Shoes & Bags.

The Golf Warehouse email design is not as lame as its subject line. However, the email doesn’t show any product. At the very least, it would have made for an interesting A/B test of offer vs. product.

eggs

I’ll give Golf Warehouse credit for creating a colorful, quasi-interactive, Easter-themed offer. It’s easier to carry out a holiday theme if your products tie in to the holiday, such as gift baskets, or if your company name ties in, as in this subject line from Newegg: NewEGG HUNT: Come Crack Our Mystery Egg! 

It is possible, however, to use holiday-related terms in your subject line, even if you have no direct tie-in to the specific holiday. This Bealls subject line is one example (bold emphasis mine): Hop Online for An Extra Day of Lowest Prices…. What I like about this subject line is that it uses a different verb (“hop” instead of “shop”) for the call to action. I’ve used a similar tactic in a subject line for an Easter sale reminder email: Hop to it! Sale ends today.

Great minds think alike

I’ll often find emails in my inbox with the same or very similar copy. Whether it’s a case of coincidence or copy(cat)writing, it makes me do a double-take (pun intended). Here are a couple of back-to-school emails promoting backpacks that caught my eye. The first one, from Journeys, had this subject line: We’ve Got Your Back. The design does a good job of showing breadth of product, but I would’ve preferred an inset with a close-up of one backpack so I could see more detail.

Journeys back-to-school email

The other email, from Jack Spade, had this subject line: Got your back. But that’s where the similarities end. This copy kicks Journeys’ butt, so to speak. It starts with a clever but on-target headline: ONE STRAP, TWO STRAP. The copy is concise, but filled with just enough details to encourage click-through (and aid in purchase decision): hands-free utility, starting at $125, sturdy materials. And the imagery shows the backpack in use.

JackSpade back-to-school email

During seasonal promotions such as back to school (and even more so during the Christmas season), it’s difficult to make your emails stand out with all the inbox clutter. This Sony email has a subject line that, while on the long side at 70 characters, hits the target audience and gives savings specifics: Big Deals on Campus | Save up to $500 on PCs + exclusive student offers.

Sony back-to-school email

Those of us who started in the industry as direct-mail marketers often compare the subject line of the email to the teaser of the envelope. It must be compelling enough for the recipient to want to read more. Otherwise, the both the email and the DM piece end up in the trash.

This post first appeared on the Only Influencers blog.

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+

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